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Halliday - - Contents - Words MA­RINA KAY / Pho­tog­ra­phy VIN­CENT LONG

Take a tour of the un­ex­pected wine trail in LA’s Mal­ibu

Los An­ge­les is fa­mous for many things, but its lo­cal wine isn't top of the list. Mal­ibu Wine Coun­try could soon change all that, with its vine­yards in ne form.

Tee­ter­ing over a Pa­cific Ocean dot­ted with surfers wait­ing for the next wave, Mal­ibu Pier har­bours Mal­ibu Farm, a cafe con­stantly buzzing with lo­cals hun­gry for farm-grown fare. Out of the kitchen come sal­ads of wild rocket and creamy bur­rata, grass-fed beef burg­ers, and grilled sal­mon fil­lets on beds of roasted veg­gies and wild rice. And from the bar: lo­cal wines. A glass of Hoyt Fam­ily VINE­YARDS Chardon­nay, with trop­i­cal fruits on the nose and a bright, lin­ger­ing nish, is grat­i­fy­ing; even more so know­ing that its grapes were grown in the hills that lie just be­hind.

at Mal­ibu has a wine coun­try may sound con­found­ing. It’s a lit­tle like say­ing Los An­ge­les gets a lot of rain. But the for­mer is true, thanks in part to the re­gion’s mi­cro­cli­mates. At a lat­i­tude of 34 de­grees north like the Mediter­ranean, LA en­joys mild, dry con­di­tions in the moun­tains and cooler tem­per­a­tures by the ocean, with a marine layer that lends unique char­ac­ter­is­tics to lo­cally grown grapes.

About 20 min­utes north of Santa Mon­ica, Mal­ibu is ac­cessed only via the Pa­cific Coast High­way, a sin­u­ous road not much wider to­day than when it was built in 1929. Mal­ibu strad­dles pricey real es­tate with wa­ter views on one side and on the other, slate cli s and the Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains, with its steep in­clines scored by or­ange groves, av­o­cado trees and grapevines. Such magni cent views draw com­par­isons to Provence and Tus­cany. Napa and Sonoma usu­ally re­ceive ku­dos

for plac­ing Cal­i­for­nia wine on the map, but the rst vines ar­rived in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia with the mis­sion­ar­ies in the 1770s. Later, caber­net sauvi­gnon and sauvi­gnon blanc cut­tings were in­tro­duced by French­man Jean-Louise Vignes, who es­tab­lished a large-scale vine­yard and win­ery in down­town LA in the 1830s. Mal­ibu was part of that early move­ment, says John Free­man, a di­rec­tor at Mal­ibu Coast Amer­i­can Viti­cul­tural Area (AVA). “ e rst-known Mal­ibu Coast vine­yard

That Mal­ibu has a wine coun­try may sound con­found­ing. It’s a lit­tle like say­ing Los An­ge­les gets a lot of rain. But the for­mer is true, thanks in part to the re­gion’s mi­cro­cli­mates.

was planted by Span­ish Gen­eral José Bar­tolomé Tapia in the area known to­day as Serra Re­treat.” By the mid-1800s, Irish busi­ness­man Matthew Keller had bought the Span­ish land grant Ran­cho Topan­gaMal­ibu - Se­quit (present-day Mal­ibu) and planted hun­dreds of acres of wine grapes in Sol­stice Canyon.

e gold rush, ur­ban sprawl and the bac­te­rial Pierce’s dis­ease killed LA vine­yards, which meant North­ern Cal­i­for­nia went on to eclipse its south­ern coun­ter­part in wine­mak­ing. As for Mal­ibu, ac­cord­ing to John, it re­turned to grow­ing grapes in the mid-1980s. “For the next 10 years you could count the num­ber of vine­yards on one hand,” he says. Among these early re-en­trants was his Col­canyon Es­tate Wines, planted in 2001.

In 2014, Mal­ibu Coast nally gained

AVA recog­ni­tion, deem­ing it an o cial wine-grow­ing re­gion, in turn re­vi­tal­is­ing in­ter­est in its 50-plus vine­yards, half of which are com­mer­cially vi­able.

e chal­leng­ing to­pog­ra­phy of this moun­tain­ous re­gion calls for back­bend­ing man­ual work (you won’t nd trac­tors tend­ing the steep plots here) and large-scale pro­duc­tion is im­pos­si­ble. Se­ri­ous con­tender Rosenthal Es­tate Wines pro­duces 16,000 cases per year, while Mal­ibu Ridge Vine­yards, a one-acre bio­dy­namic op­er­a­tion si­t­u­ated at an el­e­va­tion of more than 500 me­tres, pro­duces 100 cases of mal­bec, merlot and caber­net sauvi­gnon. And be­cause leg­is­la­tion re­stricts wine pro­duc­tion through­out LA County, all wine­mak­ers must press their grapes out­side county lines. Mal­ibu Vine­yards owner Steve Ber­nal cus­tom-crushes his har­vest in neigh­bour­ing Ven­tura County at e Vil­lage Win­ery fa­cil­ity where he works closely with wine­maker B. Allen Ged­des. Op­er­at­ing a tast­ing room is eco­nom­i­cal to only a few, namely Mal­ibu Wines and Rosenthal – both make wine us­ing grapes grown in, and out­side of, Mal­ibu. Oth­er­wise, wine clubs and cel­lar door col­lec­tives – the two big­gies be­ing SIP Mal­ibu Grapes and Cor­nell Win­ery and Tast­ing Room – cater to the com­mer­cial needs of smaller lo­cal vine­yards. From its well-stocked shop, Cor­nell sells Mal­ibu Ridge Vine­yard’s 2013 Es­tate Caber­net Sauvi­gnon and 2013 Es­tate Mal­bec

(both aged 32 months in French oak bar­rels). And as for that 2013 Hoyt Chardon­nay men­tioned ear­lier? It’s a bot­tle worth buy­ing to take home.

Why can’t Mal­ibu pro­duc­ers make wine on-site?

A rule for­bid­ding wine pro­duc­tion within LA County dates back to Pro­hi­bi­tion days and is also due to agri­cul­tural-area zon­ing laws that are un­like any­where else in Cal­i­for­nia. A num­ber of lo­cal op­er­a­tors have been lob­by­ing to change this law be­cause it adds ex­ces­sive costs and chal­lenges to their busi­ness.

Rosenthal Mal­ibu Es­tate; Left and be­low, Mal­ibu Farm at the pier.

Rosenthal Mal­ibu Es­tate.

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