We were recently invited to celebrate our friend Jennie’s mom, Terrie’s, birthday in Malibu for a little wine tasting and … wait for it … a SAFARI. If you don’t think there’s any good vineyards and wine to taste in Los Angeles County, just wait until you read this.
Now obviously other than a zoo, there’s not a lot of free roaming camels, zebras, water buffalo or giraffes hanging out in LA County. And much to many people’s surprise, there are actually vineyards and wineries in LA. They may be small, but they are mighty. Some of which include Saddlerock Ranch Wines and Semler Wines which are part of Malibu Family Wines. Enter the Malibu Wine Safari…
As one of the many offerings of a unique wine tasting excursion, Malibu Family Wines offers a “Wine Safari” that takes you through the 1000 acre property of Saddlerock Ranch. Not only do you get to pet and feed some of the awesome animals on their property, but you also get to taste wine in addition to seeing the property used in many popular TV shows such as The Biggest Loser and The Bachelor. Talk about a place that’s a triple threat! We were so excited to go, and let me just say that the ranch and the excursion does NOT disappoint.
The Wine Safari starts with you checking in at the main house located right off of Mulholland Drive. From there you are assigned a Safari vehicle all painted to the colors of certain animals. We were to be on the “Giraffe” Jeep. Take a look at these jeeps. They are totally kick ass! Just be aware that bringing sunscreen is probably a good idea, and I was lucky that Terrie (the birthday girl, not to be confused with my wife Terri) had some in her car. Otherwise my pale, casper-like skin would have fried like an egg.
Once on the road, you loop around to the actual property of Saddlerock Ranch. This beautiful, 1000 acre property is an animal sanctuary and home to animals such as zebras, llamas, horses, buffalo, camels, a giraffe, yaks and donkeys. This was our first stop to get out and look around, in addition to feeding the animals carrots. Talk about fun photo opps! Admittedly, I have a fear of animals larger than I am, so I didn’t do any of the feeding (I know. I’m a wuss.) Instead, I took photos of the critters and everyone having a blast feeding them.
This first pit stop also happens to be the site of the first flight of wines. We were set up with white wines first (of course.) Our tour guide and wine hostess hooked us up with three whites to begin: the 2014 Semler Sauvignon Blanc, a 2013 SaddleRock Rose, and the 2014 Saddlerock Muscat. Now, mind you this is a wine tasting, so the pours are your typical 2 ounce pour. However, if you really liked one, they would give you more. They also go around giving people extra pours once everyone has tried everything in order to empty the bottle. In my opinion, they are very gracious with the wine.
All three of the whites were great. Terri and I both really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc. It was steel tanked instead of oaked which is our FAVORITE type of white wines. They have the crispy, light flavor that we both enjoy in whites. The Rose was also tasty with a strawberry kick, and the Muscat was rich and orangey with the right amount of sweetness if sweet wines are your groove.
After hanging out and getting our sip on, we loaded back into the jeep (completely buzzed with wine glasses in hand) to ride through the property and drive by some of the other animals. Be sure to know in advance that there are different packages that Malibu Wine Safari offers and they take different routes. Our particular excursion didn’t include getting up close and personal with Stanley the Giraffe. We merely did a drive-by and got an overview of the property in general. If you would like to meet Stanley and feed him, you’ll need to take the “Explorer Giraffe Tour.”
After riding through and seeing some of the sites used in various TV shows and movies, our guide took us to the top of the hill where the main building is, because the “backyard” had the best vista point in her opinion – and I think she was right. Check out the view! This is the final stop and also the vista point where we try the next three wines. The reds.
The red wines we tried were their 2011 Saddlerock Melange, the 2013 Saddlerock Pinot Noir and their 2011 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon. All three were quite good, in my opinion, with my favorite actually being the Melange which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Petite Sirah.
Now, I have to make another confession. I’m not a Pinot Noir drinker (gasp!) so when I say the Pinot was good, I’m simply referring to the quality. It was a solid Pinot. One of the reasons why is because the grapes actually came from Santa Rita Hills, which is an appellation located in Santa Barbara wine country. Actually, a few of the wines offered by Malibu Family Wines actually utilize grapes grown from as far north as Lodi. Not every wine is made with the grapes in Malibu. I think this is a great thing, because every wine region has something special to offer and shows their dedication to offering a quality wine.
After some red wine tasting (again, they go around offering seconds to anyone who wants more) and enjoying the breathtaking views, we headed back down the hill. One of the very convenient and incredibly smart things they do is offer free shuttle service to and from their local winery down the road. Once the safari is over, you can pile into one of their shuttles and head on over to the wine tasting area and picnic areas. You don’t have to worry about driving and paying for parking at the winery (valet only). Genius! Just don’t forget you have to drive home afterward! haha
One thing I want to make note of regarding any of the Safaris is that their website advertises that snacks are served at the end of every excursion, so there’s no need to pack a picnic. I want to argue that because we were only served crackers and tapenade. That’s a stark contrast to the “crackers, tapenade, cheeses, pastries, sandwiches and more” they advertise on their FAQ section. So one of the tips I want to mention is – if you even remotely want to have a lunch afterwards, bring yourself a picnic. Keep a cooler in your car and enjoy some grub afterwards, whether it be at the beach or at one of the nearby tasting rooms/picnic areas at the wineries.
So there you have it! If I had to rate it on a scale of 0-5 stars I would definitely give it 4.5! We were so glad we went, and we can’t wait to go again! Hello Mimosa Safari!
Until next time…