He's either foolhardy, or a visionary with a penchant for history.
Either way, when Andrew Mariani, vintner of Sonoma's Scribe Winery, decided to plant Sylvaner--the only winery in Northern California to grow this unfashionable varietal--he was embarking on a grand experiment.
Scribe produces, as is Sonoma custom, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But after learning that Sylvaner--a flinty white varietal that's widely planted in Alsace, France and Germany--was grown on his property in the late 1800s, he decided to resurrect the forgotten grape.
The varietal was wiped out during Prohibition, and never returned to favor among Sonoma winemakers. Undeterred, Mariani found a single Sylvaner plant at UC Davis and grafted the buds onto two acres of vines. He and his team hand-harvested the grapes early last fall and bottled the juice this month. The result is 30 cases of a vivid, high-toned wine, an ideal match for spring's first salads.
As the vines mature, the yield will increase: Mariani hopes for 100 cases of the 2011 vintage. In the meantime, those precious 30 cases of the 2010 are available only to members of the Scribe Viticultural Society (sign up here).
The next society shipment is in May, and with it comes a bottle of Sylvaner. Should the forgotten grape experience a resurgence in California, we'll know whom to toast.
Scribe Winery, 2300 Napa Rd., Sonoma; 707-939-1858 or scribewinery.com
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