Politics & Wine: Malibu About Face! Timing Raises Eyebrows.

my attorney Bernie

my attorney Bernie

The Malibu AVA Association won their coveted AVA status August 19, one week before the California Coastal Commission announced there would be no more planting of vines permitted in Malibu. The AVA Committee was preparing a publicity campaign to rally local Malibu vintners to join their AVA Association when they learned County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky zev_plansCROPNOPEWEBhad filed a proposal with the Coastal Commission to prohibit further planting in Malibu. Zev, a master politician who will not seek another term as one of the Five Kings [LA’s five County Supervisors], already had the votes lined up, of course, to approve his motion.

The AVA Committee which includes Malibu developer and perennial Coastal Commission petitioner Don Schmitz organized his own meeting. the idea was to strengthen the vintner’s position by organizing the “horse people” and the “organic farmers” who were also included in Zev’s proposal. [ed. no anti-vaccine folks?]. Zev made the predictable concession. The horse and organic people were removed from his proposal. The wineries remained. And that my friends, is how the political game is played. Grant concessions to the small groups but keep the cufffs on the bigger ones. Do not count out Don Schmitz. He’s gone more than a couple rounds with the Coastal Commission.

What does the ban on further vineyard development mean for the Malibu region? It took three years for the AVA Association to win approval for the right to include “Malibu Coast” on the labels of wineries that include a high percentage of grapes [ed. you don’t know do you? I could know I just don’t want to look it up, OK?] grown in Agoura and on the Coast. Things could get grim.

Cut to the cheese. Wineries with current valid permits will be able to continue. They will also be all that are left in Malibu. Wineries that did not pull permits when they planted are screwed. There are approximately 50 AVA Association winery members. As many as half could be put out of business. That will severely diminish the ability of the Malibu AVA Association to make an impact on the new region. The entire Malibu AVA is within the Coastal Commission boundaries.

tBoW supports the Malibu AVA because it establishes standards for commercial activities, production scales and quality metrics. At least 85% of grapes in Malibu AVA labeled wines must be sourced from the Malibu AVA. Just like they do it in France. Sourced wines will dominate the shelves at the Cornell Wine tasting room. Malibu the AVA and Malibu wines could become some kind of oddball, hardly known wine region where people plant vineyards for reasons mostly having to with design and style. Napa on a tiny scale.

Sourcing juice outside Malibu was one of the reasons to establish the AVA so that wineries that exclusively or primarily made wine from 85% Malibu vineyards would distinguish themselves. Wineries with permits will still be able to source juice outside the ‘Bu. Seems logical that wines labeled Malibu AVA will become more scarce and, perhaps, more costly?

Wines recently tasted from the rest of the wine world we care about that are worthy of reportage.

laclarine12012WEB2012 La Clarine Josephine and Mariposa $26: If you love the idea of a tame English garden or a wild plot of herbs then this is your wine. We cannot recall such a pronounced scent of savory herbs that is repeated in the glass. “The final blend is 72% grenache and 28% mourvedre. The aromas are classic, old-school grenache – pure, high-toned fruit, some dried herb, and wet, chalky stones.” the winemakers love the yellow slate where the vines grow. La Clarine making natural wines the natural way in the Sierra foothills; “adding no yeast, sulfur dioxide, oak chips, enzymes or concentrates in the cellar, and no chemicals, fertilizers or tillage in our vineyard.” We will buy again. So exotic! 14.6% without the burn.

sperino10WEB2010 Proprietà Sperino “Uvaggio” Costa della Sesia $28 (Eno Fine Wine): 65% Nebbiolo, 20% Velspina and 15% Croatina. The blending of Nebbiolo is a soft, sweet and sexy revelation! 100% Nebbiolo now seems to tBoW like 100% Cabernet. Irrelevant. Jim Moore [ed. isn’t his wine label also named Uvaggio?] always said “Cabernet Sauvignon – a great blending grape.” This wine is from Lessona which is one of those “off label” Piemonte communities that grow Nebbiolo, also know as Spanna in the Italian pre-alps. These communities are Gattinara, Ghemme, Valtelina, Bramaterra and Lessona. At least these are the one we know now. Forget Barolo and Barbaresco! Go north! Here is a very good link to learn more about the region and the label. 13.5%

punset07WEB2007 Punset Barbaresco $65 (online): High toned stuff. Pure 100% Nebbiolo from the heartland. Yes it is sinewy, even muscular. Yes it is palate pumping. And yes Nebbiolo wines like these have lost their spot in tBoW’s world of Neb. LKike the discovery of communities like Aloxe-Corton,= and Mercurey in Burgundy and producers like Clois de Moines, we are learning to appreciate particular wines in our favorite varietals that are not quite but almost off the grid. And that are ready to drink right dang now… and next year. Same vintage. This Punset was Parker’s highest scoring 2007 Barbaresco but, y’know, we don’t value Parker’s POV. No sir. [ed. We definitely do not]. Plus this wine needs a lot of air. 14%

pezaWEB2011 Peza do Rei Mencia $20 (Garagiste): Described as the Pinot Noir of Spain, after we sipped and pointed out the balance, medium weight and flavors unlike the riper Tempranillo or more fleshy and rich Garnacha. Wine that we would buy if we saw it. The back label states “eight acres of vertiginous south facing slate terraces in the rugged and beautiful Ribeira Sacra.” Very good value and, even better, a new varietal for tBoW! “Situated at the foot of the Biellese pre-alpine hills, the soil of the Lessona district still contains ancient marine sands that make it one of the most acidic in the entire world of wine production.” 13.5%

Next up… What if the NFL ran wine Tastings?!?

Somehow this Dylan classic seems apropos. Special thanks for ‘Bu News courtesy of the sanest vintner in the ‘Bu, Charles Schetter.

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