A Locals Guide to Malibu Wine Country
Less than 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles you’ll find Malibu wine country hidden in the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. Although Malibu wines don’t have the hyped-up fame of those from Napa or a few other California wine regions, Malibu wineries produce some pretty tasty (and affordable) wines. And tourists don’t flock here for wine tasting, so you don’t have the crowds, and that’s definitely part of the charm of this beautiful area.
I lived in Malibu wine country for over 20 years, so this is a true local’s guide to the area. All of my recommendations come from years of enjoying the neighborhood wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants, and local shops of the Malibu wine region, and have not been sponsored in any way.
From my house I could walk to some of the most iconic places in the area like The Old Place restaurant and Cornell Winery. There used to even be a Malibu wine tasting room right on the corner of my street until it burned down in the 2018 Wolsey fire. So yes, I’ve tried a good amount of Malibu wines, and have eaten in most of the Malibu and neighboring Agoura Hills restaurants.
About Malibu Wineries
Since there really isn’t a Malibu Wine trail to follow, and most wineries in Malibu don’t have tasting rooms, you’ll need some help with wine tasting in Malibu. This local’s guide to Malibu wine country will help you navigate to the best spots for Malibu wine tasting, the best Malibu winery views, and the best places to eat in Malibu and the surrounding area.
You’ll find Malibu wines listed on restaurants throughout the area. The most notable red wines from Malibu vineyards are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. And the most popular white Malibu wines are Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. The reds are not in the same class as high-end Napa wines, but the wine made in Malibu is also a fraction of the price.
If you’re picturing Malibu wineries along the pacific coast where they filmed Baywatch and too many movies to name, that’s not quite how it is. The Malibu wine region actually dots the Santa Monica Mountains, nestled between the Malibu coast and Mulholland highway to the north. So, it’s more mountainous terrain than beach, and that’s where you’ll find the best wine tasting Malibu has to offer!
When driving south through the windy canyon, Kanan Road, from the 101 freeway, about halfway to the Malibu coast you’ll notice rows and rows of picturesque vineyards. You’re in Malibu wine country—don’t miss it! Unlike larger wine regions like Napa or even Santa Ynez, vineyards in Malibu don’t go on for miles and miles, and you can’t really bike from one winery to another, nor just walk through the front door of Malibu wineries’ tasting rooms. In fact, a Malibu winery is not necessarily the best place to sample Malibu wines!
The Best Malibu Wine Tasting
Cornell Winery—The Best Malibu Wine Tasting Room
Cornell Winery & Tasting Room is not an actual Malibu winery. It is a wine tasting room, wine shop, art gallery, music venue, and a great place to enjoy a glass of local Malibu wine with friends.
Since many of the Malibu wineries do not have tasting rooms, instead of driving from winery to winery, Cornell is a one stop shop. You can do the daily flight tastings, order wine by the glass, or purchase a bottle of Malibu wines like Dolin Estate, Malibu Rocky Oaks, or Colcanyon to take home or enjoy on the charming outside patio.
You’ll find the biggest and best Malibu wineries represented as well as the smallest. It’s like going on a Malibu wine tasting tour without the hassles.
Cornell Winery is also the place to hang out while you wait for a table next door at The Old Place. They’ll send someone over to get you.
Cornell Winery & Tasting Room is located at 29975 Mulholland Hwy, Agoura Hills, CA 91301.
Cielo Winery—Malibu Winery with a View
Visit Cielo Winery for the ambiance and the views as well as the Malibu wines. It’s the best winery in Malibu to visit if you can.
The Tuscan-style stone barn at Cielo Winery sits atop a hill of vineyards and that’s where the wine tastings are. Tables surround the barn area and afford sweeping views of the neighboring mountains and Malibu vineyards. It’s the perfect place for a Malibu wine picnic.
If you want to taste wine at Cielo Winery, take a winery tour, or just get through the gates, you must make an appointment. Don’t let this deter you, it makes for very enjoyable wine tastings without big crowds. Once you reserve your spot, you’ll find Cielo Winery at 31424 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265.
Rosenthal winery is the oldest winery in Malibu. You can see the sprawling Rosenthal estate from Kanan Dume Rd; it is not open to the public, but the Rosenthal wine tasting bar in Malibu is.
If you’re looking to taste Malibu wines at a beach party, this is the next best thing. Across from the Pacific Ocean, this Malibu tasting room can get quite crowded and lively. They serve Rosenthal Estate wines by the glass, bottle, or flight, and they also have a Thai food menu.
The Rosenthal Wine Bar is at 18741 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265.
Malibu Family Wines—Malibu Wine Tours
Down the street from Cielo Winery sits the 1,000 acre Saddlerock Ranch, home of Malibu Family Wines. The Malibu Family Winery produces two labels: Saddlerock Wine and Semler Wine.
Their Malibu tasting room was destroyed in the Woolsey fire, but they do offer Malibu wine tour options, and tastings in neighboring West Hills at the Malibu Wines & Beer Garden.
Although there is no Malibu wines tasting room, the Saddlerock Ranch property is stunning and is worth a little exploration on foot with the Malibu Wine Hike. They also plan to resume their Malibu Wine Safari tours (when COVID is no longer an issue) where you can see zebras and Stanley the giraffe.
Best Restaurants in Malibu Wine Country
Next door to Cornell Winery you’ll find a little restaurant with a big personality called The Old Place. No doubt you have seen The Old Place restaurant before. It has been in all kinds of commercials and movies for 50 years.
If you’re thinking that maybe you should spend the day sipping Malibu wine at Cornell and then have dinner at The Old Place, that is a brilliant idea! Or on the weekend, maybe brunch first and then visit the winery. Either way, make a reservation if you can (open Thursday-Sunday).
When I say little, I mean tiny. It’s the size of a postage stamp—which is fitting because it used to be an old-time post office of what used to be called Cornell. This Agoura Hills restaurant only has 5 booths, 3 tables, and a long bar. And during COVID, they are just doing take-out and have a few tables outside.
Everything I’ve ever ordered off their menu is delicious, but the top sirloin is my go-to meal. Cooked over an open fire, it’s perfection every single time. And if you ever need a foodie gift, their Gift Certificates are the most unique I’ve ever seen.
The Old Place restaurant is found at 29983 Mulholland Hwy, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
If you’re coming from Cielo Winery, Cornel Winery, or Saddleback Ranch, take a scenic drive down Mulholland highway to Saddle Peak Lodge, another old place in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s right off the other major canyon in the area, Malibu Canyon, and you will not believe you are still in Los Angeles, county.
A true gourmet restaurant in Calabasas, Saddle Peak Lodge is famous for its game, as will be evident from the trophy heads on the walls. You can try the game trio of elk, bison, and emu or they also serve everything from fish to steak.
For dinner, they offer an la carte menu, a bar menu, and a 6-course tasting menu for $145. They are also open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays which is lovely to enjoy on the heated patio.
The property itself is an experience. Make sure you peak in at the different rooms and take a walk around outside to fully appreciate this Malibu wine country restaurant.
Saddle Peak Lodge will sneak up on you at 419 Cold Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302.
Between Cielo Winery and Saddleback Ranch lies the sprawling Calamigos Ranch, and that is where you’ll find The Malibu Café. This Malibu restaurant is perfect for COVID times as it is all outdoors!
Tables sit on the spacious lawn and on an upper wooden deck. You can spend hours here playing games on the grass, paddling on the small pond, and of course, eating, and drinking Malibu wine.
The current menu is mostly sandwiches, and you can’t go wrong with the cheese and charcuterie plate.
Open Thursday-Sunday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. Once you enter Calamigos Ranch, follow the signs to The Malibu Cafe at 327 Latigo Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA 90265.
Surprisingly, with all the wealth in this area, there are only a handful of noteworthy restaurants in the city of Malibu.
Nobu: Seaside high-end sushi and Japanese fusion
Goeffrey’s Malibu: Gourmet oceanside dining
Taverna Tony’s: Greek cuisine in the Malibu country mart
Kristy’s Village Café: Casual dining at the Trancas Country Market
Malibu Farm Restaurant and Café: Farm to table restaurant on Malibu Pier
Visiting Malibu Wine Country
Malibu wine country definitely has the best vineyards near Los Angeles. And although it’s just a short drive, if you’re going to be tasting wine in Malibu then you may want to consider spending the night at a hotel close by. If you’ve coming from further, it’s an even better idea!
When I visit the Malibu wine region, I always stay at the the Marriott Townplace Suites in nearby Agoura Hills. It’s right off of Kanan Rd just off the 101 Freeway. The rooms are nice and comfy (I really love their beds and pillows), and the pool makes it like a mini vacation. You may want to grab a bottle of your favorite Malibu wine and enjoy it by the fire pits. Cheers!