THE CALIFORNIA WE KNOW IS DISAPPEARING. The desert sands and the coastal cliffs have been replaced with peach flavored stucco and strip mall shopping. The family pick up truck was traded for a minivan. The farm got sold for a parking lot and the farmer replaced with a cubical occupant staring at Facebook and doing some other menial task day in and day out. You might feel the spirit of the Bear Flag Republic has all but vanished, but not everywhere. We haven’t totally given in to the relentless concrete trucks and franchise owners. There are those of us who still make with integrity, passion, and style. And some of us still live outdoors.
One such hold out is Scribe Winery. Nestled at the foot of Arrowhead Mountain in the Carneros region of Sonoma, fittingly where the Bear Flag Republic began, Scribe exudes the visceral energy of the California of old. The acreage on which it sits emits a feeling as kinetic and alive as the small group of people who have nursed it back to its current state. To say the land is historic would do it no justice. From being trampled upon by Spanish missionaries killing bears and searching for holy lands to hosting a speakeasy and a brothel when the rest of the country had lost their minds and decided that alcohol wasn’t American, Scribe is essentially Californian. Andrew Paul Mariani grew up in a small Northern California farm town. The son of a prolific nut grower, Mariani’s comfort level on the farm seems a given. His stern gaze over the land he cultivates is juxtaposed by his jocular nature, and, although often characterized as a soft spoken hunk with dreamy eyes, his volume booms from his ability to craft a decadent bacchanalian feast to rival any. Even Food & Wine magazine couldn’t resist asking for a glimpse into the raved about get-togethers of famed chefs, farmers, artists, musicians, and other characters in Scribe’s entourage of youthful movers and shakers. But throwing parties isn’t Mariani’s main appeal. First and foremost, he’s a farmer; agriculture is his priority.
After high school, Mariani left Northern California to learn the craft of winemaking. He studied viticulture and enology at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, but much of his free time was spent exploring some of the only virgin coastline left in our great state. From the Pismo dunes to Big Sur, Mariani’s mind was emblazoned with images of California, naked as it came. Condors, massive veins of jade, redtailed hawks, volcanoes, and elephant seals beckoned him to live their way. And he accepted.
Now at home in Sonoma, Mariani has grown roots. Running the business alongside his younger brother Adam, the initially small team has grown into a family of people passionate about every aspect of the farm. The tightly knit group often seem inseparable, hanging out into the early morning hours or flocking to the city to watch 1955 perform, a rock band comprised of Scribe employees. And Mariani works hard to nurture the dynamic, taking the staff on retreat to encourage bonding and ensure that friendship remains part of the business model. Maybe tech companies aren’t the only places you can have a happy and healthy work experience any more. The Scribe philosophy maintains that only natural methods of vinification be employed. They use large concrete eggs to ferment the wine in, and the bright vibrant wines are made with natural yeast and no filtration. Their approach is rare to say the least, and the stories and histories of the land are honored. This is no more clearly illustrated than in a surviving poem caligraphied on the walls of the hacienda. It captures the spirit of their predecessors and the soul of their endeavor.
Come, fill your Cup, and in the Fire of Spring your Winter Garment of Repentance fling: The Bird of Time has but a little way To flutter, and the Bird is on the Wing. Sometimes it almost seems like too much to take in. Guests become enraptured by the experience of the destination, inspiring moments of bliss from marriage proposals to total transcendence of time and space. We’ve heard that the land has even served as a gateway to the astral plane. Yet all of this grandeur is made to look effortless, as if dreamt during a hammock siesta one lazy summer afternoon.
the visceral energy of
the California of old.
We joined Scribe for their Viticultural Society (SVS) party in February to sample the fruit of their vines. As we lounged under an oak tree on the grassy side of a hill looking out over the valley to the Sonoma Mountains, it became clear that Mariani’s vision sums up what being Californianc means to us. His endeavors have transformed the land into a spirited, lubricated, and detailed expression of the untamed and adventure-seeking heart that throbs incessantly within a fearless human vessel.