The Roots

Delve deeper into the history of California’s first wine region.

Summoning the Dresels

dressels_7There’s a lot of history to be told about the property upon which Scribe Winery makes its home. Unearthing that history has become a bit of an obsession for Andrew and Adam Mariani and the team at Scribe.


During a trip to the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley, they came across an 1823 journal kept by Father José Altimira during his search for a suitable location to establish a new Spanish Mission.

Scribe_mapv2From the padre’s journal you could trace his path up the bay, through Carneros, below Arrowhead Mountain and over what is now the Scribe farm on his way to a spot three miles away where California’s northernmost Spanish Mission would be established. It is, ironically enough, also where the first grapevines were cultivated here in Sonoma County.


In 1858, Emil Dresel, son of a famous champagne producer in Weisenheim Germany, came to California in search of fortune. Dresel.Julius port earlierRealizing the region’s extraordinary grape-growing potential, he searched the Northern California valleys for the ideal vineyard site. Old records show that on March 12th, along with three fellow Germans (including Jacob Gundlach), Emil purchased 400 acres of land two miles east of Sonoma Square, the spot where, just 10 years before, the Bear Flag Revolt had established California as a state in the American Union.


Emil had come to America in 1849 aboard the sailing ship Franziska. Among his belongings, though likely not officially declared, were vine cuttings from his homeland. By all accounts, these must have been the first Riesling and Sylvaner varieties imported to the United States. He planted these cuttings and the rest is, as they say, history. Emil and his brother Julius, who succeeded him in 1869, went on to become wine industry leaders, fervent Abolitionists, gamblers, land stewards and intermittent outlaws.


The Dresel Family can lay claim to several firsts. In 1878, when Phylloxera threatened the California wine industry, Julius became the first grower in the state to plant vineyards on disease resistant stock. The grafting system he used revived the industry and is still used today. When Julius’s son took over in 1891 he became one of the first California vintners to sell wine with varietal designations, such as Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon. Carl’s commitment to quality earned the wine first place honors at the 1904 World’s Fair and the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

MOLH181Sadly, at the height of their success, Prohibition was enacted in 1920. The Dresel Wine Co. bond was burnt in protest, and wine would not be (legally) made on the property for over 80 years.


Fast forward to 2007 and meet brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani. When they took over the property it was a dilapidated turkey farm. To say the stately manor had fallen into disrepair would be quite the understatement. But the boys were determined to revive and preserve it as a (their term) palimpsest of the past. LUCYGOODHART_ScribeWinery_HaciendaStarting with the job of restoring the land to a thriving ecosystem, history began revealing itself right away. Old stone walls and foundations, medicine bottles, 19th century Chinese tools, vintage china, even opium vials surfaced. But the 100-year-old Mission Revival style Hacienda was the biggest treasure. And while that renovation is still underway, something told the Mariani brothers they were on the right track. Inscribed on the walls of the old dining room, in beautiful calligraphy, is an excerpt from a poem that dates back to the 11th Century:

“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.”


Next time you come to Sonoma Valley to “fill your cup,” be sure to stop by Scribe Winery. It may be one of the region’s coolest new wineries. But its roots certainly run deep.