Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Malibu Wine Trail

Wine Tasting in the Bu  

The city of Malibu is known for its 21 miles of sandy beaches from Topanga to Nicholas Canyon and for being the home of movie stars. Signs with "27 miles of scenic beauty" on them refer to Malibu's original coastal length before it became a city in 1991. Since the mid 1980’s the hills in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu and the Mediterranean climate have been producing local wines. 

My wife and I took a tasting trip to some local wineries between Calabasas and Malibu last Friday afternoon.  Our scenic drive to Malibu started around 4 pm and it was easy to sample wines at three tasting rooms in the Agoura/Malibu area. The route from Calabasas is roughly 50 miles round-trip. That’s about 1 ½ hours driving time and we spent about 20 minutes at each tasting room, so we were done in 2 ½ hours (about 6:30 pm).  Once the Cornell Tasting Room reopens (they are open for wine sales now, just not for tasting/sales by the glass) you could easily add them as a first stop.  And the Old Place restaurant next door in Cornell is a great place for Brunch or Dinner on the weekend. 

SIP Malibu - Cielo Wine Bar / Cielo Malibu Estate Wineyard

Our first stop was at the newly renovated SIP Malibu - Cielo Wine Bar. Their sign is not visible from the road, so make a left turn off of Kanan on to Sierra Creek Road when you see the Rustic Canyon General Store & Grill sign. SIP is located next door to the general store and a separate business from Cielo Malibu Estate.

They sell Cielo wines exclusively and also have a nice selection of bottled beers if you’re not interested in tasting wine. The colorful décor and posters inside the tasting room, the Woodstock Collection labels, and the music playing give it a real 60’s vibe.

Lauren & Corey
I tasted the “Mixed Flight” of wines and my wife tried the “White Flight.” The Tasting Menu also included higher priced tastings, “Estate Flight” and “Monster Flight,” and we plan on trying those on our next visit.  My favorites were the 2009 Honey Pie (45% Chardonnay, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Muscat) and the 2009 Pinot Noir (100% Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia). The Honey Pie was a very interesting blend of whites with a little bit of sweetness. And I don’t think I ever had 100% Pinot Noir before. It was lighter than most Pinot Noir wines I’ve had and didn’t have as much of a fruit presence.  My wife liked the 2010 Woodstock "Misty Roses" Rosé (70% Merlot, 30% Malbec from Napa Valley) – a great sipping wine for summertime.

Malibu Wines / Malibu Family Wines

If you look them up online you might notice there’s a slight difference between “Malibu Family Wines” and “Malibu Wines.” They have different website and street addresses and are not exactly the same business.  Malibu Wines is an outdoor tasting room that offers Semler & Saddlerock wines made by Malibu Family Wines. Their wines are served at a couple of rustic tasting bars; a large one exclusively for their Wine Club Members and a smaller one for non-members.

Semler was the first label and Saddlerock was the second label made by Malibu Family Wines.  Saddlerock ranch is the estate where grapes for both labels are grown.  It is across Mulholland Highway from the tasting room and they host wine club events there at the ranch.
This is my favorite place for enjoying outdoor wine tasting. During their summer hours (from Memorial Day to Halloween), they are open until 9 pm on Friday and Saturday evenings with live music.  You can bring a picnic dinner and enjoy wine tasting until 5:30 pm, or wine purchased by the bottle until 9 pm with live music.
We tasted the Saddlerock Ranch Flight and my favorite was the 2010 Saddlerock Merlot.  It was very berry-like with a blackberry and plum nose plus a raspberry and tobacco taste.  The Semler Estate Flight looks like fun with all Cabs in it – we’ll have to taste that one on our next trip. 

Rosenthal - The Malibu Vineyard Wine Tasting Room and Garden Patio

We ended our tasting trip at the Rosenthal Wine Tasting Room and Garden Patio across from Topanga Beach in Malibu. It is located between Malibu beach classics Wylie’s Bait & Tackle and the Reel Inn. The previously deserted Real Estate Loans building and overgrown back have been transformed into a happening meeting place for locals and tourists alike.  Although it was not too crowded when we pulled in before 6:00, by the time we left it was busy in the tasting room and the parking lot was full. In addition to wine tastings people can gather in the bar area or the new garden patio in the back to drink wines by the glass or bottle. The garden patio in back is a great idea for summer wine tasting. 

The wine tasting flight included Rosenthal Malibu Estate and Surfrider wines. We enjoyed a special comparison of the 2009 Surfrider (Central Coast) and 2010 Surfrider (San Luis Obispo County) Chardonnays.  I liked the 2010 best.  My wife really liked the 2009 Rosenthal – The Malibu Estate Chardonnay and bought a bottle.  My other favorite was the 2007 Surfrider “Hang Ten Red” blend that had cassis, raspberry, blackberry, and oak flavors. 

After several tastings we were starting to get hungry for dinner and we were happy to see that snacks were available for purchase while tasting.  We also spotted a list of food trucks like the “Crispy Truck” and “Ragin’ Cajun Truck” that were visiting Rosenthal on the weekends. 

Contact Information

Old Place Cornell
29983 Mulholland Hwy, Cornell (aka Agoura), CA 91301

Cornell Winery & Tasting Room
29975 Mulholland Hwy, Cornell (aka Agoura), CA 91301
*As of 3/22/12 they were waiting for building permit for a 2nd restroom, until the construction is complete there will not be any more tastings.

SIP Malibu - Cielo Wine Bar (Tasting Room)
2598 Sierra Creek Road, Agoura, CA 91301

Cielo Farms / Cielo Malibu Estate Wineyard
31424 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
Private Tastings and Tours - Bill Hirsh - Vintner

Malibu Wines (Tasting Room)
31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
*Last tasting pour is 5:30 pm, even when events last until 9 pm in the summer.

Malibu Family Wines
32111 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

The Rosenthal Tasting Room / Rosenthal - The Malibu Estate
18741 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
*Last tasting pour is 7:30 pm.

Other Vineyards (No Tasting Rooms)

Colcanyon Estate Wines
2375 Latigo Canyon Road, Malibu, CA 90265
*Please Note: They do not operate as a tasting room yet. Taste at Cornell Winery & Tasting Room.

Schetter Malibu Vineyard
5825 Murphy Way Malibu, CA 90265
*Taste at Cornell Winery & Tasting Room.

Malibu Solstice
29350 Pacific Coast Hwy, Ste. 12, Malibu, CA 90265
*No Tasting Room.

Hoyt Family Vineyards
Kanan Dume Rd., Malibu, CA 90265
310-457-3832 5929
*No Tasting Room.

Jim Palmer’s Malibu Vineyards
22631 Pacific Coast Hwy, #900 Malibu, CA 90265
*No Tasting Room.