Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains to the west of Los Angeles and just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean, Saddle Rock-Malibu was established as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2006, and along with Malibu-Newton Canyon, makes up the Malibu Coast wine region (itself granted AVA status in 2014). Saddle Rock covers an area of approximately nine-hundred hectares, of which only a fraction is planted to vine. Its viticultural history dates back just a few decades, and during this time it has steadily built a reputation for excellence with a number of its wines attracting attention from some of the world’s best known critics.
Altitude is perhaps the most important factor in Saddle Rock’s terroir. Most of the vineyards here occupy plots at elevations of around five-hundred metres above sea level and benefit from a predominantly southern aspect. The area’s grapes therefore, receive intense sunshine during the day with a significant drop in temperature at night. Hence, they are able to reach full ripeness whilst preserving their natural acidity, resulting in a balanced fruit and subsequently complex and aromatic wines. Steep slopes with shallow, stony soils that drain easily, complete a terroir ideal for low yielding, high quality grapes.
Bordeaux dark skinned varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, along with the Rhône grape, Syrah, are the principal fruits here, producing varietal wines which are often bold, well-structured and rich in flavour. The region also produces a small amount of white wine mostly from the Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier grapes.
Given that Saddle Rock Malibu AVA is now entirely enveloped by the Malibu Coast AVA, producers here can choose which appellation they wish to use on their bottles. However, the outlook for both labels looks positive - winemaking in the region is growing, respect for the wines being produced is becoming more widespread, and the number of tourists keen on combining a bit of celebrity spotting with some gourmet wining and dining continues to increase. Undoubtedly, this small, quality focussed AVA is one to keep an eye on in future…