If Napa Valley is the gleaming star of California wine country, Sonoma is its scruffy cousin having all the fun 35 miles away. Just ask fourth-generation farmer Andrew Mariani, who, along with his brother Adam, cofounded the renowned Scribe Winery in 2007 on the grounds of a historic hacienda. Their focus is on all-natural bottles—funky but never fussy. Not surprisingly, Andrew’s own West Coast picks follow a similar suit. Here are his go-to spots in the state he’s always called home.
Where to Eat
“Chez Panisse [in Berkeley] is the mothership of great California restaurants—and still making incredible food nearly 50 years after it opened. I like to have a nice big lunch there and order the seasonal pizzetta. Another classic, delicious spot is the old-school Swan Oyster Depot on Polk Street [in San Francisco]. It’s the place to get Dungeness crab and fresh oysters. “Cala in Hayes Valley is a newer restaurant I like; it was opened by Gabriela Cámara, a chef from Mexico City. She’s blending Mexican flavors with really local ingredients; her trout tostada is incredible. I also love State Bird Provisions. Like many other Northern California restaurants, it’s very produce-driven, but [Chef] Stuart [Brioza] prepares and presents the food in a dim sum style. Servers will come by and be like, ‘Hey, we just made this; do you wanna try it?’ It’s really interactive and has a lot of energy, so you eat a lot. Its sister restaurant, The Progress, is next door. It’s family-style and really fun and communal.
“The Charter Oak is one of Napa’s most exciting new restaurants; they’re really having fun up there. It’s a casual restaurant that happens to have a three-Michelin-star chef [Christopher Kostow] behind it. You’re getting thoughtful food sourced from all the best places, served in a loose environment. You can jump in, eat something delicious, and pop out. It’s unique in that regard.
“El Molino Central in Sonoma is a more traditional spot using really high-quality ingredients. It’s very casual—you order at the counter—but it’s some of the best Mexican food in the state. Actually, it probably is the best. Jalisco is very special, too. It’s a tortilleria during the day, and at night, they have a little taco stand. Chefs from all over the world cook at Scribe, and we’ll often take them to Jalisco afterward. We’ll drink beer and eat tacos, which is a nice antidote to wine country—just really fun.” Where to Drink
“Bedrock Wine Co. is opening a new tasting room on Sonoma Square. [Founder] Morgan Peterson has a knack for finding old vineyards that are special and rare. They tell an interesting story and produce more distinct flavor profiles due to how deep their roots stretch. He sometimes works with different varietals, too, the way people did 100 years ago. It’s a more interesting version of terroir.”
Where to Shop
“Arlequin in Hayes Valley is the sister shop to San Francisco restaurant Absinthe. They have a strong, well-rounded selection of new California wines and are pretty in tune with the Sonoma/Napa industry. They also have a good selection of international bottles.”
Where to Stay
“There are a couple good spots in San Francisco, starting with Cavallo Point, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. For a casual but cool stay in the city, I like the Phoenix Hotel in the Tenderloin. It’s vibey, funky, and fun. And they’ve got a pool! Austin’s Bunkhouse Group is behind it. Friends of mine just opened the San Francisco Proper Hotel, too. It’s on Market Street and is about as downtown feeling as it gets in San Francisco. They have a snazzy rooftop pool, restaurant, and bar.”
What to Do for Fun
“One of my favorite places to visit in the Bay Area is 500 Capp Street, David Ireland’s old house. He was a local artist who did a lot of interesting sculptural work and site-specific pieces. He had this wabi-sabi way of presenting art, which was a big influence on how we wanted to communicate the stories that came before us at our vineyard. Indian Springs in Calistoga is also pretty cool. It’s an old-school hot springs resort where you can take a mud bath or just chill. If you go on a weekend, make a reservation.” How to Get Outdoors
“The Sonoma Overlook trail is really mellow. It’s right above the town square, so it has nice views of the valley. Then there’s Jack London State Historic Park near Glen Ellen, which is part of his old vineyard and estate. He’s a big figure here. Point Reyes National Seashore [in Marin County] is the best, though—an amazing place. You can hike up to the northernmost tip and see rare tule elk.”
The Perfect Getaway
“Because we’re close to the coast at Scribe, I often take friends or family there. My first stop is Ernie’s Tin Bar in Petaluma. It’s an old auto shop with a little country bar on the side. Very small, ice-cold beers, no cell phones allowed. From there you can go to Brewsters in Petaluma, a big beer-and-wine hall that does amazing barbecue. Get a glass of rosé and half a pound of fatty, Texas-style brisket or St. Louis ribs. A lot of Sonoma wines are really bright; they have a nice acidity that cuts right through the rich barbecue. After Petaluma, head west to The Marshall Store [in Marshall]. You can sit right there on Tomales Bay, eating oysters and chowder. The place to stay out there is Manka’s Inverness Lodge. It’s very NorCal with these cute little cottages that are really cozy when it gets cold at night. They also deliver great breakfast baskets in the morning. And there you have it—a good little Sonoma day.”