By Tag Christof
Updated November 19, 2014
Courtesy Scribe Winery

This piece originally appeared on

Despite the heated narrative surrounding wine and provenance, battles over DOP, and what can be called what, most winemakers today use chemicals and other non-natural processes to cajole and manipulate their grapes into submission. So, supposedly hallowed origins are likely far less critical than the pretty bottles might have you believe. It’s generally good business: more all-around drinkable wines and a wine economy that seems to be flourishing the world over, even in some pretty questionable geography. Still, it comes with a certain dishonesty. And just as with processed foods, any tenuous connection to both raw material and place is lost.

Scribe Winery, though, is decidedly different. Tucked into the Sonoma countryside on a plot of land with a rather eventful (read: sordid) history, its wines are grown using strictly natural vinicultural techniques.

The two brothers behind Scribe, Andrew and Adam Mariani, are both fourth-generation farmers and fourth-generation Californians, and it shows—rarely is any place of production so beautifully in tune with its context. And their stewardship has paid off in the form of rich ‘site-specific’ wines that prove, even without chemical trickery, that California is just as natural a habitat for fine wine as France.

Scribe’s site first became a place of wine production in the late 1850s, and in the intervening years was intermittently home to both a brothel and booming speakeasy. By the time the brothers took it over, it was derelict and grown over with poison oak and other invasive species. Over time, they were able to restore its soil, and in the process even unearthed a handful of treasures from from its past—Prohibition-era glass and other old china, antique work stools and even opium vials. Today, its century-old Hacienda is being restored as a tasting room with straightforward rustic decor which, together with the bucolic landscape, completes an immersive once-upon-a-time California experience.

Its team is close-knit and friendly, too—each of its staff has a real appreciation for the values and processes that go into making its honest, terroir-driven wines. So in eschewing a relentless pursuit of growth in favor of a real symbiosis with its place, Scribe has pulled off the near-impossible feat of creating both perceived and actual authenticity. As such, it is an archetypal role model for producers of wine—or anything else, for that matter—everywhere.

Photos courtesy Scribe Winery by Erica Gannett, Molly Decodreaux, Allen Zepeda and Sean O’Brien.