Friday, October 12, 2012

Malibu Wine: Cornell Winery And The Old Place


A bit west of Los Angeles, in the hills north of Malibu, there is a wonderful wine destination hidden away.  Cornell Winery, and The Old Place restaurant next door, are a destination, because most people aren’t likely to drive past them on their way to some other place.  They are both well worth the trip.

Officially located in the hills of Agoura, the winery takes its name from the area’s old-time moniker of Cornell.  It’s not that far from the teeming metropolis, but it really feels like the country.  We stopped first at the restaurant for lunch, with a visit to the tasting room in mind for afterward.

The Old Place was owned and operated by Tom Runyon and his wife for over 40 years.  For the past few years, Tim and Denise Skogstrom have kept the restaurant - and the winery - in business on the dusty stretch of Mulholland Highway.  It was once a bit of a celebrity hangout, as stars like Steve McQueen, Jason Robards, Burgess Merideth and Sam Peckinpaw could often be found there.  Steaks cooked over a red oak fire are the signature dish, but even grilled veggies carry the mark of the wood-fired grill.

I had to try The Cornell Winery Enchanto white blend with my sandwich.  It costs $8 by the glass.  Oak notes on a nice floral aspect are give an apple-flavored, savory background.  I guessed it to be a blend of Viognier and Roussanne, and was delighted when my server confirmed it.  This wine would be fantastic with some Edam cheese.  It really hit the spot with my grilled vegetable sandwich, and was a good pairing with the potato salad, which has generous amounts of cranberry and blue cheese in it.

Next door, at the Cornell Winery tasting room, I was disappointed to find that they were not pouring any of their own wines on that day.  The tasting room carries a lot of other Malibu wines for sale, as well as some offerings from the Central Coast.  Denise told me they rotate the tasting menu so that all the wines are featured.  Here's what I tasted:

Toccata Malvasia Bianca - Sweet, generous fruit.  A Lucas and Lewellen label.
Epiphany Gypsy - Great Grenache nose, perfumed cherries.  From the Fess Parker stable of wines.
Niner Cabernet Sauvignon - Big paso Robles fruit and a nice graphite edge.
Consilience Syrah - Dark Santa Barbara County fruit and black pepper.

The tasting room is open Thursdays through Sundays.  Private parties can take the back room and its enormous, heavy wooden table.  Denise says, in the near future, they plan to bring in cheese and meat plates prepared in The Old Place.

An exploration of this winning combo is recommended.  Cornell Winery and The Old Place make for a wonderful Southern California jaunt that doesn't take up the whole day - unless you want it to.


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