What’s Cooking in Sonoma (At Scribe Winery, a Lot, as It Turns Out)
In a rare quiet season at Scribe Winery, the Mariani family gathers to toast new babies, new wine, and new beginnings.
Blue sky peeks through the morning fog in Carneros and the kids are getting their hands dirty in the very best way. Una, age 4, and her cousin Oliver, age 2, pick radishes and strawberries from the culinary garden at Scribe, the Sonoma winery that has made a name for itself as the standard bearer of next-wave wine country vibes. Those vegetables plucked from the same soil that produces crisp Sylvaner and earthy Pinot Noir will play supporting roles in a languorous lunch in the vineyard—that is, if the kids don’t eat them first.
Over the years the children’s fathers, Andrew and Adam, the vintners, along with aunt Kelly, the chef, have transformed a neglected turkey farm into a thriving winery that’s now a must-stop for southern Sonoma daytrippers looking for a vinous respite from city. With its winding palm-lined drive, tumbling gardens designed by red-hot Los Angeles landscape design firm Terremoto, and a 1920s hacienda restored just so, Scribe is the sort of place begging to be socialized by young visitors. It also helps that the wine is exceedingly quaffable: that crisp Sylvaner, earthy Pinot Noir, and other single-vineyard bottlings draw folks to freewheeling tastings, inevitably capped off by a hang session on the lawn to watch the sun dip below the vines. It was the perfect spot to while away the day in wine country. Or at least it was before the pandemic.
Not to be deterred, the Mariani family have taken advantage of the dormant days of the shifting lockdown to build new outdoor spaces and make new wines that embody the lawn parties put on hold: an effervescent pink pét-nat available in magnum, a white Pinot Noir, and a zippy and fresh rosé that has the nose of a Provençal classic. Today the family is making the most of their quarantine pod with a family lunch on a deck originally designed to accommodate Covid-safe outdoor dining. The latest lockdown prevented them from ever using it, so they removed the tent, and voilà, a perfect alfresco dining room for the family to gather on this late spring day and toast their blessings.
“We’ve spent the past year making wine and having babies,” says Andrew, the oldest of the siblings. He and his wife, singer-songwriter Lia Ices, welcomed a new baby in the pandemic, 4-month-old Alice, while Adam and his wife, Kezia, have 4-week-old Innes in tow as well as Oliver. The growing families are here to eat a feast prepared by Kelly, a former cook at Chez Panisse. On the menu today: trout poetically wrapped in pickled grape leaves, sesame flatbread, salad from the garden, eggs from their chickens, and lamb ribs roasted in the wood-burning oven. Or, as Kelly puts it: “So. Much. Food.”
The vegetables that show up across the dishes come from the on-site farm, overseen by Stephen Carter whose gorgeous chicories, tender greens, fresh strawberries, and more are the foundation for the garden snacks served to guests when lockdown isn’t in effect. Today music is on the menu, too. Lia has just released Family Album, her fourth record. It’s an exploration of motherhood, connecting with nature, and family bonds. They’ve dusted off the piano they use for events and rolled it out onto a deck up the hill should the mood strike.
The kids head into the chicken coop with their dads and gather eggs while Kelly gets to work in the winery’s new low-slung outdoor kitchen. It’s nestled into the hillside, all poured concrete, stacked stone, with an Argentine grill fueled by oak trees felled on the property. The same wood crackles and blazes in the outdoor pizza oven. Oliver drops an egg he pulled from the chicken coop and accidentally cracks it, but his quick-thinking dad pours it straight onto the oven’s hot stone floor and cooks it through, sprinkles it with flaky salt, and serves it to Oliver straight off the pizza peel. Kelly wraps the trout in grape leaves, stuffs them with herbs, and cooks them until they pick up the char of the leaves and the perfume of the herbs. In the wood oven, the lamb ribs sizzle and brown and the white beans simmer in cast-iron pans. Adam takes a tray of dough balls and cooks them one by one in the 800-degree oven.
And, of course, there’s wine. “We decided to put the pét-nat in magnums,” says Andrew. “It was our first time bottling in large format. Even if people can’t visit us they can bring the Scribe party home.” Until the guests can come back, the family keeps that party going, albeit in a more mellow fashion than in days past. “When we first started, we’d look at our guests and didn’t realize we were seeing ourselves,” says Andrew. “First it was young couples, then it was couples with dogs, and then it was couples with kids.”
As evening arrives, everybody heads up the hill to dance as the sun sets while Lia plays the title track from her new record, which pretty much sums up the day. “It’s immediate how immediate fades away,” the song goes. “Oh, there we are, wherever we are, family album.”
Kelly Mariani’s Vineyard Recipes
Garden Lettuces with Shaved Fennel, Sunflower Seeds, and Scribe Verjus Vinaigrette
From the 2021 Gardening Issue
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