By Dan Ketchum
California wine country is no secret, but Malibu’s rich wine culture is a little more low-key — and in many cases, a lot more accessible. Whether you’re keeping it local or just visiting the Best Coast, this diverse selection of Malibu wineries and tasting rooms are some of the Rockwell Kitchen crew’s favorite spots to unwind.
Before we get into the wineries, a pro tip from our team of foodies: Don’t forget that eggs, yogurt and salmon — all rich in protein and healthy fats — are among the absolute best foods you can eat before drinking. Keep those electrolytes balanced and make sure the morning after is mellow with a ‘shroom omelette, smoked-salmon bowl or a coconut and chia yogurt bowl from Rockwell Kitchen before you head out.
1. Strange Family Vineyards
With more than 50 indie vineyards in Malibu, according to Zagat estimates, it’s easy to stick to our roots. Strange Family Vineyards grows their grapes in the sandy, mineral-rich loam soils of the Santa Rita hills, where the cool oceanside climes facilitate some of the best in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wines you’ll ever taste. Good friends of Rockwell Kitchen, the folks at Strange Family are equally dedicated to sustainable, organic production, too. And also like us, this Malibu-grown family is happy to share their creations via a local tasting room at the Malibu Lumber Yard.
2. Malibu Family Wines
Well-loved by locals, Malibu Family Wines is the perfect opportunity to do just that. Their bottles hail from prime vineyards in SoCal, focusing on grapes from the Semler Estate at Malibu’s own Saddlerock Ranch. At the official home of Semler and Saddlerock wines, the shady olive trees and casual all-outdoors vibes right off the Mulholland Highway make it easy to “relax into a flight” of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet and Syrah.
3. The Barn at Cielo Farms
As a farm-to-table dining experience, you know we love a good farm — even better when that farm serves local wines by the glass, including more than 20 labels exclusive to its Malibu Tasting Experience. Of course, you’ll have to sample Cielo Farm’s own bottles, like the spicy, complex 2014 Cielo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon or the deep, smokey, plum-jammy Malibu Rouge syrah-merlot blend from that same year.
The tasting room here lets guests bring their own picnic baskets, and our BLT and grilled PB&J just happen to be extremely basket friendly — just sayin’.
4. Cornell Winery & Tasting Room
The mission at the Cornell Winery & Tasting Room is to spread the gospel of local mountain-grown grapes, and they do that with the power of variety. Cornell isn’t actually a winery at all, but their tasting room specializes in wines from the surrounding viticultural area, including plenty of bottles that are scarcely available anywhere else. Even better, you’ll pick them up from a big ol’ local art-filled barn and sip them on a huge green lawn, in the company of friendly peacocks. Try the zesty Ken Brown 2016 chardonnay or the rustic, medium-bodied Eberle Winery 2017 Cotes-du-Robles Rogue.
Rosenthal is the only wine bar and tasting room on the PCH, right across from home turf of Topanga Beach. Sink into your cushiony chair and watch the waves with the mountains at your back, as you sip on grapes grown right there on the Rosenthal Malibu Estate. Forbes recommends the smooth, chocolatey 2013 merlot or the bold, punchy sauvignon and syrah blend of the 2012 Surfrider Hang Ten. And don’t just take our word for it — Nightclub & Bar Media puts Rosenthal’s not just in their Malibu ranking, but on their list of the Top 50 Daytime Hot Spots in America.
Pro Tip: Rockwell Kitchen is just across the street from Rosenthal, so pick up a bottle for a BYOB beachside meal.
6. Malibu Wine Safari
Here’s your chance to ditch the traditional while still getting your grape fix — hop into an animal-print-emblazoned safari truck and tour Malibu’s iconic 1,000-acre Saddlerock Ranch at the family-owned Malibu Wine Safari. In addition to touring the on-site vineyard (which used to be a family-owned avocado farm), babbling streams and epic canyons,you’ll make friends with giraffes, water buffalo, zebras and even a llama named “Michelle Ollama” — all while tasting three reds and three whites from the Saddlerock and Semler wine labels.
In addition to his experience as a mixologist, menu designer, bar manager and traveler, Dan has been a freelance writer and Los Angeles resident since 2009. He has previously written for Everything Food, Farmshelf, Hunker, Out East Rose, Salon.com and the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, among others.