Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Photo Essay: Rosenthal Malibu Estate Vineyard Tour

I'm no stranger to winetasting, but like many things that entertain or attract me in life, I like the hidden gems, the underdog wine country full of little-known vineyards and small batch wines made from rare varietals.

Fortunately, California is the largest wine producing state in the country, and even better, I tend to prefer Central Coast and Southern California wine over Napa and Sonoma, which are farther away and much more popular with tourists.

I'll go drink wine in Temecula or Malibu anyday.

I'd already hit some of the tasting rooms in Malibu, and up in the hills above - Malibu Family Wines, Cornell, etc. - but one local vineyard, as of yet, had eluded me: Rosenthal Malibu Estate, whose boutique wines could be readily sampled in their tasting room on the PCH, but whose vineyard estate itself was rarely open to the public.

On a sunny Saturday with nothing to do, I headed through the Kanan Road tunnels in the Santa Monica Mountains...



...through an imposing wooden gate...



...to the tasting room in the former stables, where Andalusian stallions (e.g. Black Beauty) were once boarded.



It has the appearance of adaptive reuse of a historic property, but in this case, "historic" is relative: the buildings on the entire estate were constructed as recently as the 1990s, the vineyards themselves first planted in 1987.



Of course, with the rustic hardware and Spanish tile roof and other Mission-style features, Rosenthal's development - which is only a small percentage of the 250 acres, the rest remaining wild and undeveloped - evokes another time, another place.



But make no mistake: Rosenthal, and its RE (and, in some cases, RME) initials are embedded everywhere.



In addition to the tasting room, the stables also house a conference room...



...lined with wine barrels.



You cross a creek on the way to the actual vineyards...



...where you first come upon the Cabernet Franc grapes, usually used only as a blending grape but occasionally produced into a pure, unblended Cabernet Franc red wine.



Up on the sloping hillside (best for water runoff when it rains), the "Block M" Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grow...



...and down below, we sipped chardonnay as we made our way towards the Estate itself...



...through Block 8 of chardonnay grapes...



...first planted in 1992.



We'd already missed the fall harvest, so the branches remained mostly bare, the few seedy grapes remaining shriveling up like raisins, and the leaves turning yellow and brown.



The estate feels small but a bit lavish...



...and oh-so-Malibu...



...with its fountains and mosaic tile and cobblestone and driveways and carport.



After a brief stop up at the estate, it was back to the stables for more wine - and oh, the wine. I'd happened upon an event that coincided with a wine club member's birthday, an event the winery had almost cancelled until its club members protested. So, in celebration of the event, and of the small group of us, the organizers seized the day, and said, "Let's have some fun."

They opened rare, limited, earlier vintage wines that they'd been wanting to try. They poured an exclusive bottle only available for a limited time at the Sunset Marquis (one of their owned properties) for an art opening. They tested bottles that weren't quite ready yet - and we drank them anyway. We paired wines and cheeses and then just mixed and matched everything together. We alternated between reds and whites, eventually not bothering to change to clean glasses or even rinse in between. I tried to abstain from second pours and refrain from overpours, but I tried everything, and really tasted it.

But mostly, I looked out into Malibu Newton Canyon, missing my girlfriends, loving where I was, grateful for proximity to all of this.

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Photo Essay: Before Malibu Was Malibu