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California’s Malibu Coast winemakers secure AVA status

The Malibu coastline outside Los Angeles has become California's newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), which winemakers hope will raise the region’s profile.

Photo credit: Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards

Officially named Malibu Coast AVA, the sub-region will stretch northbound along the Pacific Coast Highway for approximately 46 miles and inland to the Santa Monica Mountains for about eight miles.

Malibu currently has 198 acres of vines in production and over 50 grape growers and wineries.

Elliot Dolin, proprietor of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, helped initiate the classification process and was delighted to see it approved.

‘In Malibu we’ve proven we can produce high-quality, award-winning wines,’ Dolin told Decanter.com. ‘With the AVA designation, we hope it will inspire a curiosity among consumers to explore our wines, and a commitment from producers to continue to improve.’

Despite the low profile until now, the first documented vineyard in the Malibu area was planted in the 1820s, which is venerable for California. The first modern operation, The Malibu Vineyard, was planted in 1985 with red Bordeaux varieties.

Malibu Coast joins two established AVAs in Los Angeles County: Malibu-Newton Canyon, which became a region in 1996, and the more recent Saddle Rock-Malibu, which was classified in 2006.

Malibu Coast elevations range from sea level to 3,111 feet. During the summer, days can be hot and sunny but this new AVA will benefit from a large diurnal shift with very cool nights.

Malibu is regularly in the news for autumn wildfires and a section of the AVA proposal suggested that planting vineyards could provide natural barriers against future fires, which could be beneficial for drought stricken California.

Currently a large variety of well-known international wine grapes are planted. Of those, Dolin believes ‘Chardonnay in the cooler-climate areas is of a great quality and the higher elevation vineyards do very well with Bordeaux and Rhone varieties’.

A second AVA was also established alongside Malibu Coast for the Upper Hiwassee Highlands in Georgia. The state’s first official AVA covers 690-square miles in Cherokee and Clay Counties, North Carolina, and Towns, and Fannin Counties.

Written by Louis Villard in San Francisco

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