The 46 mile long and 8 mile wide Malibu Coast, with glitzy beachfront mansions and celebrity-filled Starbucks, is now an official American Viticultural Area, or American wine appellation. This is ironic in that the area is home to several low profile celebrity rehab facilities. Nonetheless, Malibu is making viticultural history, joining the ranks of high profile AVA’s including California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
Elliott Dolin, proprietor of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, helped initiate the AVA application in 2011, and is joined by 51 other wine grape growers in the area. There are not yet any local wineries. These small-lot artisanal wines are made at custom-crush facilities or at nearby Central Coast wineries for the time being. While the AVA includes
the beaches, most of the grapes are grown inland, up in the Santa Monica Mountains. There are 198 acres of vines in production. The majority of the AVA is within Los Angeles County but it overlaps into Venture County. According to local growers, the coastal Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and cool, moist winters is ideal for wine grape growing. In fact, the first vineyards were planted here in 1824, and shortly afterwards Los Angeles County was leading the state’s wine production.
Dolin and his family planted a vineyard exclusively to Chardonnay in 2006, though they plan to release a proprietary red blend soon. The south-facing slope is behind the family home near what is now the AVA’s western border, and is covered with a morning marine layer which burns off by afternoon. Plentiful bright, hot sun and then cool evenings ensue, a formula that bodes well for both richness and ripeness but which allows for naturally retained and lively acidity for balance. Our class had the opportunity to taste the 2012 Dolin Chardonnay Malibu Estate Vineyard Los Angeles County $39 at the inaugural California Wine Appellation Specialist 3-Day Intensive in Santa Rosa in January 2014. The wine was rich and buttery with pineapple, lemon curd, lemon meringue and vanilla bean, and had a lovely creamy texture balanced out with lively coastal and cool hills acidity. Dolin’s 2013 bottling will be labeled with the new Malibu Coast AVA. Two previously established Malibu AVA’s, Malibu-Newton Canyon and Saddle Rock-Malibu are both within the Malibu Coast AVA. For wineries, events and tours in Malibu go to http://www.winerymalibu.com/wineries.html .
Have you tried a Malibu or other Los Angeles County or Ventura County wines before?
Do you think the wines from Malibu will be able to compete with those from Napa Valley, and if so, how?