Sunday, May 6, 2012

Exploring a Surf City Wine Country at Malibu Family Wines – Malibu, California



My original plan for this past week was to travel north to explore the wine countries in Oregon. But, with rain in the forecast for Oregon I decided to head south along the California Coast to revisit the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles wine countries. However, rather than visiting wineries on my way down the coast, I decided to head to south to Malibu and Beverly Hills and then make stops along the way back north to the San Francisco Bay Area.


My first stop was in a wine region which, until recently, I did not know existed - Malibu. About 90 minutes south of Santa Barbara and an hour north from Los Angeles, the Malibu Wine country has a very unique topography, with steep vertical vineyards perched on a crest that overlooks the valley to the east and the ocean to the west.

Unfortunately I was short on time so I only visited one winery as I was on my way to visit the set of The Lip TV’s “The Wine Down.” There was also quite a bit of overcast so I’m not thrilled with my photos. But I hope to return to this region in the near future.


With time being short, my one and only stop was at Malibu Family Wines. The vines cover 61 acres on Saddlerock Ranch owned by Ronnie and Lisa Semler at the top of Kanan Dume, located in one of California’s newest American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) – Saddle-Rock Malibu. The Semlers have owned the ranch for over 30 years which was planted to Avacados until a devastating frost killed the grove. They then replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines in the late 1990’s.


Malibu Family Wines has two labels: the Semler Estate Wines (four tastes for $14) which are sourced from their Malibu vineyards and Saddlerock wines (four tastes for $12) which are made from grapes from different vineyards throughout the central coast of California. Desiring to taste the terroir of Malibu, I chose the former and sampled the following wines:

My first wine was the 2006 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is ruby red and on the nose it is very fruity and candy-like exuding red fruits (cherries and red plums) and on the palate it is medium bodied, with very light tannins, good acid and a medium length finish. This wine sells for $28 a bottle.

The second sample was the 2004 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is very different from the previous one. It has aromas of red plums, dried green herbs, cedar and sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate the wine is fruit forward with soft tannins, good acid, a hint of sweetness (perhaps from the alcohol) and a medium length vegetal finish. This wine also sells for $28 a bottle.


My third wine was the best in the line-up, the 2002 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose it displays aromas of big cherries, cassis and bitter-sweet chocolate. In contrast to the previous wines, this wine is not super-fruity / sweet and is really well balanced with refined tannins, good acidity, good structure, and well balanced with a medium+ finish. This wine sells for $32 and I was really tempted to buy one. But it can’t quite compete with Napa or many other Nor-Cal Cabernets for the same price that are in my cellar.

My forth and final wine was the 2006 Semler Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose I picked up dried fruits (dried-plums, raisins, dates), black cherries, maraschino cherries, black licorice, vanilla and sweet oak. On the palate the wine is full bodied, with refined tannins, medium acidity and a long finish. This wine is a bit pricey at $44 a bottle.


To visit or for more information:

Malibu Wines
31740 Mulholland Highway
Malibu, California 90265
Phone: 1-818-865-0605