For Winetravelers keen on wine and waves, Malibu is the place to go. What’s more, you’ll have opportunities for celebrity spotting, surfing, beachcombing, hiking, cycling, yoga, and of course wine tasting.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- Travel Logistics & Accommodation
- Wine Tours, Experiences, Hikes & Safaris
- Top Wineries
- …and more
If you’re picturing vineyards and wineries along the beach, you’re in for a surprise. Tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains between the Pacific Ocean and the Mulholland Highway lies the Malibu Coast AVA. This 46 miles long and eight miles wide terrain rises to above 3000 feet and is home to 198 acres of vineyards and 52 vignerons. While the Woolsey Fire burned many of Malibu’s vineyards, this is still a robust and beautiful wine touring area.
The Malibu Coast was granted AVA status in 2014, but wine grapes have grown in the area since 1824. Interestingly enough, before Prohibition, Los Angeles County was California’s largest wine producer. The first contemporary vineyard was planted in 1985 by restaurateur Michael McCarty, under one of California’s most respected wine professionals, Dick Graff of Monterey’s Chalone Vineyard.
Fun Fact: Much of the Malibu AVA sits on highly coveted red lava soil formations. This is similar to deposits on the Sonoma Coast, making the soils of the two regions nearly identical.
Only recently has Los Angeles County permitted the combination of vineyards and wineries, so “at the vineyard” tasting rooms are relatively few. Compared to larger California wine regions like Napa or even Santa Ynez, you can’t really bike from one winery to another or walk through the front door of a Malibu winery’ tasting room.
In fact, a Malibu winery is not necessarily the best place to sample Malibu wines. Instead of driving to visit the handful that does, head to Cornell Winery & Tasting Room, an Old West-themed wine bar on Mulholland Highway. Although initially planned as a winery, zoning laws couldn’t be changed, so it’s a retail and wine tasting hub featuring almost all wines in the Malibu wine scene. Here you can order Malibu wine tasting flights, wine by the glass, or purchase a bottle of wine to take away. You can also check in to the neighboring Old Place Restaurant next to Cornell, a legendary Malibu restaurant hangout.
As Malibu evolves from celebrity sand and surf local into an A-list wine region, you don’t have to look far for activities to pair with its wines. Hiking, cycling, yoga, al-fresco movie-going, and of course, beachfront wine tasting are all part of Malibu wine country’s one-of-a-kind personality.
COVID-19 Note: Most businesses in the Malibu area are currently open. However, it’s important to note that they may be operating with limited hours. Restaurants and tasting rooms are all open for outdoor service, as well as to-go/delivery. Please be sure to check with each business to confirm hours, visitation guidelines, etc., as things may have changed since being posted.
Flying into LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) is your best bet to get as close to Malibu as possible. You can browse current flight deals on Kayak, but book soon as prices are rising quickly in 2022. Rent a car, and then make the convenient 15-minute drive on the N9 highway for the best way to discover Malibu Wine Country. It connects US 101 at Malibu Junction in Agoura Hills and ends at California SR 1 (Pacific Coast Hwy) in the Point Dume region of Malibu. At Approximately its midpoint, the N9 intersects The Mullohalland HWY; this is the heart of the Malibu Coast AVA, and from here, you can start exploring.
Looking for a hotel? For one of the most upscale and immersive experiences in the Malibu region, stay at the opulent yet relaxed Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club. It’s conveniently located near both the mountains, beaches, vineyards, and one of the drop off / pick up points for one of our favorite wine tour operators we mention below. It’s also just several minutes away from some of the most trendy restaurants in the area.
If you’re not sure how to get around the Malibu area or you simply don’t feel like driving, there are a number of local, very well-accredited tour operators that offer a number of fun wine experiences that make for perfect day and weekend trips.
Take a vineyard hike through the rolling hills of the region, witness the amazing scenery looking out over the Pacific, and even see old Native American cave paintings. This 2.5 mile hike is perfect for any Winetraveler. Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or with kids in tow, it’s a great guided way to taste some local wine and get to know the outdoors scene in Malibu.
If you’re staying in Beverly Hills, LA, Santa Monica or anywhere outside Malibu proper, take a private wine tour with Grape Adventures in the comfort of a luxury vehicle, guided by a local. For travelers looking for the convenience of being picked up and dropped off at their hotel, with an expert taking you to the best spots, this is a great option. If you’re staying in the Malibu area, look into scheduling a tour with ExperienceFirst for a personalized route and professional wine guide.
If you’re rolling with a group, for a vintage and fun experience, cruise with super accredited Malibu Wine Hikes in a California classic VW Bus and go vineyard hopping while jumping off at various hiking trails. For a more rugged yet equally as fun time, look into booking a wine excursion in a 4×4 offroad vehicle (operated by the same company).
Cornell Winery & Tasting Room (mentioned above.) Here the action revolves around a dark wood bar and a communal area with picnic tables and benches.
Malibu Wines at Saddlerock Ranch offers a relaxed environment to enjoy Semler and Saddlerock wines; reservations are strongly recommended on Saturdays and Sundays. Malibu Wines is also known for its ‘Wine Safaris,’ where you can tour the property in an open-top vehicle, check out the vineyards overlooking the Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Plus, mingle with a giraffe, a water buffalo, llamas, and other exotic animals. But there’s more! You can also take a Wine Hike or a Bike Tour, with all tours concluding wine tastings.
The Barn at Cielo Farmers Winery and Tasting Room is in a Tuscan-style stone barn on a hilltop with picnic tables and sweeping views of the vineyards. It’s the perfect place for a Malibu wine outing. You can also enjoy an afternoon of yoga and mindful movement amongst the vines. If you want to taste wine and picnic, take a winery tour or participate in a yoga class, Cielo requires you to make an appointment.
Rosenthal Malibu Estate Vineyard Wine Bar and Patio is at the top of Kanan Dume Road, but their tasting room is located just across from the beach right on PCH in Malibu proper near Topanga Canyon Blvd.
NABU Wines, located in Westlake Village, NABU features wines made from fruit grown in Malibu and Napa Valley (thus NABU!) Excellent tasting room experience here.
The Tasting Room – Four Seasons, also in Westlake Village offers a comprehensive selection of Malibu wine in an elegant, sophisticated setting.
V’s Restaurant & Bar, Malibu
Carbon Beach Club, Malibu
Malibu Farm Restaurant, Malibu
The Gallery Restaurant, Westlake Village
Fun Fact: Should you want the ultimate Malibu Wine Country souvenir, the entire Rosenthal–The Malibu Estate vineyard property is for sale for somewhere around $38 million!
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