More than 50 Malibu-based wine grape growers are now classified as part of the official Malibu Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA). The three-year process, initiated in 2011, was concluded this week by the TTB. Previous to the establishment of the new AVA, vintners and growers who fell outside the already existing Saddle-Rock Malibu and Malibu-Newton Canyon AVAs were required to use either an L.A County or California designation for their wines, both of which lack the cachet of Malibu.
"This is a historic day because the formation of the Malibu Coast AVA finally allows wines from Malibu to identify a 'sense of place' on their labels," says Elliott Dolin, proprietor of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, who helped initiate the establishment of the AVA. "Malibu is world-famous, yet very few people are aware of our wine grape growing history which dates back two centuries. While people sunbathe on the beaches, up here in the hills, our vines have been catching some rays of their own."
Through the AVA application process, a comprehensive study of the region was completed and submitted to the TTB for approval. The region is approximately 46 miles long and 8 miles wide, comprised mainly of the Santa Monica Mountains with 198 acres of vines in production. Elevations range from sea level to 3,111-feet atop Sandstone Peak. The coastal, Mediterranean climate heavily influences the region, offering a large diurnal shift from day to night, with warm dry summers and cool, moist winters.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service's "California Grape Acreage Report Crop 2012" documented the most widely planted varietals in Los Angeles County as Cabernet Sauvignon (54 acres), Syrah (15 acres), Merlot (13 acres), and Chardonnay (six acres).
The Malibu Coast AVA contains the two previously established appellations, Saddle-Rock Malibu and Malibu-Newton Canyon.
Photo courtesy of Ray Stewart, Triunfo Creek Vineyards, from the original AVA petition.