Sometimes the best remedy on a gloomy Sunday morning in Santa Barbara is to go for a drive… After months of wondering about and hemming and hawing over checking out the wineries in the hills above Malibu, it suddenly seemed like the perfect destination. Even better, as soon as we got to Ventura we found the sun! We obviously made the right decision.
Malibu Winery, Malibu, California
After driving down Highway 1 and wending through the scenic Santa Monica Mountains, we finally arrived at Malibu Winery. In typical newbie fashion, we didn’t realize that there was a $12 valet parking fee to park on site and none of us had cash. Turns out there is free additional parking half a mile up the road (which nobody told us about until we asked – curious…) and a shuttle that transports you to & from the winery. Thankfully, the shuttle system is not something you’ll find wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley, as it makes the experience feel a little more like herding cattle than being a unique visitor.
We went in knowing nothing about the wine they make or the tastings they offer, and were surprised to find their Semler Flight which consisted mostly of Cabernet Sauvignons (3) and one Syrah – not something we’re used to tasting; while the Saddlerock Flight had the usual Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Having heard about Saddlerock wine before and having not tasted many Cabernet Sauvignons lately, we went with the Semler Flight. Semler is also the estate wine that is grown locally in Malibu, so it seemed fitting to taste local wine from local lands. (Literally grown across the street from the tasting room!)
The tasting started off a little rough but smoothed out with an enjoyable finish. $14 a flight in the Santa Ynez Valley affords you an amazing tasting of $50/bottle wine, and these were not that. So far this experience sounds a lot worse than it really was, it just isn’t Santa Barbara. I judge! We finished the tasting, took some photos around the grounds and then set off for greener pastures.
Cornell Winery & Tasting Room, Malibu, California
Our next stop was just down the road from Malibu Winery at the rustic and charming Cornell Winery & Tasting Room. Cornell Winery’s motto is “Drink Local Wine” and though they don’t make any wine themselves, they pour and sell a wide variety of wines produced right in their backyard. Everything about Cornell Tasting Room was a delight – the host had a wealth of information about every wine that she poured, giving us insight about the location of the wine, the history behind it, and every single last interesting detail. The four wines on the list were outstanding, and we couldn’t resist buying a bottle of a Gioia Dax Ryder red blend that we immediately came home to drink and haven’t stopped talking about since.
Old Place Restaurant, Malibu, California
Situated right next door to Cornell Winery is Old Place Restaurant, a saloon style restaurant with bar and booth seating and a raucously fun vibe that makes eating a steak sandwich fun again. They have beers on tap, gigantic 16oz mimosas and a mostly-local list of wines. We bellied up to the bar and sat close and shared stories with other visitors about experiences of the day while a two-man band played around the room. We loved it! A perfect experience that we didn’t even know we were looking for…
On the Road Again
Pleasantly sated and ready to return to Santa Barbara….