Not only was Los Angeles once the top agricultural producer in the United States, but it also was California's wine capital. Those claims can no longer be said about the sprawling region today, but winemaking in L.A County is having a small renaissance, specifically in the Santa Monica Mountains where about 40 commercial producers along with several hobbyists are located, according to the office of L.A. County's Agricultural Commissioner.
Also blanketing the mountain range is the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unique and collaborative National Park Service unit that stretches over 150,000 acres from Runyon Canyon in L.A. to Point Mugu in Ventura County. Within it, there are over 500 miles of trails.
So we thought, why not combine getting outdoors while supporting locally produced wine? In our video above, we show you a small sampling of what can be done, and below is our guide to recommended hikes and the nearby wine tasting rooms (plus one brewery).
Hike and Drink "Pairings"
Below are the five wine tasting locations and one brewery. Each are "paired" with a nearby hiking area. However, you should know that many of the trails nearest to drinking spots are not very intense or long, so below this list are recommendations of some of the better hiking spots.
- Malibu Wines, 31740 Mulholland Hwy: The above video features Malibu Family Wines' Erin Landry and their main outdoor tasting room, which hosts plenty of space for picnicking and lounging around the tables (bring your own food). The summer, there are plenty of events featuring movies or music. The bars serve wines from both of their labels, Semler (Malibu estate grapes grown within the Saddlerock-Malibu American Viticultural Area) and Saddlerock (Central Coast grapes).
Hike "Pairing": As shown in the above video, Rocky Oaks (31500 block of Mulholland Highway) is the closest spot to the tasting room. It's a small wildlife refuge that is home to a few short trails, the longest being the 1.1 mile loop trail.
- Malibu & Vine, 901 Encinal Canyon Road: Located at the Malibu Golf Club, this outdoor wine bar (plus a bar and grille) is also run by the folks behind Malibu Family Wines.
Hike "Pairing": The closest trail to Malibu & Vine is the Backbone Trail, which is actually a 60-mile connector between Point Mugu and Will Rogers State Historic Park. Doing the whole thing can take a week, but a there-and-back section, mostly within the northern tip of Zuma-Trancas Canyons, can be done in 3-mile round trip. Find the trail head about a half mile west of the golf club on Encinal Canyon. If you hit Malibu Fire Camp 13 or Decker Road beyond that, you've gone too far.
- Sip Malibu, 2598 Sierra Creek Rd: This wine tasting room is dedicated to wine collections produced by Cielo Malibu Estate Wineyard, which is also located within the Saddlerock-Malibu AVA. For a taste of the local grapes, go for the Malibu Estate collection. Wines from the Woodstock collection are made from grapes grown in Northern California.
Hike "Pairing": There are no hikes immediately near Sip, although two mentioned below (Peter Strauss, Ladyface) are close. One nearby hiking spot is Paramount Ranch (2903 Cornell Road), which was used for shooting movies starting in 1927. Easy trails run throughout this National Park Service property, some of them with names like Medicine Woman Trail and Backdrop Trail. Make sure to check out the Western Town!
- Rosenthal Estate Wineries, 26023 Pacific Coast Hwy: Like Malibu Family Wines, Rosenthal also has its own AVA called Malibu Newton Canyon. While the grapes are grown four miles from the beach off Kanan Road, their tasting room is right on Pacific Coast Highway. They also bottle the Surfrider label, which benefits the Surfrider Foundation.
Hike "Pairing": A short distance behind the tasting room is the popular National Park Service-owned Solstice Canyon (Corral Canyon Rd/Solstice Canyon Rd). The park offers a number of trails, including the moderate to strenuous Sostomo Trail/Deer Valley Loop (3.9 miles) and the 1.5-mile moderate Rising Sun Trail, named after the Rising Sun Vineyard of the 1800s. Combine the Rising Sun Trail with the Solstice Canyon Trail (1.05 miles one way) for a longer hike and make sure to stop by the ruins of the Roberts Ranch House and waterfall.
- Cornell Winery, 29975 Mulholland Hwy: You may be wondering, if there are some 40 commercial producers in the mountains, why so few tasting rooms? Many of the producers have small plots and produce a limited number of cases a year. That's where Cornell comes in. They are your one-stop shop for many of the local producers. Try a flight or buy a bottle to take home. Some of the wines are also on the menu next door at The Old Place restaurant.
Hike "Pairing": Directly across Mulholland Highway is Peter Strauss Ranch (30000 Mulholland Hwy), another small unit of the National Park Service. The one trail is an easy 0.6-mile loop (there's also a short spur that connects to a view of Malibou Lake), but the property home to a handful of picnic tables and plenty of local history.
- Ladyface Alehouse, 29281 Agoura Rd: Named after the next-door Ladyface Mountain, this brewery in Agoura Hills has quickly become a popular spot for its number of homemade brews, other craft selections and food. To best get a sense of it, check out KCET's "Free Lunch" series, which featured the brewery's flight of eight beers.
Hike "Pairing": The obvious choice here is to say hike Ladyface Mountain, but, unbeknownst to many locals, it is actually not allowed because, a) no trail has been created, rather an unofficial path known as a social trail, and b) some of the mountain is actually private property. Use the below recommendations for a different trail.
Here is a list of more extensive hikes that can be mixed and matched with the above wine tasting rooms.
- Sandstone Peak: Probably the most satisfying hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, this 6-mile loop on the Mishe Mokwa and Backbone trails at Circle X Ranch will take you to 3,111 feet, the highest point in the range. Also worth checking out is the Grotto Trail (3.5 miles round trip).
- Malibu Creek State Park: This state park is home to more than 35 miles of trails and fire roads, with great spots to check out like the famed M*A*S*H filming site, Rock Pool and Century Lake. If you park on-site, be prepared to pay.
- Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon: Popular with hikers, bikers and equestrians, this park just north of the 101 Freeway in the Simi Hills has plenty of trails to get lost on for a half day.
- Big Sycamore Canyon: Take a long walk from the mountains to the beach on this eight-mile trail that begins at the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center and ends at Point Mugu State Park. Many people park one car at each end, unless they want to trek the full 16-mile round trip. Remember to bring money to pay for parking at Point Mugu.
- Zuma-Trancas Canyons: In the above video, the National Park Service's Lauren Newman says her favorite trail is the Ocean View and Canyon View trails, a 3-mile loop. That's just one of the trails at Zuma and Trancas Canyons, home to the seasonal Upper Zuma Falls.
- More Backbone Trail: There's plenty of hiking along the many segments of the 60-mile Backbone Trail system.
- Etc.: Did we miss your favorite trail? Let us know in the comments section!
It should go without saying, but please drink responsibly, and never drink and drive!