Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Ventura County Wine Trail

Ventura County, once a Southern California stop-for-gas locale between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, now has a great reason to stop and stay awhile - a wine trail of their own.  The Ventura County Wine Trail is made up of 11 wineries calling Ventura County home plus four located in Malibu.

The area is a little too spread out to make for a convenient one-day excursion, but you can break it up into smaller segments and manage it a bit at a time.

The Malibu Section

Four wineries are in the Malibu and Malibu Hills area, up in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Elevations of around 1,400 feet and cool ocean breezes make for some good grape-growing conditions.

Rosenthal Malibu Estate

In 1987 George Rosenthal planted the first grapes in this area since Prohibition and spearheaded the effort to get AVA status for Newton Canyon, which is contained in California's South Coast AVA.  The winery's tasting room is actually down at sea level, on Pacific Coast Highway, with a great view of the beach.

Cornell Winery and Tasting Room

Cornell has its own wine to pour, but Tim Skogstrom also pours the wine of nearly two dozen other vintners in the Malibu Hills.  It's a laid-back, history-laden place.

Cielo Malibu Estate Wineyards

Richard and Diana Hirsh founded Cielo in what was to become the Saddlerock Malibu AVA.  Their '06 Syrah Blackcrow Mountain was a double gold award winner at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.  The Cielo wines may be sampled at the SIP Malibu Tasting Room in Agoura.

Malibu Wines

Way up in the mountains right between the 101 Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu Wines has two labels to offer.  Semler is their estate label and Saddlerock is wine produced from grapes sourced elsewhere in the Central Coast.

The 101 Freeway Section

Four Brix Winery

Gary Stewart and the Four Brix Family source eleven different varities of grapes from nine vineyards in six appellations.  Taste their wines at The Wineyard, home of their official tasting room in Thousand Oaks.

Los Robles Hills Winery

Also in Thousand Oaks, the Los Robles Hill vineyard is named Puerta del Cielo, which means "Gate of Heaven."  It's an homage to the Spanish missionaries who traveled El Camino Real and planted a lot of grapes themselves.

Camarillo Custom Crush Winery

This a place where other vintners come to make their wines.  The tasting room - open on weekends - features the wine of three local vineyards per week.

Bella Victorian Vineyard

A Victorian-style home with a vineyard in the backyard - it's a refreshing break from Southern California suburbia.  The tasting room features a bistro, and the grounds are offered as a beautiful place for weddings.

Cantara Cellars

Cantara sources Northern California grapes from Lodi and pours their wines at the winery's tasting room in Camarillo.

Herzog Wine Cellars

Driven from their Slovakian home in 1948, the Herzog family moved to New York City, where they made wine until moving to California in 1985.  Their winery was constructed some 20 years later in Oxnard.  The tasting room is on-site, where you can try the Baron Herzog and Herzog Wine Cellars labels.

Magnavino Cellars

This Oxnard winery relies primarily on Lodi grapes.  Their Viognier is sourced in Santa Barbara County.

Rancho Ventavo Cellars

Operating from an Oxnard avocado and lemon ranch, winemaker George Gilpatrick draws fruit from a variety of locales, including Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County and the Sierra Foothills.  The tasting room is in downtown Oxnard.

The Ojai Section

Old Creek Ranch Winery

Wine production on the Old Creek Ranch in the Ojai Valley dates back to the 1800s.  The original winery is still on the property, but the current version was founded in 1981.  Old Creek Ranch is cattle ranch with fruit orchards, so the grapes are sourced from Napa Valley and a number of notable vineyards in Santa Barbara County.  The tasting room overlooks the orchards.  Feel free to bring a picnic lunch.

Casa Barranca

The Casa Barranca Estate is a national historic landmark featuring the 1909 California Craftsman Pratt House.  The estate is unfortunately not open to the public, but the tasting room in downtown Ojai is.  Their ICO certified organic vineyard produces Syrah, Grenache, Semillon and Viognier grapes.

Ojai Vineyard

Adam Tolmach produces excellent wines using grapes from Santa Barbara County - including the Sta. Rita Hills - and the Ojai Valley.  The tasting room is located in downtown Ojai.

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