Tag Archives: vineyards

New Malibu AVA – Yes And No

There are many reasons I left the confines of Greater Los Angeles, not the least of which is its traffic, congestion and its multiple pollutions. Another is its Machiavellian politics.

L.A. Freeway traffic

A great achievement in the far western regions of Los Angeles County is Malibu, where many of Southern Californians elite live. From beautiful south facing beaches to grand hilltops, with unencumbered views of much of the urban setting to the east and Pacific Ocean to the south, unveils itself as somewhat removed with its relatively quiet and mostly serene landscape that Malibu offers.

Yes, but no

The supposed accomplishment Malibu attained was its own AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the Santa Monica Mountains – quite a triumph for what seemed an out-of-the-blue feat. Ah, but Los Angeles style politics rears its ugly head often and this time, to the dismay of wine lovers, Malibu may have their own AVA, but they can’t do any growing.

Yes, this twist of fate is not unusual in the Golden State, and really is just another day in the life of Southern California’s gross underbelly. What the County is doing is under the guise of coastal protection and saving water, requiring so many hoops for farmers to jump through, that they won’t be able – or want – to grow grapes for wine consumption.

Without going into this convoluted political world, anyone in the Malibu AVA will have to go through a huge permit system and involves not only the malevolent L.A. County, but also the equally treacherous and unelected Coastal Commission – an autonomous and Anti-American body that has harmed Californians for many decades.

No grapes, but everything else?

Malibu

Now, the crazy part of this is if you want to grow vegetables or fruit trees, there’s an easier path to gaining permits, but if you grow grapes, well, sorry, go to the end of line buddy – and this is a line that doesn’t move. Realize that most of these other foods require more water than do grapes, especially using drip irrigation, however, that doesn’t matter.

The arguments made against new plantings – and existing ones as well – was based on archaic information, but that matters not at all. Horse ranches are allowed even though they cause erosion while vineyards do the opposite, still facts don’t mean a thing in the Machiavellian world of Los Angeles County style politics.

As the son of a former Los Angeles Fireman, I know that vineyards are routinely suggested as good firebreaks, which is important in the hills around Malibu, as this region is notorious for many giant brushfires over the years. Senseless, is the thinking, or lack thereof, of the political machine in Los Angeles County.

A real head-pounder

Again, if water shortages are the reason for not allowing vineyards, why allow anything else? That is the world of Los Angeles politics and why many of us have left. Does this sound insane? Yes, it is absurdly insane. Yet, insanity runs a muck among those that live in much of Southern California.

Malibu Vineyard - water color

If L.A. County ruling holds, the only pictures of Malibu vineyards will be paintings

I feel for Malibu and those that worked so hard for their own AVA. However, there shouldn’t be shock or even dismay at the way the County has intervened and short-circuited the potential for growing great wines.

Vineyards had a long history in Malibu, until Prohibition ended that run. Over the past half century, small vineyards have popped up again, but just like Prohibition, these new regulations might end Malibu’s winemaking history again.

“Politics have no relation to morals.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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Cooling Slows Early Harvest

“Events will take their course, it is no good of being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account.” – Euripides

Slowdown

The great Greek writer might not have been talking about wine – or maybe he was – but in any case, the quote may be profound for those vintners in California who have been frantically readying themselves for early pickings. As it appears now, an interesting turn of weather has slowed down the harvest season in wine country.

As we mentioned late last month, veraison – the process of grapes turning color – was happening earlier than it had in quite some time. This was in part due to drought and a warmer than normal spring. In-turn, farmers started moving up vineyard processes like bottling to empty barrels for the early harvest and crush. However, that frantic pace has slowed some, what with a mild summer, especially over the past month or so.

Late Spring forever?

We noticed it here in Paso Robles where it seems we’ve been in a perpetual June-type system with a little marine influence in the mornings, accompanied by clear warm days, but followed by very windy conditions in the afternoon into evening. Normally, August would be a drone of clear warm mornings together with hot, dry, hazy and calm afternoons – offering up temperatures mostly in the 90s and 100s.

Grape harvest

Such is not the case and the cooling has slowed grape ripening down to a crawl. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as experts say it’s allowing the grapes to mature, adding quality to what seems is yet, another large harvest. The past two years have brought bigger than normal yields in the vineyards of California and now a third year-in-a-row appears likely.

Whew!

The harvest season is still ahead of schedule but winemakers can catch their breath as the grapes establish their flavors. I’ve talked with some of those winemakers and the harvest is still earlier than normal but with currently more moderate weather, they are easing into the picking season, rather than scrambling.

Maybe Euripides was right and wisdom tells us that everything will happen in due course … so why not be happy. Let’s face it, the end result is more great California wine.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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