The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2010

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appellatIONS Today, the area is anchored by Malibu Family Wines (www.malibu-, owned and operated by Ron and Lisa Semler. The home base of the company, Saddle Rock Ranch, is positioned along several peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains. Planting started in 1997 with 14 acres of Cabernet and Merlot. The hillside vineyards now consist of approximately 60,000 vines on 65 acres with eight varietals planted: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Malbec, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. The Semlers embrace their location and cultivate a community of wine lovers in Southern California. Their tasting room on Mulholland Highway is a casual garden setting that hosts evenings of live music throughout the summer. A communal atmosphere is apparent; family members take turns pouring behind the bar. The Semlers have become a go-to grape source for many of the vineyards now keeping court in Malibu, as the company provides vineyard instal- lation services in addition to its own 90 / the tasting panel / august 2010 Lisa and Ron Semler of Malibu Family Wines. farming. On a plot adjacent to their own, the Semlers installed the vines at Cielo Farms (, an important Malibu winery owned by Richard and Diana Hirsch and directed by Richard’s brother, William. The two official AVAs in the area are occupied by Saddle Rock, Cielo and the vineyards that supply grapes for Rosenthal–The Malibu Estate (www. The lengthy process of creating the designations was pioneered by Ron Semler and George Rosenthal. The Saddle Rock– Malibu AVA encompasses Semler’s grounds, as well as the Hirsch-owned fields. The Malibu–Newton Canyon AVA—the designation for Rosenthal—is approximately four and a half miles from the ocean and rises from 1,400 to 1,800 feet. Rosenthal also produces non-estate wines with a California appellation—their Surfrider label, with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Surfrider foundation and Heal the Bay. The dedication to the sea is a clear philanthropic choice: Rosenthal’s tasting room resembles an old surf shop and nestles on the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking the ocean. The remaining winemakers in the area use a broad California designation, though there is a strong desire among the growers to campaign for narrower appellations. The climate zones in the area, though, span a range—from sunny beachside plots like those cultivated by actor-turned-winegrower Emilio Estevez and his fiancee, Sonja Magdevski, at Casa Dumetz, to cooler, forested regions like the vineyards of Church Estate ( com), owned by Robert Church Haggstrom. Pride in Malibu and its terroir mani- fests itself in the Malibu Wine Classic, an annual event showcasing local wines, launched by grower Michael Barnes. Barnes’s label, Republic of Malibu, produces quality wines, each with a sense of humor evident in the packaging. His Bordeaux-style blend even goes so far as to declare itself “15 buxaglas” (bucks a glass).

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