In past years Malibu has become an extreme hot spot for wineries. Whats even more less known is the fact that almost each winery has a gimmick. Now when I say gimmick, I mean an original way to get you to chose there winery over the one down the road! I mean, a wine tasting is a wine tasting, lots of flights of wines, a cracker or two and done. Not here in the laid back hills of Malibu. It seems, in addition to the many varietals of grapes, there comes a variety of how to enjoy them.
Below is a list of my favorites ,each for unique reasons that they all make work!
Malibu Wines/ Semler Family Wines
Wine Safari….yes, you heard right. They offer a wine safari complete with ride in a rustic jeeps, with elevated benches on expanded truck beds to take in the entire effect. And that is of not only grapes and lovely rolling hills but exotic animals as well. You see, they have a mini zoo on their property, have for quite a while. Once my daughter went to a sleep over at the Semler estate and woke up to find a zebra licking her car window.. She knew this because she was sleeping IN the car at the time! Long Story….The Semler family opens up their property to many school and social functions and often times they end with Malibu high school seniors sleeping over in their cars to awaken to strange bedfellows, Zebras, different types of Camels, Bison, Emu, Ostridges , Giraffe, and Oxen to name a few.
This winery also has a basic friday night ho- down during the summer months. So once you are done touring the north 40, grab your picnic blanket , a few snacks and settle out on the lawn and listen to some live music while sipping ( gulping in some cases) the many levels of wines they have to offer. Semler wines is their entry level wine at a more affordable price while Malibu Family Wines are a more boutique selection for a more discerning palate. Both are excellent. Many a night I sat at the bar at the Sunset restaurant enjoying their house wine, Semler.
The bartenders at Malibu Wines there are informative, happy in what they do and oddly always good looking. How does Lisa do it? I am always meaning to thank her when I see her around town, as all my girlfriends are. The single gals seem to gravitate to the bar/ farmhouse while families spread out all over the grounds… Its hard not to enjoy sitting back in an old vintage Adirondack chair, surrounded by furniture that looks like it fell out of a Martha Stewart ad for country living at its best!
All in all, this is my favorite place to enjoy a wine tasting (or bottle purchase). I usually end up becoming a member for great deals of future purchases. So Malibu Wines on Friday night in Malibu on those warm summer months is always a lovely backdrop for family get togethers and just unwinding from another hectic week. The weather seems to go along with the plan as if on cue, is usually warm and the nights long.
Off the intersection Of Kanan Dune Rd, and Mulholland.
My second favorite wine tasting establishment is Malibu isn’t officially IN Malibu….but worth the12 minute scenic drive!
This one is near Malibou Lake . Up to 100 years ago The Town used to be called Cornell, Now just the Wine Tasting Room is. This place is part of a one-two punch. Cornell Winery and The Old Place Restaurant. Each one symbiotically feeds off the other one. They are just off Kanan Dune Rd, at Troutdale Rd.When you enter the wine tasting room you feel as though you’ve stepped into someones parlor from the 1920’s with its rustic vintage charm and it’s unique quirky vibe.They offer wines from many local wineries and sell by the flight or bottle. There is a fabulous bar area, with expert help from The owner Tim Skogstrom. HE knows his way around a vineyard! He is a doll, easy to talk to and happy to share information on any thing from which Chardonnay grapes are best at which time of year, to where to get a good oil change, He is a total renaissance man and that’s what makes this place such a grab bag experience in so much ,that when you arrive you never know what you are going to walk into. It might be Eric Clapton celebrating his birthday to wailing musicians singing out on the steps. We call them the porch singers! It is rumored Steve Mc Queen used to be a regular and I know why. Its off the beaten path! Now back to the actual room. While the front is full of a gazillion wine related items for sale ( and yes, your wine bottle DOES need a sweater) the back room is more subdued for serious devotees of fine wines and intellectual conversation. Its set up as a long family style table , so people meet and greet and exchange thoughts on the grape of the day. The walls are frescoed to the nines and they look amazing. Its a lovely warm and inviting way to spend an entire evening as well, because they offer many different cheese / party platters. So nibble away, meet a neighbor and get to know a bit of ( very) local history with this truly unique wine experience.
The Old Place Restaurant
Now, you might be wondering why I have included a restaurant in my list of wineries but its basically an extension of Cornell Winery. So I must include it! Next door To Cornell is what looks like an old saloon from the 1880’s. Its a very run down, aged and weathered wooden structure that looks as though its quite comfortable at a 20 degree angle. These walsl can, and do ,talk ! It is Rumored to be an old Stagecoach stop, Postal Annex and a General Store. No really knows and we all kind of prefer it that way! Everyone around here loves a bit of history . Lord,we consider the 405 freeway ancient. Up until 7 years ago it was owned and operated by one family who depending on their mood would cook or not cook on any given night. People would come all the way from town only to find them selves sitting on a bench wondering why the owner wouldn’t start the “great barbecue”. Many waited a very very long time. Now owned by the son, it has a regular set of hours and a standard menu .( based upon his fathers basics….clams and steaks) Music nightly from a vintage upright piano, always provides a lively backdrop for locals bellied up to the bar and comparing war stories! Or the price of stocks. Its always packed due to the fact that they only open Thursday night through Sunday night with seatings at 5:00, 6:30 and 8:30. Brunch on Sunday. The servers are overly friendly, knowledgeable on the menu and eager to please. I always leave there happy and full. Try the pan of sizzling mushrooms and steak on the bone. Baked potatoes the size of a hubcap , along with a salad complete most plates here. And if you can even begin to move again after all that, order the bread pudding.It’s so good it’ll make you wanna slap your mama.
Rosenthall Wine Experience
Rosenthall Wineries have a small wine tasting room at the eastern end of Malibu and a more formal estate set in the Malibu wine country for member events . Both are spectacular. The small wine tasting room at the beginning of Malibu can’t be missed due to the over sized lifeguard chair poised in from as if about to take off down PCH. Every kid in Malibu has made a parent pull over at one time or other to sit upon the blue throne.The Wines are lovely, and there are many to choose from and served by a very professionally trained staff. I think out of all the wineries in Malibu, these folks are the most impressive with vintners knowledge. Not so many bells or whistles here ,as they are not needed. The room is quiet, somewhat subdued and people tend to speak in undertones around here. Now having said that you will undoubtedly arrive while the Perrelli Family is celebrating with 80 close personal friends and family members…. There is a nice grassy lawn out back to sit back and enjoy. Nice ocean views and sound of the waves plus music on weekends. The Mellow, close in location get people in from town. Get your feet wet with this one….And then if you graduate to the big time and join their wine club, you will be invited to soirees at their Grandaddy Tuscan Estate. I have been lucky enough to be invited up and it is impressive with a capital I! The backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains is spectacular . Italian Columns adorn the many porticos and terraces. Its truly like being in Tuscany. A Sparkling swimming pool is a focal point around which many tables are set with many flights of wines delivered to your table. Formal and elegant is the best way to describe this experience, and it IS an experience. Live music, ofter a combo or stringed quartet is a soothing way to relax and take in all the beauty this estate has to offer. My only bone of contention with this one is why can’t they do later wine tastings? As with Malibu Wines, they wrap up pretty early. As much as I love wine I don’t particularly need to start drinking it at noon! So people, PLEASE extend your hours of operation. You are missing out on a lot of business…
Well, I hope this little bit of information on our local Malibu wineries enticed you to make a drive up the coast and visit us. Because after all, who likes to drink alone?