Because The Day Job™ has been pretty ruthless lately, I have to depend on others’ exciting adventures to add new and unusual stuff to the site. This week, it’s Malibu Wine Country! My friends and intrepid travelers, Dick and Jarlene, recently visited the Malibu Wine Country – a decided departure from their planned trip to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto – and had a wonderful time meeting some of the winemakers there. The next few posts will be all about their trip and the wineries they visited.
Malibu Coast vintners — all 52 of them — are doing a victory dance right now. Three years after first applying for AVA (American Viticultural Area) status for the Malibu Coast, the vineyards there have been granted their own AVA.
What does that mean exactly? Wines from Malibu-based estates now have the option to include Malibu Coast AVA on their labels. Elliott Dolin of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, one of several winery owners to spearhead the application process, says, “It allows us to establish a sense of place and an identity for our wines. It also gives us some credibility in the wine world at large and reestablishes the history of wine grape growing in Malibu.
“Malibu is world famous, but very few people are aware of our wine grape growing history, which dates back two centuries. While people sunbathe on the beaches, up here in the hills, our vines have been catching rays of their own.”
The new AVA is about 46 miles long and 8 miles wide, mainly in the Santa Monica Mountains, and includes 52 grape growers with a total of 198 acres of vines. To the north, it is bounded by Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills and other urban development along the 101. To the south is the Pacific Ocean, to the west Oxnard and Camarillo, and to the east the city of Los Angeles. Elevations range from sea level to 3,111 feet at Sandstone Peak.
History of the Malibu Coast American Viticultural Area
The first known Malibu Coast vineyard was planted in the early 1800’s by a Spanish General Jose Bartolome Tapia in the area known today as Serra Retreat. By the mid 1800’s Matthew Keller had purchased the Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit and planted hundreds of acres of wine grapes in Solstice Canyon which he named the Rising Sun Vineyard. Today there are more than fifty vineyards along the Malibu Coast producing world-class wines.
The Malibu Coast soil conditions and climate are perfect for growing premium wine grapes. This wine collection represents an expanding selection of locally grown and locally produced wines.
Climate of the Malibu Coast AVA
The climate of the Malibu Coast AVA is a unique transition zone, influenced by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains, placing it under occasional ocean influence and occasional hilltop influence. The Santa Monica Mountains are adjacent to the Pacific coastal strip which is a climate made up of cold air and hilltops and includes a thermal belt. In this transitional area, the weather is influenced by both marine and interior air. In these transitional areas, climate boundaries often move 20 miles in 24 hours with the movement of air masses. The coastal strip has an ocean influence about 85% of the time, interior air rules only 15% of the time. The North side of the AVA has a 12-month frost-free growing season.
The close proximity to the ocean dramatically influences the grape growing conditions in the AVA in two very notable ways: reflected light and increased humidity. The inland valleys, north of the Santa Monica Mountains (coastal hills) are very dry, especially during the afternoon in summer, when the relative humidity typically drops to 20% or 30% or lower, while the Malibu Coast AVA is often affected by coastal fog and typically higher humidity 50% to 70% even on summer afternoons. The inland areas by distance and intervening mountains do not receive the additional reflected light. The heat summation, for the Malibu Coast American Viticultural Area, places it in a high Category II or low Category III of Amerine and Winkler’s California Climatic Zones for wine-grape growing. Precipitation in the are is 12” to 16” near the coast and increases with elevation to 30” per year on some of the Santa Monica Mountain peaks.
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