The Malibu Vineyard, 2013 Pinot Noir, Rambla Pacifico | Malibu Coast, California, USA

By Dirk Smits

Wine of the Week – Pinot Noir | September 20, 2021

The first known Malibu Coast vineyard was planted in the early 1800s by Spanish General Jose Bartolome Tapia in the area known today as Serra Retreat. By the mid 1800s Matthew Keller had purchased the Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit and planted hundreds of acres of wine grapes in Solstice Canyon, which he named the Rising Sun Vineyard. Prior to Prohibition, Los Angeles County was California’s largest wine producer by volume. Today there are more than 50 vineyards along the Malibu Coast producing wines mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot and Chardonnay. In 2014, the area was officially granted AVA (American Viticultural Area) status by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

In 1985, Michael and Kim McCarty (from famed Michael’s restaurants in Santa Monica and New York) planted two acres of grapevines (with cuttings from California’s Mt. Eden Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Joseph Phelps Vineyard in the Napa Valley) on the steep terraced hillside surrounding their home overlooking Santa Monica Bay from Malibu. This restarted Malibu as a wine-growing region.

The first vintage was produced in 1989. Until the 2000 vintage, early production remained around 150 cases of a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with all vineyard work done by hand. From 1989 to 1992, the winemaker was Steve Dooley of Edna Valley Vineyard, who is now winemaker/owner of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. Since 1993, Bruno D’Alfonso, formerly of Sanford Winery, has been the winemaker. With the 2005 through 2013 vintages, Bruno has collaborated with Kris Curran, formerly of Sea Smoke Vineyard and now his partner in D’Alfonso-Curran Wines.

After the 1993 vintage, the McCartys’ home burned down in the The Great Malibu Fire, which also completely consumed the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blocks. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc survived, but took two years to recover sufficiently to produce quality wine. By 1996, D’Alfonso was able to make a small amount of wine. A full recovery to 150 cases came in 1997, while 1998 delivered a very low yield but very rich wine including a fine single-varietal bottling of Cabernet Franc under the supervision of wine expert David Rosoff. Sadly, the stress of the vines from the fire proved to be more long lasting and the 1999 and 2000 vintages were lost.

After much deliberation, The Malibu Vineyard team decided to remove the entire vineyard, add another acre and new trellising, and replant with three clones of Pinot Noir. Currently, the vineyard has 1.5 acres of clone 777 and .75 acres each of 667 and 115, all on rootstock 101-14.

Origin: Malibu, California, USA
Varietals: 100% Pinot Noir
Sustainability: sustainable practices
Suggested Retail Price: $45
ABV: 15.8%

The wine shows an evolved garnet color. Aromas of ripe fruit, dried cherry, spices and sweet tobacco show up in the nose. The palate reveals delicate red fruit, polished tannins and a refined, elegant finish.

Suggested food pairings: charcuterie, grilled meats and vegetables, pasta with meat sauce, cheeses.

Note: The label on the bottle has been painted by Kim McCarty, who is a watercolor artist.

> For more information, visit The Malibu Vineyard official website