Even if you're not into wine (though really, who isn't?), you might've heard of Scribe Winery.
Nestled on a picturesque swath of land in Sonoma, Scribe represents new-age winemaking at its best. At the winery, in-the-know thirtysomethings visit for unfussy (but delicious) wine tastings set out on picnic tables; sunset swings; and tours of the Hacienda, a building on the property that the owners (brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani) are in the midst of converting into a speakeasy of sorts.
Despite its growing popularity, Scribe has stayed true to its roots. Simply put, the Marianis are passionate about what they do. One visit (and a few sips) and you'll feel the same.
Andrew recently shared his thoughts on the art of fermentation and what's in store for the future of Scribe.
Scribe's wine—and philosophy—is about reflecting its place. Talk about the land and what makes it special, and how that manifests in your wines.
Andrew: "Winemaking gives you a cool opportunity to connect people to land and history. At Scribe, we're trying to simply and deliciously tell the story of this place. This farm dates back to the 1850s, to the beginning of commercial wine growing in California. Those original farmers were German immigrants and brought the first riesling and Sylvaner vines to California, and were successful until Prohibition arrived. After that, they went underground and eventually fizzled out.
No one made wine here again until we arrived, so in one sense, Scribe has been a revival of this old historic vineyard: new, but rooted in the past. We planted Sylvaner and Riesling as on ode to the original growers. We also planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the gems of our region. The Scribe farm is located at a crossroads, between Sonoma and Napa Counties, and where Arrowhead Mountain dies into the San Pablo Bay (the northern part of the San Francisco Bay). Our vines grown on the lower slope of Arrowhead Mountain in light volcanic tufa soils and down into the clay loams of the Carneros flats. We get a cool breeze every afternoon, either from the Bay or from the Pacific through the Petaluma Gap. Light mineral-rich soils; cool, salty, crisp breeze; clear blue skies. It's a beautiful, energetic place, and the wines should reflect that."
You're one of the younger winemakers out there, but winemaking is an age-old process. How do your methods differ from some of the older, more traditional models?
Adam: We strive to make terroir-driven wines that express the site, which requires a noninterventionist approach in the cellar. So it's not that we're inventing any new methods; it's more about what we aren't doing in the cellar. Globally speaking, California is still a relatively young wine-growing region, so whereas in other parts of the world the regional expression/approach/philosophies are more defined, California is wide open and evolving quickly. We want to express that energy.
Have your wines evolved since you first opened Scribe? Has your philosophy about winemaking changed at all, or have certain core principles remained mostly intact?
Andrew: My brother, Adam, and I are fourth-generation California farmers, so having that agricultural base—a focus on farming and the celebration of the land—was paramount in the beginning and still is. With each vintage, our relationship with and understanding of the vineyard gets deeper, and we experiment with every vintage in the cellar. As we learn more, it gives us confidence to do less in the cellar: let the fruit ferment naturally, less movement, less intervention, more transparency from the fruit to the glass. It's less and less about our hands in the cellar; the vineyard has more to say than we do.
Which wine are you most excited about right now and why?
Adam: We have a new wine in our Field Guide series, which is where we experiment with different varieties or dramatic techniques in the cellar. On April 9 we're releasing our first-ever St. Laurent, Field Guide 4. St. Laurent is a rare Austrian varietal that we discovered growing down the road from us. It's super bright, minty, spicy, sharp. Sonoma make great light red wines, like Pinot; this is a spirited version of that. But what I'm really excited about is Chardonnay. Yes, Chardonnay. California Chardonnay comes with such a preconception (oak, vanilla, fat), but it's an incredible and versatile variety in California. We harvest our Chardonnay relatively early to retain that vibrant natural acidity, ferment in Sonoma concrete and steel, and let it hang on the heavy lees as long as possible. The result gives you bright, fresh, fruit, acid. The 2013 Estate Chardonnay is our best ever.
What's on deck for Scribe in 2016 and beyond? There are whisperings of a 'speakeasy' and a 'real' tasting room (though it would be sad to see those picnic tables go).
Andrew: The tables under the oaks aren't going anywhere! But we're excited to breathe some new life into The Hacienda. It's the oldest structure on the property and its rehabilitation has been a two-year labor of love. At The Hacienda, we'll do what we do: share our wines, a small food menu, and celebrate all the good things Northern California grows and makes. We're designing a couple guest rooms for wine club members. We're also planting a few more acres this year, something new and rare. I'll tell you in five years when it's in bottle and you can taste it.
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