Showing posts with label Malibu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Malibu. Show all posts

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Los Angeles County Wine

Alonso Family Vineyard
Small-production commercial winemakers are breathing new life into Los Angeles County's wine scene.  The urban sprawl of Southern California makes it hard to imagine that it was once a thriving wine region sporting a hundred vineyards that produced wine for the world.

I received some information about L.A.'s wine region rebirth from Melanie Webber, who works with the Garagiste Festival.  The Garagiste Festival showcases small producers at events all over California, and their Urban Exposure event is slated for June 21-22, 2019 in Glendale.

Webber says the Los Angeles wine industry was born as early as 1784, when Spanish missionaries planted vineyards near Glendale.  It wasn't until 1833 that Frenchman Jean-Louis Vignes put some Bordeaux cuttings in the dirt near what is now Union Station, starting the Southern California commercial wine biz.  He would become one of the world's largest wine producers by 1850.

By the time Prohibition killed off the wine industry in many states, urbanization had already forced most of the vineyards away from L.A.'s downtown area.  Today, small production - garagiste - winemakers are driving a SoCal Renaissance in winemaking, sourcing only from local vineyards, all proudly proclaiming Los Angeles County on their wine labels.  There are vineyards all over Los Angeles - from Malibu to Bel Air to the Antelope Valley to Palos Verdes.

Los Angeles Syrah
Two L.A. winemakers are part of the newly formed LA Vintners Association, and are working to  highlight the true potential of Los Angeles terroir and positioning Los Angeles as a premier wine region.

Angeleno Wine Company is in downtown L.A., its vineyard just an hour north of downtown, in Agua Dulce.  The land is farmed by Juan Alonso, who is referred to by Angeleno's owners as the winery's "real winemaker."  He planted lesser known Spanish grape varieties from his native Galicia.  Alonso's Tannat, Graciano, Godello, Loureiro, and Treixadura make it into Angeleno wines each year.

Moraga Estate
Byron Blatty Wines sources its wines only from vineyards in Los Angeles and runs a pop-up tasting room in Silver Lake. 

L.A.'s oldest winemaking operation is San Antonio Winery, but they source grapes from other parts of California and the world.

Moraga Estate makes wine from grapes grown amid the mansions of Bel Air.  Owned by Rupert Murdoch, they've been at it - small but steady - at about a thousand cases per year for nearly three decades.  Most of their production is dedicated to a club and a mailing list.

Malibu Wines and Rosenthal also make wine from grapes grown on their respective estates in the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Tasting Malibu: Dolin Dinner Pairs Pistola

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. When you least expect something to knock you off your feet, there it is.

The wine dinner invitation had come weeks before a major upset in my work schedule, and by the time the day had rolled around, I was looking at a dinner at which I would have a serious lack of sleep with a road trip set for very early the following morning.

I tried to beg off, but the publicist insisted I would be okay. Tenaciousness is in a publicist's DNA. So at the prescribed time I showed up at Los Angeles restaurant Pistola for an introduction to Malibu vintner Elliott Dolin and his wines. I’m glad it worked out that way.

First of all, the group in which I was included was fantastic. I got to rub elbows with Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, wine writer Patrick Comiskey and Alain Gayot, editor-in-chief of Gayot Publications. With Gayot, I rubbed elbows in the literal sense. I was seated next to him for dinner, and we talked about - of all things - wine from places like Iowa, Indiana and Texas. Serendipity.

Elliott Dolin is in at least his third professional life as a vintner. His real estate work keeps him busy - busier than his time as a professional musician kept him - but it’s easy to tell that when wine grabbed him by the lapels, it had no intention of letting go.

Dolin and his wife, Lynn, planted a Chardonnay vineyard at their Malibu home in 2006 because they thought it would look nice. Those roots grew into them as well as into the Zuma volcanic soil. “Hey since we have all these grapes…” Serendipity. Now Dolin Malibu Estate Wines is a leading producer in the recently established Malibu Coast AVA, helping bring a little respect back to Los Angeles County, once the leading wine production area in the state.

Winemaker Kirby Anderson came on board to create the Dolin line.  Dolin says, “Our vineyard manager, Bob Tobias, arranged a meeting with Kirby, a highly respected winemaker on the Central Coast. I could tell he was a perfectionist like me, so we decided to bring him on as winemaker for the 2010 vintage.”

It was a move Anderson was ready to make. “I came in thinking Malibu was a frivolous place to make wine and best suited to hobbyists, but making wine at Dolin quickly straightened me out,” he says. “I can now say with certainty there will be great things coming from Malibu. The land is there; the weather is there; the funds for high-quality farming are there. The only thing missing with most Malibu wines, until recently, was the commitment to make it a serious game.” Now, that’s there too.

And Dolin is a great salesman. That, with the cachet of a respected winemaker, meant he was able to purchase fruit from vineyards that would normally never consider supplying to a new producer. The 2014 debut of the Dolin Estate Central Coast Pinot Noir line, shows some of the best sites in the Central Coast and Malibu Coast.

The Food and the Chef

Chef Vic Casanova has done a great job with his menu at Pistola. I have been a fan since Gusto opened, and it’s always a joyous occasion when we can squeeze into that tiny eatery for dinner. At Pistola, there is a lot more room, but the Italian fare is just as brilliant. This evening our dinner started with antipasti: charred Mediterranean octopus, Beluga lentils, caramelized shallots, salsa verde and lemon agrumato. In agrumato, the olive oil is not infused with lemon, the citrus is crushed with the olives on a stone mill. This was paired with the Dolin Estate Chardonnay and the Rosé of Pinot Noir. Next, the pasta: spaghetti carbonara with guanciale,  onion, black pepper, egg yolk, scallions and pecorino. It was paired with the Pinots. Secondi: stracotto, beef short ribs braised in Barolo, Polenta, roasted root vegetables and horseradish gremolata.

The Wines

The Dolin wines tasted at dinner:

2013 Dolin Malibu Estate Chardonnay, Malibu Coast ($39)
The nose features a very nice oak effect, with peach and tropical fruit aromas, especially pineapple. On the palate, that beautiful oak is not fat but it definitely shows. Very well balanced wine. Dolin’s Newton Canyon Chardonnay is similarly gifted.

2014 Dolin Rosé of Pinot Noir Central Coast ($22)
Strawberry plays large on the nose with a hint of apples, while the flavors run from strawberry to raspberry. Nice, fresh acidity and balance. The wine was whole cluster pressed. It’s great with charred octopus. The label art won an award, by the way. The design was done by Dolin’s wife.

2012 Dolin Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills ($32)
Grapes came from the John Sebastiano vineyard on the eastern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills. It has a darker color than I expect with a Pinot, and a nose that is loaded with black tea and smoke. Tea carries into the palate and joins the raspberry flavors. Lovely acidity.

2012 Dolin Pinot Noir Rincon Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley ($45)
Light color marks this one, and the nose is an expressive mix of raspberry, cola and tea. The palate is elegant, yet strident. Great acidity

We also tried a couple of red blends that are still unreleased:

Red Blend 1 - Merlot-based with fruit from Newton Canyon. A little more than half the oak used is new. The nose is full of black pepper and dark fruit with a billowing smoke presence. Blueberry and pepper on the palate.

Red Blend 2 - This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is all Malibu fruit with a muted blackberry nose and some graphite on the palate. Red fruit flavors come with a great earthiness.

Dolin’s line also includes vineyard designate Pinot Noirs from Santa Maria’s Bien Nacido Vineyard and Solomon Hills Vineyard. The wines may be purchased directly at

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drink Pink: Dolin Rosé Of Malibu

Malibu made its name long ago as one of the wealthiest places for surf and sun.  A bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen and a long board strapped to the top of your van will provide you with some great fun - until the sets stop rolling in or the security guards chase you off the private beach, whichever comes first.  When the fun is over, the fun's not really over.  There is always wine.

Wine is easy to find in Malibu.  It's in all the restaurants and there are a couple of tasting rooms along PCH.  Up in the hills, a bit off the surfboard beat, there are vines, thousands of them.  Malibu has over four dozen vineyards and is now enjoying its recently approved status as a bona fide American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

Elliott Dolin has spent time both as a professional musician and as a real estate investor.  He never really gave any thought to making wine.  In 2006 he and his wife planted an acre of Chardonnay vines in their expansive backyard - they simply thought a vineyard would look nice on the hillside.  Quickly, Dolin’s passing fancy became a focal point of his life.

Dolin’s winemaker Kirby Anderson is a non-interventionist in the winery, the better to showcase the characteristics of the vineyard.  He says Dolin’s Malibu fruit speaks for itself.  "I try to always keep my emotions in check when making wine," he says, "but the potential of the Dolin Vineyard is so tremendous that I can't help but get excited."

The fine folks at Jarvis Communications provided this wine for the purpose of review.

The 2012 Dolin Malibu Estate Rosé is 100% Central Coast Pinot Noir, carries an alcohol content of 13.5% abv and is contained under natural cork.  One-third of the pink wine spent 8 months in neutral oak, while two-thirds stayed in stainless steel after fermentation in same.

This rosé has melon and berry on the nose, with a shade of green showing.  A nice cherry flavor appears with a bit of candy, but a strong herbal presence balances the fruit.  Food pairings will abound with the lovely, fresh acidity, and the hint of green on the finish underscores the savory aspect.  Leave it open for a while, and it starts to show a delightful bit of funk.

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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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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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Semler Cabernet Sauvignon at Firenze Osteria

A visit to Firenze Osteria - Fabio Viviani's place on Lankershim Boulevard in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley - was a special night out.  Denise was looking forward to it more than I was, as she gets into the Top Chef thing more than I do.  It's a nice dining spot on a street that could use a few more nice spots.

Judging by what I've seen on the television competition, service seems to be one of Fabio's specialties, and he has trained his staff well at Firenze.  Very personable attention was given to our table throughout the meal.

The lobster bisque won out over the waiter's offer of garlic bisque, one of the specials mentioned.  As good as it was, I may have to return and try the garlic.  Penne Amatriciana featured spicy pork belly and onions, while two great raviolis came to our table, one of butternut squash with a brown butter sage cream sauce and another of braised short ribs.  Delicious on all counts.

The wine I had was from Malibu Family Wines, the '05 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon. The room is rather dark, and it may have added to the darkness of the wine - I couldn't see through it.

The nose shows cassis, blueberry, blackberry and violets - plus a bit of heat.  The alcohol also shows up on the palate, but decreases after some time for the wine to sit in the glass.  There's a big, rich mouthfeel with the Semler, displaying dark fruit and a very dry sensation.  The wine has nice acidity and strong tannins.  It's not the right choice for the spicy pork, but it paired excellently with the short rib ravioli.

The Semler Cab retails for $27, sells for around $20 a bottle on some internet sites and is $12 by the glass at Firenze.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Cornell Winery

The Malibu wine scene has been more vineyards than tasting rooms.  That is changing, however, as some of the over-four-dozen vineyards in the Malibu Hills have now opened to the public.  Malibu Family Wines and Rosenthal were the first to open tasting rooms.  Cielo Vineyards has opened Sip recently.  Tasting rooms are sprouting up from the ocean to the hills, so Southern California wine lovers can get some wine tasting on in less time than it takes to have lunch at Neptune's Net.

Not all the vineyards and wineries in Malibu are open to the public, but many of the ones that aren't have their wines available at a winery and tasting room which acts as a cooperative, Cornell Winery.


Tim Skogstrom of Cornell Winery has been in the wine business some 20 years, on the distribution end with Young's Market Company, in sales and marketing with Francis Ford Coppola, and now as a winemaker and wine seller in the Malibu Hills.  The knowledge Skogstrom picked up while working in all aspects of the wine industry, plus a keen sense of how to make things happen, brought him out of the corporate wine world and into his position as one of the most fervent advocates of the Malibu wine scene.

In 2006 Skogstrom had an opportunity to partner with Morgan Runyon, whose father owned some land in a little place in the Santa Monica Mountains called Cornell.  At least that's what it was called in the early part of the 20th century, when the tiny mountain community sprang up.  Tom Runyon had been cooking steaks at his restaurant, The Old Place, since 1970 and was beginning to slow down.  Nearly 90 at the time, the elder Runyon was set in his ways and somewhat resistant to change, but Skogstrom's ’s friendship with Runyon's son, Morgan, brought an opportunity to present a business plan.  Tom loved it, Morgan loved it, and so began the story of Cornell Winery & Tasting Room.  Tom Runyon passed away in July of 2009.  This posed a question to Morgan and Tim: what’s next? 

Today Skogstrom runs the Old Place restaurant with his partner, Morgan.  They serve steaks and clams just as Tom and his wife, Barabra, had for more than 40 years.  The restaurant has matured in the sense that they now have regular hours and serve a full menu.

Malibu wines had been on Skogstrom's radar for several years. "I knew several people making wine in Malibu," he said, "and in tasting through several vintages I began to notice a sharp increase in quality."  Setting out to become a retailer focusing on wines produced between Los Angeles and Monterey, he eventually narrowed that focus to the wines of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Cornell Winery and Tasting RoomThere's Wine In Them Thar Hills

"We harvest grapes differently here than in, say, Napa.  The climate, the land - the terroir - dictates that we take grapes at a different time, at a different growth stage, to get the best results," said Skogstrom.  "The wines of Malibu are of a very high quality.  Conditions being different, Malibu might be on the verge of becoming the next big wine region.  That won't happen, though.”

“Malibu is all zoned rural residential, so there's little to no agricultural land.  In Malibu, that residential land is very expensive.  You can't grow a vineyard on the property because of the zoning, but you can grow anything you want - like grapes - in the fire clearance zone that surrounds the property.  Such a limited space for grape growing means most producers make a very limited quantity of their wine.  That's why what is happening with the growth of interest in Temecula wines can't happen in Malibu.  Temecula is all ag land, priced so winemakers can actually hope to make a living from wine production.  You can never really hope to make enough affordably-priced wine from Malibu vines to cover your expenses.  There'll never be enough Malibu wine to go around.”

History Lesson

Skogstrom is a fount of information on the wine-producing history of Southern California: "You couldn't make wine in L.A. County until about 6 years ago!  The sole exception was San Antonio Winery in downtown L.A., which received a special dispensation to make wine during Prohibition, because they made sacramental wine for use in the church.  Wine used to be delivered to your back door like milk!  There were over 200 wineries in L.A. County before Prohibition.  Agua Dulce, up in the Antelope Valley, was the first winery to open in Los Angeles County since that time.

“After Prohibition was repealed - the federal part - it was up to local governments to actually reinstate the three arms of the wine business, consumption, production and sales.  Well, L.A. County reinstated sales and consumption, but not production.  That didn’t happen until the 21st century.

"Things are more complicated for Malibu because of the Coastal Commission.  They have a lot to say about what goes on in Malibu, and they generally don’t want to allow any kind of development at all.  Even though we have around 50 vineyards in the Malibu Hills, we still haven't figured out how to produce our wines on site.  We have to take the grapes to a facility like Camarillo Custom Crush or Terravant in Buellton to have the wine made.”

The Old PlaceEsprit de Malibu

At Cornell Winery, Skogstrom doesn’t just make his own wine.  He also stocks, sells and pours for tasting the wines of some 20 other vintners in the hills of Malibu.  He carries wines by Malibu Sanity, Hoyt Family Vineyards, Bodegas Gomez de Malibu, Colcanyon Estates, Casa Dumetz and many more.

I mentioned how Skogstrom’s practice of making wines from his competitors available in his tasting room carries  with it a real picture of camaraderie.  The image of helping struggling winemakers brought a smile to him.  “Well, there aren’t too many struggling winemakers in Malibu.  There are some millionaire winemakers here.  For them, wine is a sideline.  It’s more than a hobby to them, but for most of them, it’s not the biggest thing they have going on.  Griffin Family Vineyards, Tony is Merv Griffin’s son.  Jim Palmer, George Rosenthal, Ron Semler - these guys aren’t exactly hurting.  Charles Schetter of Malibu Sanity - if he didn't collect wine, he'd collect coins or something else.  Whatever he does, he wants to do the best way he can.”

Reasons To Believe

Skogstrom promotes Cornell Winery as strongly as he recommends his colleagues’ wines.  “We have the tasting room on the grounds, local artists hang their works on our walls, The Old Place restaurant right next door, Charme D'Antan architectural antiques, right across the street is the Peter Strauss Ranch Park.  You can come and do some wine tasting, bring a picnic to have across the street, browse around Charme D’Antan, see some art and get a great steak at The Old Place.  You could make a whole day of it.”

“More Americans should drink local wine,” is his advice to all who will listen.  “Wherever you are, drink local!  Are they drinking Napa Cabs in Italy?  No, they’re drinking Italian.  What do they drink in Burgundy?  They drink Burgundy!  Drink your local wines!”

Once on a corporate fast track, Skogstrom lives a completely different life now, and doesn’t miss the rat race one bit.  "Life in Cornell is good.  It's pretty simple.  I grow Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Roussanne.  I like Rhone Varietals.  Our restaurant is where the general store used to be years ago.  Beautiful scenery, great family - both my own and my extended family of employees - doing something I'm proud to do.  I guess I don't need the $100,000 car.  I'll just take the good life instead."


A flight of eight wines at the Cornell Winery tasting room costs $15 and the menu changes weekly.  The room is open Thursday through Sunday each week, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Sometimes they're open later, until 9:00.  Call to find out.  Directions.

Cornell Winery
29975 Mulholland Highway
Cornell, CA 91301

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Surfrider Edna Valley Chardonnay 2007

I made a Saturday jaunt recently to the Rosenthal Estate Wines tasting room, on PCH in Malibu.  It was one of those sunny, 75 degree winter days Southern California is known for.  It was a perfect day for a trip into Malibu's 26 miles of beachfront property.

The tasting room seems casual enough, with seating outside and a small bar indoors.  The room has a rustic and funky appearance that I really like in a tasting room.  I remember tasting Rosenthal wines as well as their Surfrider line.  That's about all I can tell you, as the notes I took never made it out of my pocket.  They did make it into the washing machine, where they were rendered unrecognizable as paper.  I am able to tell you that I liked everything I tasted that day, and that a bottle of the Surfrider Chardonnay came home with me.

It's a pale straw-colored wine.  The nose features a fragrant show of mainly tropical fruit and flowers.  The palate is not belabored by wood, although it is 30% barrel-fermented, with five months in oak.  In fact, it feels quite clean and crisp in the mouth. The fruit comes from Edna Valley, not Rosenthal's Malibu estate, which may explain some of the minerality.  I even noticed a slight effervecsence on the second day which I didn't see in the previous night's glass.  I'm a big fan of Chardonnay with a hint of oak, but I also love a refreshingly unoaked variety.  Surfrider falls somewhere in between.  I'm glad I could hang five - fingers, that is - on a Surfrider Chardonnay.

The Surfrider wines support the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit environmental outfit concerned with preserving our oceans and the beaches upon which they lap.  A donation is made for each bottle sold.

Professional surfer Strider Wasilewski is featured - in a wave-leaping action shot - on the label, if that makes a difference to you.

Winemaker:  Rosenthal
Variety:  Chardonnay
Appellation:  California > Central Coast > Edna Valley
Vintage:  2007
Alcohol Level:  14.1% abv
Price:  $21
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author