Sibling vintners Andrew and Adam Mariani give photographer Luke Gilford a tour of Scribe Winery, located in the foothills of Sonoma County’s Arrowhead Mountain. Founded in 2007 by elder brother Andrew, Scribe is breathing new life into a property that was once a frontier vineyard, prohibition-era bootlegging outpost and brothel, and more recently a failing turkey farm. “I see this place as a palimpsest of California history and feel lucky to be adding another layer,” says Andrew. Intent on reviving Scribe’s heritage, the winemakers released their inaugural sylvaner vintage earlier this month—the first time the wine had been produced in California for 93 years. Renowned for hosting wild parties in the beautifully decayed hacienda-style mansion that is the winery’s jewel, the Marianis specialize in Burgundian grape varieties that do well in the valley’s cool, windy climes. “We’re lucky to live in a part of the world where a shit-ton of people appreciate food and wine and are really good at cooking and making it,” says Andrew. They are about to celebrate their latest riesling with a dinner this Sunday evening in the vineyard’s cellars catered by Bay Area Japanese pop-up Peko Peko. Here Andrew reflects on Scribe’s unique charm.
How did you find the property? I had been making wine at a small winery in Greece. My family has been involved in California agriculture for four generations so I started calling around asking people if they knew of anything available. We ended up finding this nasty old turkey farm, and with a lot of work and patience (replacing 17 turkey sheds with 35 acres of vines), it’s turned out to be a pretty beautiful place.
Can you give us a brief history of the place? It was originally founded as a vineyard in 1858 by a German pioneer, Emil Dresel, when California was the Wild West. They had a successful winery called Dresel & Co. until prohibition hit in 1919; then they continued to make wine illegally and bottled the illicit juice in medicine bottles—which we still find on the property from time to time! There is still a bootlegger’s road that goes from the hacienda up and over Arrowhead Mountain to the secluded valley behind it where some distilleries were located. Legend has it that the hacienda became a bootlegger’s country outpost and brothel.
Tell us about the parties at the hacienda. The hacienda was built originally in 1858, and then rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake. It’s been abandoned for almost three decades and we’re in the midst of renovating it back to its former glory. We have an organization called the Scribe Viticultural Society where members get together to eat and drink. If they can’t make it we send them wine so they can have their own gathering wherever they live. It’s all about getting together at a table, eating, drinking and connecting.
What’s your favorite season at Scribe? We live for the fall, the excitement and reward of harvest. We often pick during the night so that the fruit is delivered to the winery cold, at sunrise. Busting your ass under the tractor boom spotlights at 3am with the harvest crew while the rest of world sleeps is a pretty magical feeling.
© NOWNESS, April 2012, Photography Credit: Luke Gilford