Wine Country Agenda: The Charter Oak Opens, Scribe Winery’s Hacienda and a New Hideaway in Mendocino


The Essential Food and Wine Experience at The Charter Oak

Photo credits: c/o The Charter Oak, Photography by Kelly Puleio

When Executive Chef Christopher Kostow of three Michelin star Restaurant at Meadowood had the opportunity to open his own restaurant, he looked forward to a place that was closer to the people, “more democratic and accessible that high end are not.” But the new Charter Oak restaurant in St. Helena is only casual in ambiance, not in standards. Chef Kostow and partner Nathaniel Dorn, also Restaurant Director at Meadowood and James Beard recipient for Outstanding Service, offer delicious, ingredient-driven fare and hospitality at the highest level but in a more approachable format.


The partners worked with Howard Backen and Silvia Nobili of Backen, Gillam & Kroeger to create a welcoming space centered around community. The walls were stripped of their artifice to reveal the original masonry, creating a greater connection with the old stone sherry building across the inviting dining terrace and tree-shaded courtyard. Inside, interiors were gutted to make way for gathering spaces inspired by big banquet halls and old beer gardens. Said Dorn, “we want to get back to celebrating food and wine.”

The bar is unique in its breezy views and features circular extensions whose shape, Dorn said, was inspired by those classic ‘drink tokens’ given out by small town bars inviting locals to stop by for a drink.

Chefs Kostow and Katianna Hong (formerly Chef de Cuisine at The Restaurant at Meadowood) celebrate seasonal ingredients with simple preparations that are big on flavor. Think tartine of green garlic, peas with a whisper of lardo; a colorful plate of freshly picked, tender vegetables with fermented soy dip; deeply-flavored, acorn miso-infused pork shoulder with bitter greens or Mt. Lassen trout with wild greens and fermented onion. In the spirit of communal gatherings, Charter Oak offers family style plates and even ‘punch bowl’ cocktails.

The Charter Oak is open daily for dinner 5:30 – 10 p.m., weekdays for lunch 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays for brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 1050 Charter Oak Ave., St. Helena, CA 94574

Romantic Edge at Scribe Winery in Sonoma

Photos by Stephanie Rudy

The pure appeal of Scribe and the Hacienda lies in the effortless continuity of a place, time and wines of an estate originally established in the 1850s, a history Andrew and Adam Mariani – the scribes – capture beautifully with the sensitivity of 4th generation California farmers. While they’ve been farming the property for years, they only recently undertook the huge task of restoring the abandoned Hacienda on the property, having been called to the courtyard again and again for evening gatherings among friends.

Working with Aidlin Darling, the design challenge on the Hacienda was not what to add or change, but what to leave behind, to hold on to the original character of the house. Here at Scribe, modern design blends with the patina of fine old woodwork, random cracks in the ca. 1920s plaster and bits of exposed 1950s wallpaper, in a soulful and timeless way.

The Scribe experience is relaxed, the views stunning and the wines so original in minimalist winemaking technique. In addition to Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the current flight, Scribe produces limited availability, skin-fermented whites using legacy grapes of the property in the 19th cent., Sylvaner and Riesling, and also Chardonnay. The flight is not paired but served with a casual ‘mezze’ prepared in-house with ingredients grown on the property that changes constantly. Serious foodies, and these are foodie wines, will want to subscribe to their Viticultural Society to attend dinners and events at The Hacienda led by the brothers’ circle of chef and artist friends. While there’s comfortable indoor seating, most guests are out on the inviting patio or veranda. Scribe Winery visits are by appointment only. 2100 Denmark St. Sonoma

The Brambles in Anderson Valley

The owners of the elegant Madrones in Philo have opened unique lodgings nearby called The Brambles, reviving an old homestead and logger cabins on the property. Inspired by stick and shingle Victorians, owners designer Jim Taylor and Brian Adkinson used reclaimed redwood and salvaged doors and windows to create a rustic “Victorian-meets-industrial steampunk” aesthetic.

Nestled in towering redwoods, the homestead features a one bedroom suite and one bedroom apartment while the cabins are available in a spacious studio or a two-bedroom guest house. Although the look is rustic, the amenities are modern with wifi, flat screen TV, air conditioning, full European style baths and luxury linens. The secluded spot is conveniently located to The Madrones, the highway and Anderson Valley wineries. For availability, check the website.

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