The truth is, you don’t have to go far for some of the best wine in the world if you live anywhere on the west coast. BUT, why travel all the way to NAPA when you have some of the best of the best wine right in your own backyard?
In fact, if you live in LA you have access to six separate AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) without even leaving the county, meaning six distinct plots with unique conditions for growing (and eventually making) wine. To break it down, if you put the same grape in the ground in each AVA, the varied conditions would likely make the same grape taste completely different.
What does this mean for you? It means you have a lot of catching up to do, to discover the many flavors of your home turf!
From Discover California Wines, here are 6 wineries listed in the near-LA region. After deciding which ones are right for you. check out our tours and visit a few in one day!
The Low-Down: Looking for low-key winery to learn about the craft? This is a great option. In one of the closest wine-tasting rooms in LA. A mere 45 miles from downtown, this winery sits right in its own vineyard (approx 100 acres) in LA County.
The Back Story: In the nineties, a couple (Don and Cathy) purchased a large piece of land to get into real estate. Little did they know at the time that the land was PERFECT for growing grapes that would be competitive at the world-class level. Agua Dulce Vineyards was founded in 1999, the first release came out 2001, and they have been winning awards ever since! Go here if you like wines with amazing complexity, bouquet and flavor, and you want to feel like a guest in someone’s own home!
The Inventory: Agua Dulce hosts seven different varietals (types of grapes), 3 different blends, and over 100 awards.
The Tasting Room: Their tasting room is very quaint, offering many wines.
Tasting Highlights: Many varietals are found on the menu, with a special emphasis on Chardonnay and Cabernet.
The Process: According to Agua Dulce, the way you should judge a winery is by their oak inventory -- and naturally theirs is an impressive collection, with barrels from Hungary, France, and Eastern US -- you can even get a sip right from the barrel!
The Must-try Blend: “Phantasma:” Take a sip and it disappears, but then it comes back -- the ghost wine!
Fun Facts: They call themselves “Napa, but 6 hours closer” and they hold a yearly stompfest, as well as a Lucy-look-alike contest.
Other amenities: If you join the wine club you can even adopt a row with your name on it! You can also clip grapes from your own row to take with you and share with others. Other amenities include an animal park for the kids, and a rent-able gazebo.Agua Dulce
The Low-Down: This winery keeps it real. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for a little something for everyone. Especially if you’re travelling with companions who might be more into meat than wine. Here you’ll get the chance to try 100% grass fed buffalo (REAL buffalo, not the chicken wings!) as well as venison, pheasant, wild boar and alligator. You can even ship the meat home with you, whether it’s a patty or jerky.
The Tasting Room: There’s a beautiful tasting room, as well as plenty of places to sit outside. So this is certainly the winery you want to go to if you’re looking for a moderately affordable and welcoming wine-tasting experience.
The Attitude: Low-key and scenic.
Other Amenities: And while you’re at it, you can also add your own personalized label to any bottle of wine for only $10 (hello, souvenir idea!)!Antelope Valley Winery
The Low-Down: This one is your ticket to get a taste of California’s “old vine” wine, using a varietal grown in the Lodi region south west of Napa.
The Back Story: Starting as a private winery at Mike and Chris Brown’s Moorpark home in 2002, this winery was named after the “Cantara” section of the Serenata Development. They began with 250 pounds of Chardonnay Mike had hand-harvested from his parents’ 150 year old vineyard in Lodi, an AVA southwest of Napa. From this they culled the first 18 gallons of wine, and over the next 5 years they carefully selected additional varietals. Along the way, they honed in on the craft of winemaking, and only a mere 5 years later in 2007 they had their first public tasting room. Similar to the satellite style of the winery from the vineyard, there are 15 wineries or tasting rooms all within a 30 minute drive.
Quote: “We prize the older vines for their flavors but they do offer more of a challenge for winemakers.” -Mike Brown, winemaker and owner of Cantara
The Atmosphere: If you like to be absolutely sure of what you’re about to experience, this one’s for you -- because there’s a virtual tour.Cantara Cellars
The Low-Down: History lovers unite! This is the winery to try out if you are looking for a bit of history and aesthetics. This entire vineyard is picturesque to boot, so be sure to bring your camera.
The Back Story: This gorgeous site for Hamilton Oak wines has been a labor of love -- in more ways than one. Ron and Connie Tamez acquired the property in June 2012 and opened for business in October of that very year.
The Setting: This historic farmhouse sits amidst Valencia Orange Trees, and now serves as the tasting room for Hamilton Oaks’ award-winning wines. There are even a few vines on-site, specifically 4 Mission vines which were brought to the San Juan Capistrano Mission from Spain by Father Serra, California’s premiere winegrower.
What to Bring: Bring your picnic basket and a dog because there’s plenty of outdoor seating here.Hamilton Oaks
The Low-Down: This is the winery for you if you can’t get away from the beach. The tasting room sits right over the water -- perfect for lovers of the outdoors.
What They’re Growing: sustainable/organic/biodynamic wines -- grown in their own AVA, the Malibu-Newton Canyon.
The Back Story: Entrepreneur George Rosenthal had had much success in his many ventures, but this was the only one to receive his namesake. After spending two years checking soil composition, drainage, and weather conditions to find the ideal location on his property, Rosenthal began planting vineyards at his 250 acre Malibu retreat. A few short years later renowned winemaker Christian Roguenant joined the production, and uses his limited-intervention approach to bring the most terroir out of the grapes during vinification.
What to Expect: On steep slopes, the vines are hand-tended. They are ages in French oak barrels and the vinification process has a heavy emphasis on au natural. The Chardonnay is made in the Burgundian style yielding a lightly oaked, crisp white that compliments most foods.
The Tasting Room: A truly low-key vibe. Right on the beach, the Tasting Room and Patio is truly a room with a view. A casual atmosphere offering cheese plates daily and food trucks with live music on the weekends. Tastings are $13 for 4 wines and a full selection of both, Rosenthal and Surfrider wines, are offered. At a separate location, you can also visit the Estate and taste the vines right on the vineyard.
The Attitude: “There’s nothing quite like Malibu. Its cool, California refinement pervades everything we do.”Rosenthal Estate
The Low-Down: One of LA’s most popular wineries… for a reason! Resting in the gorgeous Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu is one of the most popular tasting rooms the area has to offer, so if you’re interested, you better sign up in advance! When you get there you will certainly see the appeal -- it is absolutely gorgeous. These benches would fill up even if they <i>weren’t</i> selling their own wines! BUT, luckily, they are -- Saddlerock and Semler. Grown in the Malibu region -- the AVA, not the beach -- a mere 5 miles away, this local winery is … To top it all off, they even have music on certain days of the week.
The Vineyard: Both brands are grown at The Saddlerock Ranch, a place of vast history where local caves are often frequented by archaeologists for ancient pictographs by the Chumash Indians. The immediate history goes back three decades, when Ronnie and Lisa Semler and family moved in, but as for the ranch, once El Malibu, history dates back three centuries ago when the vast expanse of land surrounding the Santa Monica mountains was acquired during the Spanish Land Grant.
Tasting Highlights: Semler Estate: 2014 Sauv Blanc, 2013 King of the Mountains Blend, 2012 Syrah, 2012 Cab Sauv, 2011 Reserve Cab, Saddlerock: 2014 Chard, 2014 Gewurztraminer, 2014 Riesling, 2013 Pinot Noir, 2013 MerlotMalibu Wines