It’s that time of year where tensions run high as Americans partake in their greatest democratic right: voting. After months of following your favorite candidates on the campaign trail, and perhaps hours of waiting in line at the polling station, you’ve certainly earned a glass. Tonight, as you sip some wine while watching the midterm election results come in, consider the politics that go into your glass.
American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, are geographically distinct winegrowing regions recognized by the United States government. Perhaps surprisingly, Augusta, Missouri was the first wine region to achieve AVA status in 1980, followed by Napa Valley eight months later.
This past July, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau designated Malibu Coast as a new American Viticultural Area. The Daily Sip had the pleasure of learning more about the region’s bid from Elliott Dolin, proprietor of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards.
The Daily Sip: To begin, remind us what a region must prove to achieve AVA classification.
Elliott Dolin: To achieve AVA classification, we must prove some unique characteristics with respect to geology, such as soil character and climate. The history of the region can play a role as well.
TDS: In your mind, what defines Malibu Coast’s terroir? What makes it worthy of being an AVA?
ED: Well, in terms of history, we can go back 200 years and point to vineyards that existed in Malibu. One in particular, called the “Rising Sun Vineyard,” is 200 acres and was planted by Matthew Keller, one of the region’s founding agriculturalists. We really didn’t have any modern viticulture until 1985. Michael McCarty, a restaurateur in Santa Monica and New York, planted the first present day vineyard in Malibu at that time. That was followed eleven years later when Malibu-Newton Canyon achieved AVA status in 1996.
We have various terroirs in Malibu Coast. We have 13 to 16 million years old volcanic rock, and in some of the canyons, we have 5 million year old sedimentary-style soil. At Dolin Estate Vineyards, we have a top layer of the silty clay underlying the basalt rock.
TDS: Tell us a little about Malibu Coast’s journey to becoming an AVA. What surprises did you encounter along the way?
ED: A group of essentially four of us got together, and we met with the person who made the application. We then went to the growers to help apply for the financing, and that all started about three years ago.
TDS: What was the biggest hurdle the Malibu Coast encountered in the classification process, and how did you overcome it?
ED: Because the application was so well prepared, our only hurdle was the passage of time. The application was accepted upon first submission, and the public voiced nothing but support. We demonstrated on the initial application that we met the conditions required to demonstrate that the Malibu Coast would warrant its own AVA.
TDS: How do you think the AVA process brought together the Malibu Coast wine community? Are the 52 wineries there more collaborative than before?
ED: Yes! In fact, we are planning on formally organizing a vintners’ association of sorts.
TDS: So fresh off the heels of AVA certification, what do you predict your new status will mean for the future of Malibu Coast wines?
ED: I think it will give us higher visibility in the wine world at large. It gives us an identity rather than just labeling our wines “Los Angeles County” or “California.” It instantly provides a sense of place, conjuring the classic landscapes Malibu is known for. Simply writing “California” on the bottle offers no such specific image.
TDS: Is there anything new in the mix at Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards?
ED: There is. We are soon releasing our first wine made with Bordeaux varietals. With the 2012 vintage, we have sourced Bordeaux varietals from other vineyards at higher elevations in Malibu It will be labeled a proprietary red wine from Malibu Coast AVA.
Have you tried a wine from Malibu? Let us know below.
Photo Credit: Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards