I grew up watching my dad do magic. Never with cards or sleight of hand, instead, he would transform cardboard wine boxes into suits of armor for my brothers and I, or make up stories on the spot about rusted out cars in the river and turn them into broken down steeds of long gone errant knights. All of us kids would listen to him, fascinated, he had a way of casually turning the everyday, the routine, into something special. Meals were simple but sourced from the garden and eaten outside at sunset. There were multiple hour sessions of hide and seek in the winery that involved crazy ingenuity: building a wine pallet around an empty space to lie hidden or getting wrapped up in a sleeping bag before hiding in a freezer with the door propped open…
That is how I learned to make wine. Watching my dad cook ribs that were sweet but spicy and blending together a fruity Zinfandel and a hefty Petite Sirah so that it would go better with dinner. Everything was transformed to become something better. Creativity and possibility reigned supreme.
I started here at Marietta a week after graduating from UC Davis with in depth scientific and technical training. Plonked down in the middle of the cellar, I was uncertain and tentative but my dad gave me lots of room and I repurposed machinery, built out the winery, and showed up day after day just trying to make a contribution by following my gut.
Ten years later, dad is retired and I learned along the way how to make wine by magic. The science is still important: there are times when yeast needs to be fed, oxygen’s interaction with the wine is still crucial, temperature ranges will make or break a fermentation… but, the real magic happens in quiet moments. After a ridiculously long day of harvesting when everyone is gone, walking the cellar between tanks full of bubbling, fermenting wine with the overhead lights off, doing one last temperature check on each tank with the palm of the hand. Thinking about the tons of grape skins, the trainloads of sugar, the massive accumulation of man-hours represented in each tank… turning dark and rich… the possibility in that cellar is palpable.
We are still performing magic here at Marietta. This second-generation winery continues to transform hard work, a blessed climate, special pieces of land, and belief into beautiful liquid expressions of family and place.
-Scot Bilbro, Owner/Winemaker
At Marietta, we place a lot of emphasis on our instincts. In all facets of our business, when faced with a decision, we don’t just look at the trajectory of the industry, we look within. Our instincts tell us that good equipment is good equipment – it doesn’t have to be new. And our instincts tell us that in many cases the best tools are our hands. It still feels right to make the best wine possible and to sell it at a fair price. Our instincts tell us that being honest, being consistent, working hard, and thinking outside the box is more important than anything else in business.
Our cellar crew instinctively knows what we do and why we do it. They jump from harvest to barrel work, to bottling, to landscaping without blinking. We are hands on and busy year-round. During lunchtime, the crew can be found without fail playing cards in the winter and basketball or soccer in the summer. There is a community garden onsite where much time is spent after work producing beautiful fruit and vegetables. The majority of the crew has worked with us for over ten years.
We farm over 400 acres of our own vineyard. We acquired them by some strange combination of chasing overheard stories, hunting and fishing, and buying grapes from wonderful farmers all over two counties, while constantly keeping an eye out for potential… After years of work and play we owned gnarly, historic, semi-productive vineyards that needed care and attention. We have been happily investing time and energy dreaming about what they might become.
Our Vineyard Manager, Ben Kaisi, is a 20-year veteran of the construction industry. Which is why aside from perfectly tended grapes we have immaculately built pump houses. Our Vineyard Foreman, Soccoro Casillas, has farmed our vineyards for over 20 years with the same crews. And most importantly, our vineyard workers work all year in any condition, and show incredible stamina, cheer, and pride in their work.
Our crew does a lot of work by hand. It improves our attention to detail and allows us to keep everyone busy all year. We work hard towards sustainability: we minimize our water usage, remove weeds by physical means at every opportunity, and focus on compost, soil structure and overall property health with every decision.