Sonoma’s Scribe Winery is Rising from the Ashes

Meet Andrew Mariani, one-half of the fraternal duo behind Scribe Winery. In their 10ish years of business, Andrew and his younger brother, Adam have become the darlings of the winemaking world, just as much for their straightforward process and focus on California terroir as for their knack for hospitality. Whether partnering up with of-the-moment chefs to throw intimate dinner parties or drawing a new generation of wine-drinking creatives, techies, influencers and innovators up the palm-lined drive to their enchanted hacienda and tasting room set amongst 250 acres of rolling Sonoma hills and vineyards, the Scribe brothers aren’t just making wine — they’re making moves.

Months after destructive wildfires swept through Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties, we caught up with Andrew to learn how Scribe and the community are moving forward, the constants that remain and the ever-evolving landscape of viticulture.

Still, without known cause and entirely without warning, October’s Northern California wildfires began with a fury that burned over 245,000 acres, destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed more than 40 people. California firefighters fought side-by-side with locals and volunteers against fickle and fast-moving winds that propelled the flames across the rolling hills of the county quickly and mercilessly. Though Scribe was fortunate to retain all of its vines and structures, Andrew says 180 acres of wild land on their property is now ashen, and the sense of tragedy surrounding them is still palpable.

“It feels pretty fresh, driving around town and seeing the scorched hillsides,” he explains. “Even just sitting here in my office, looking up the hill, is a reminder. It was extremely traumatic for the community — watching so much get destroyed, as well as the dangerous air quality for days after the fires. Sonoma felt really desolate.”

But every cloud begets a silver lining, and despite the destruction, Andrew says the support from across the country, overseas and within the wine community itself has been illuminating.

“It has been interesting to see how the wine industry has banded together, since it has historically been a competitive industry. There’s still love in the air, even now,” he explains.

In the months since, countless fundraisers and events have heightened fire awareness and delivered relief to the thousands of families and businesses impacted in the blazes. At Scribe, proceeds from their sold-out Nouveau Pinot Noir went to local non-profit La Luz Center, contributing TK to the organization’s fire relief fund.

“Everybody is more grateful. And it’s crazy now, to see green grass starting to grow — like a rejuvenation and a refreshing of the landscape.”

For Andrew and Adam, the landscape has always been integral to their passion for wine and day-to-day lives. With three generations of farming legacy before them, winemaking was a departure from the family walnut and almonds growing empire, but was hardly foreign territory. While studying at Cal Poly’s Department of Agriculture, Andrew’s interest in viticulture was piqued, inspiring a post-graduation journey of experiential education through the vineyards of Europe.

“In one sense, it seemed like an adventure, but it was still familiar. Winemaking is farming-based, but it’s super creative and culturally rich,” says the grower, husband (to singer-songwriter, Lia Ices) and father. “It was incredible to see how they produce world class wines with a simple production process and an old-school approach, and it taught me how to do a lot with a little.”

At Scribe, simplicity is key. The vineyard is known for producing high-quality wine with non-interventionist methods (read: using the grape in its untouched, natural form), often times of lesser-known varieties. Everything, from their minimalistic bottle labels to the relaxed environment of their tasting room to the brothers themselves (who can frequently be found pouring wine and chatting up guests), is unpretentious and approachable — a rarity in an industry of generations-old wineries housed in grand chateaus and sprawling family estates.

“We have a simple approach to what we do which creates a lot of honesty and transparency in everything we put out,” Andrew explains. “We connect people to this unique patch of land in an honest way, and we try to strip away all the excess.”

That patch of land has a history of its own, and even inspired the name behind the Mariani’s winemaking venture. Formerly a pre-Prohibition vineyard and winery settled by German growers, the property was damaged and rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake that rattled San Francisco. It subsequently served as a speakeasy during Prohibition, and was operating as a turkey farm when the brothers arrived in 2007. Undaunted by 30-plus years of abandonment and misuse, they found the worn charm of the hacienda irresistible.

“We loved hanging out in it, but it wasn’t suitable for the public — with owls living in it and holes in the floor,” he laughs.

After a three-year renovation, every decrepit corner of the space has been beautifully restored with painstaking effort to showcase the property’s legacy — cracks, dents, paint-chippings and all.

“It was always really important to us to preserve the old patina, the soulfulness and the story that it holds as the original residence of the growers,” explains Andrew.

The bohemian digs also give way to an ever-bustling master kitchen, where sister, Kelly Mariani and co-chef, Emma Lipp dish out a tasting menu inspired by ingredients grown onsite by Scribe gardener, Casie Giroux, to pair perfectly with the host of elixirs Scribe is always pouring. While some varietals remain constant, like their coveted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the team is constantly experimenting with historic varietals, like Riesling and Sylvaner — “an ode to the property’s original owners” — or the more obscure mission vine introduced to California by Spanish missionaries in the 18th century. Whatever’s growing, Andrew credits Scribe’s success and creative spirit to the friends and family behind each glass.

“The Scribe team is the most important part of what we do, because everything comes from the people we have,” Andrew recognizes. “Wine is a communal thing, you know, it brings people together. Our crew is a special and talented group that knows how to do that really well.”

Looking ahead after a year wrought with tumult, disaster and confusion, Andrew says he has learned to widen his lens and sense of gratitude far beyond current circumstances.

“I have a new appreciation for time, and for looking at things on a big-picture, long term scale,” he reflects.

“Our neighbor’s house burnt during the fire, but his attitude about it was amazing. He said it was just part of the natural cycle of this place. Even though it’s hard, you get through it. Something about that long term view — about the whole cycle of things — I found really inspiring. As a winemaker, you’re working on just a year’s time, season-to-season. Looking at things on a broader scale, especially in this day and age when everything is so immediate, is refreshing.”

Day-to-day, that resilient, don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff mentality translates into a reverence for the land and a consequent appreciation for the gifts life gives you.

“The whole philosophy of producing wine is taking what the season gives you and doing the best and simplest conversion to create something you feel good about. The relationship with the farm, the season and the fruit — a lot of it isn’t in your hands. So we don’t get frustrated, we just go on to the next thing.”

*Photos by Leo Patrone.

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