The Malibu Coast region is the oldest viticultural region in California. Known for its beautiful beaches, hiking, and the city just a short drive away, it’s the perfect destination for a getaway. The Malibu Coast officially received its title of AVA in 2013 after a grueling three-year application process.
Though it has not been well known for its wine, with technology, the spread of wine knowledge, and exciting world-class wines coming out of this area, it is destined to become an AVA on every wine lover’s bucket list.
Geography of the Malibu Coast AVA
Along the beautiful coast of Southern California lies the Santa Monica Mountain range.
As a part of the Transverse Mountain range it spans across both the Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Spanning from Oxnard, through Malibu, down to Santa Monica, this area makes up the Malibu Coast AVA.
Malibu Coast AVA Background & History
The Malibu Coast is an archeological gold mine for the Chumash and Tongva tribes that used to inhabit the area.
However, it wasn’t until the Spanish arrived that wine first found its home along the Malibu Coast.
The first documented Malibu Coast vineyard was planted in the 1800s making it the oldest growing region in California. General Jose Bartolome Tapia from Spain thought to create delicious wine in an area we know today as Serra Retreat. This was the start of something beautiful. In the middle of the century, Matthew Keller found Tapia’s idea brilliant and too planted a large vineyard in the Malibu Coast, in an area called Solstice canyon. He named it the Rising Sun vineyard.
Since, wineries in this area have been labeling under their city names, county names, and of course the California AVA to classify their wines.
In the region, there were two smaller classified AVAs Malibu-Newton Canyon and Saddle-Rock Malibu. It wasn’t until 2013, that the Malibu Coast was given the classification as an American Vinicultural Area. This then encompassed the two other Malibu AVAs which the winemakers can now choose to classify their wines.
Today, the Santa Monica Mountains are home to families, state parks, recreational centers, travel destinations and over fifty vineyards.
As a tourist, the Malibu Coast is a wonderful getaway. It is a relatively quiet area, perfect for relaxation. The weather is beautiful, never getting too cold in the winter. All you need is a t-shirt and a light jacket. Best of all, you’re never far from a nice restaurant, breath-taking views, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
The Climate & Terroir of The Malibu Coast AVA
The Santa Monica Mountains cause a rain shadow effect which allow for cool and dry winters along with very hot summers.
The volcanic and mineral composition of the soil, along with this rain shadow effect, allow for the perfect temperature for grapes to grow.
With several different micro-climates, this AVA has all different kinds of opportunities to shine. Regions at lower elevations allow for coastal fog influences in the mornings and warm sun in the afternoons, while regions at higher elevations allow for warm sun earlier in the day and cool weather from the ocean breeze in the evening.
The microclimates of the region allow for both cool climate and warm climate wines. The flexibility of California law allows for winemakers to have their own styles. The Syrahs and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the area tend to be dry, full bodied and fruit forward wines. The Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blancs tend to be zesty with ripe, tropical, and citrus notes.
The Malibu Coast is now home to many different grape varietals ranging from Sauvignon Blanc to Mouvèdre to Zinfandel.
Malibu Wineries, Tasting Rooms & Vineyards
Amongst the mountains there are several vineyards ranging from 0.5 to 100 acres planted.
On the larger side, the most well-known wineries are Semler Malibu Estate Vineyards, formerly known as Malibu Family Wines (Malibu Wines) and Rosenthal, The Malibu Estate.
Rosenthal has a beautiful tasting room right on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) as well as a by-reservation-only estate tasting room in Newton Canyon.
Malibu Wines has a lovely tasting room in the mountains off of Mulholland and the opportunity to taste wine and pet their animals via their Malibu Wine Safari. Both are huge tourist attractions representing Malibu as a city and as a wine country.
Cielo Farms and Malibu Rocky Oaks are both producing large amounts of wine and are commercially available all over the Los Angeles area. Cielo Farms offers appointment-only tasting opportunities while Rocky Oaks allows people and businesses to rent out the property for wine or corporate events.
Image Source: woodstockmalibu.comThere are several other family owned wineries that are yet to have a tasting room but are available for purchase in local locations.
There are fantastic Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines coming from WiSH Vineyards in Hidden Hills. The Hayes family continues to work hard to produce delicious and award-winning wines. Dolin Estate Vineyards too makes beautiful wines. Specifically, they’re known for their Estate Chardonnay which consistently wins gold medals.
AJA Vineyards is a boutique family-owned winery producing award winning Syrahs and Cabernet Sauvignon blends. Todd and his daughter Amanda work tirelessly to produce world class wines from the Malibu Coast. They have since been awarded gold medals from several California wine competitions and recently 91 points from Wine Enthusiast.
The wines of the Malibu Coast typically range from $20 to $100 per bottle, with most ranging from $30-50. Tasting opportunities range from $10 per flight to $25.
So many wineries in the area make world class wines and most of them can be found at a local favorite shop: The Cornell Winery and Tasting Room. Known for its iconic timelessness, friendly staff and delicious wine, the Cornell Winery and Tasting Room is located in the heart of the Malibu Coast AVA and is proud to showcase so many of the wines the region has to offer.
There is a lot happening in the Malibu Coast. This area is one of the most iconic wine places to visit.
It is known for its beautiful weather, calm and enjoyable life style, and class. It only makes sense that it would be an area to make quality wine as well.
Malibu AVA Wine Selection, Wines to Try
Here are some of the wines I recommend to try coming out of the Malibu Coast.
2015 Dolin Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, $39
2012 AJA Vineyards Syrah, Pamela’s Selection, $44
2012 Bodegas Gomez Malibu Cabernet Sauvignon, $32
2014 Rosenthal Estate Meritage, $56.75
2012 WiSH Vineyards Merlot, $47
2013 Cielo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $100
This guest post was written by Amanda Greenbaum exclusively for Social Vignerons.
About our Guest Author
Amanda Greenbaum is a Malibu Coast native and the creator and content writer for SOMMthing Rad.
Amanda graduated in June of 2018 from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Food Studies emphasizing her studies in Wine. She went on to receive a certification from the International Culinary Center as a Wine Student and passed her Court of Master Sommeliers America Certification Exam in December of 2018. She is also a certified bartender and mixologist.
In her wine blog, Amanda writes about her recommendations for wine and beer along with descriptions, travel ideas and adult beverage culture in general. She also creates and shares cocktail recipes. You can see more of her articles via www.sommthingrad.com.
Sources & References
For more information about the Malibu Coast AVA, official website: www.malibucoastava.com
Header image credit curtesy of www.malibucoastava.com
Other sources, wineries & vineyards of Malibu: