How a Chef at the Coolest Winery in Sonoma Starts Her Day

How a Chef at the Coolest Winery in Sonoma Starts Her Day

Ariel Knutson
May 30, 2018
(Image credit: Emma K. Morris | Kitchn)

Welcome to Kitchn's series My Superpowered Morning, where we show you how interesting people use their morning routine to help them fuel the rest of the day.

I recently visited Sonoma wine country and got to drink — and eat! — at one of the coolest, most beautiful places in the entire region: Scribe Winery, a family-owned gem that owes part of its charm to the food served at its tastings. In fact, I had some of the best fried chicken of my life there, thanks to chef Kelly Mariani.

Kelly, a Chez Panisse-trained chef, has one of the most magical jobs I can imagine: cooking from the property's garden and tailoring the food to Scribe's delicious wines. I chatted with Kelly about what it's like to hold such a fabulous job and how the food (and wine) of Sonoma helps superpower her own creativity, beginning with her mornings.

(Image credit: Emma K. Morris | Kitchn)

Kelly's family owns Scribe. They bought it 11 years ago, put in the vines, and a year-and-a-half ago finished restoration on the hacienda where the tastings now take place. The meals that Kelly creates are based around what's coming out of the garden on their property, which means she changes the menu on a weekly basis. When I visited, the place was absolutely packed; Kelly says they get about 600 people to the farm every week.

What's your typical morning routine?

I spend my work days, and most of my life, at the Hacienda at Scribe, but I lay my head in Oakland. It's a holdover from my years cooking at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. I like staying connected to the culture and friends in the East Bay, but it means I spend sometime in the car every morning. My commute is about an hour.

My alarm goes off at 7 a.m., I make myself a lemon water, scan the socials and news headlines, and prepare a smoothie for the drive to the farm. These days it's banana, pineapple, dates, toasted almonds, whatever leafy green is around, chia seeds, coconut oil, and coconut water.

On my drive I listen to The Daily or Cooking by Ear, catch up with friends on the phone, and set some intentions for the day. My morning commute is rewarded with a cup of coffee once I get to the hacienda — that's the real sacred moment. The farm is just waking up and is fresh and peaceful. I drink my coffee, put together the prep list for the day, and then let the games begin.

(Image credit: Emma K. Morris | Kitchn)

How does your morning dictate how the rest of your day is going to go?

So much of my job is advance planning. I can't be stressed the day of or else everything is going to go poorly, so I need things to be smooth in the morning. If I can get everything set up in advance and go through my routine, I feel great.

Why do you reach for a smoothie in the morning?

When I'm working in the kitchen I always forget to eat a real meal. Starting my day with a smoothie makes me feel like no matter what else comes up, I started out on the right note. And it's something that is raw — I think it's important to not always be eating cooked, seasoned, oiled, salted foods. So, it's just really pure and nutritious.

Like, if I eat a bagel for breakfast, the rest of my day is shot. My body starts craving smoothies. If I eat something more carb-loaded, then my body misses the fresh vitamins.

(Image credit: Emma K. Morris | Kitchn)

How does wine fit into your idea of being healthy?

I think most things can be healthy in moderation. Wine works for my body. That said, I don't drink it every day. I'm around it every day, and people are obviously drinking it when they visit Scribe, but days will go by without me having a glass.

Favorite bottle right now?

Definitely the rosé. It's a hot commodity right now. We'll sell out. That's one you can drink at all hours.

What's the best cure for a hangover?

Staying in bed and a lot of water. Just give in.

Okay, but what if you have to work that day. You still have a smoothie?

Oh, no, I need a breakfast sandwich. With bacon.

(Image credit: Emma K. Morris | Kitchn)

How do you take your coffee?


Pancakes or waffles?

Walnut pancakes with real maple syrup. And some kind of fruit.

What kind of milk do you use for your smoothies?

I do walnut or almond milk.

Wait, walnut milk?

My family also farms walnuts and almonds. We just came out with a walnut milk. It actually tastes like walnuts. It's not bitter, and it has a really good consistency. It tastes real. I was involved with the development with it.

(Image credit: Emma K. Morris | Kitchn)

Food trends you're excited about right now?

I always love pizza, but that doesn't count.

What's something you want to work on more in the kitchen?

I wish I was better at breaking down whole fish. Or making paella for a bunch of people.

Learn More About Scribe Winery

Plan your visit to Scribe and follow them on Instagram.

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