When the founder of Scribe Winery, Andrew Mariani, and his wife, musician Lia Ices, open their Sonoma home for an effortless, casual luncheon, the food and company light up the afternoon.
Motor to Moon Mountain, a mere 10 minutes past the town square of Sonoma, and you’ll find that the road narrows quickly and branches close in. Then, suddenly, you break away from the trees into an uninterrupted, sweeping, patchwork view of water and farmland layered all the way to the city blocks of San Francisco. Just beyond that view, past a grove of old-growth oak trees, you’ll find Andrew Mariani and Lia Ices’ one-bedroom home, humbly squeezed next to a particularly spectacular specimen. “The architect basically built the house to be next to this oak tree,” says Mariani.
This afternoon the founder of Scribe Winery and his musician wife are just getting moving. Dewy-eyed, Ices emerges from the bedroom, dressed simply in a coral shift and luminous as she cradles their newest addition, 6-week-old Una, in her arms (she was named after Una Jeffers, wife and muse of bohemian California poet Robinson Jeffers). Meanwhile Scribe staffers Meredith Ouzounian and Emma Lipp are ensconced in the kitchen whipping up casual fare, all seasonal and almost all plucked from the Scribe garden, which, from one vantage point, can be spotted down in the valley.
“It’s nice to get off the Scribe property and get a little serenity from the hustle and bustle of the seven-days-a-week business of making wine,” explains Mariani of the remoteness of their location. Life is very busy down at the winery. In addition to the 250-acre property’s original tasting room, the winery is opening a restored historic hacienda in January, complete with a rotation of visiting chefs run by Lipp, Ouzounian, and Mariani’s sister, Kelly—think small plates, farm-to-table, classically West Coast fare.
The retreat, which the two moved to in October 2015, has everything they desired: winsome groves of oaks; an orchard filled with apple, fig, pomegranate, plum and cherry trees; a fulsome rose garden; a patio with an outdoor dining area and grill; even a guesthouse that doubles as a music studio for Ices’ self-proclaimed “introspective pop.” She’s currently working on a new album: a California record, she says, that’s a “stripping away of things, an experiment into what naturally comes out.”
When the couple entertains, “the motto is: Get everybody involved,” proclaims Mariani, who comes from a family of farmers that goes back four generations. “Pour wine, hold babies, grow shallots, grill.” By noon their guests have all trickled in, an eclectic group of musicians, vintners, engineers, Scribe employees and writers from both coasts (Ices is a Connecticut native, while Mariani grew up in Winters, CA). Musician Sasha Papadin and his wife, Lauren, arrive with their two kids, who immediately bolt for the orchard; Mariani’s brother Adam (who co-runs the winery) and his South African girlfriend Kezia McKay walk leisurely through the oaks; Colu Henry, a Hudson Valley-based food writer and publicist, sweeps into the kitchen wearing a pretty patterned dress and bubbling over with questions.
Mariani and Ices offer a cloudy pink Scribe Nouveau of Pinot Noir to their friends along with Bas de Bas Blanc from Croatia, a Scribe Cabernet, Methode Sauvage Vista Verde Chenin Blanc from San Benito, and a Vigneri Vinudilice from Sicily. Then he loads up “the gator” truck with Miyagi oysters from Bodega Bay, Mariani almonds, olives and prosciutto, and Papadin and AI engineer Andrew Gray hitch a ride on the back while the rest of the group clambers behind the car, up to the view, wine-glasses in hand. Ices and Mariani trade off with the wee one and the crowd takes it all in.
Finally they call their friends to the table under a canopy of purple and translucent table grapes that Ices jokes she snacked on all through her pregnancy. The table is set with their wedding china by Jan Schachter and vases from Oakland ceramist Jessica Niello, who used clay from the Scribe property and fired it into vessels that Ices loves because they “look like meteors.” Zinnias from the Scribe garden and toyon berries from Moon Mountain fill the containers, and a few gourds and pomegranates are scattered about for color. Then Lipp comes out of the kitchen wearing a charming, floppy farmer hat and presents the dishes.
The diners begin with mozzarella grilled in lemon leaves, inspired by Mariani and Ices’ babymoon in Capri, paired with grilled bread, garden tomato confit and basil. Then they sample grilled halibut wrapped in fig leaves with a tomato-fennel-scallion salsa. A garden salad is passed from hand to hand with watermelon radishes and flowers, followed by Scribe peppers and eggplant with herbs, roasted beets with avocado crema, and a finish of a not-too-sweet walnut and raspberry clafouti with a dollop of cream.
Conversation flits between career plans, baby names and a little shoptalk about the winery. The guests toast the chefs and marvel at the avocado crema—delicious!—inquiring after the biographies of the greens in the salad.
As the meal meanders to a close, the light begins to turn golden and various guests wander into the orchard below, crushing rosemary between their thumbs and biting into Fuji apples fresh from the tree. Henry jokes that they are on a scent tour. It’s business as usual here, really, yet every moment stands out; rose-tinted perhaps—special.
Photography by Angie Silvy.
Written by Elizabeth Khuri Chandler.