Best of the ‘Bu 1 Year Later: Mud, Technology, Possibilities

In between watching Millionaire Matchmaker and Meteorite Men tBoW visited Malibu Sanity winemaker Charles Schetter on a rainy day to find out what Malibu’s most obsessive winemaker has been up to. Schetter is generous with his time and willing to share his prescient views on the local wine industry, as it is.

We break out Malibu winemakers into three groups: the Obsessed – one member, Mr. Schetter of Malibu Sanity; the Committed – Carol Hoyt of Hoyt Family Vineyards, Bob Hagstrom of Church Estate Vineyards, the Cielo/Woodstock team [ed. aka Malibu Estate Vineyard], Michael McCarty’s Rambla Pacifico Vineyard, Casa Dumetz bleinding 20% Grenache with their Pinot Noir, and Ron and Lisa Semmler of Semmler and Saddle Rock aka Malibu Family Wines; and the Lifestyle Crew which includes everyone else.

Schetter insists we slog though his muddy vineyard which “is right now in perfect shape”. Charles is four weeks shy of completing the two year long UC Davis Extension Winemakers Course. He has made significant changes in his vineyard practices. He is experimenting with cane versus cordon pruning. He is focused on EVAPOTRANSPIRATION which enables him to monitor the saturation level of his vines which in turn enables him to intelligently regulate irrigation on a weekly basis such that the vines are kept at optimum “moderate stress” levels. Too much techno-enology for you? Consider this…in 2010 he reduced his water use by 40% while increasing his grapes yield per acre by 25%. When you are growing less than two acres of vines that shows up right on the bottom line.

2010 was a year of impasse for the ‘Bu Wine Scene. Even though the number of wineries/labels represented at the Cornell Winery/Tasting Room grew to 27, the glow diminished. The original Malibu Wine Festival failed to come off after four consecutive years succumbing to a hybrid facsimile. It said Malibu but it warn’t The ‘Bu.

In 2010 tBoW covered a group of vintners representing the range of involvement with the region, discriminating between those who would be serious winemakers versus those who dig the lifestyle. We posit the question of involvement IS THE POINT of discrimination for Malibu winemakers upon which the region’s success hangs. We wonder how many winemakers are needed to bring the region into consideration as an appellation with distinctive character versus one distinct with characters. There is no doubt in our mind that Malibu can produce wines characteristic of the region and its various climates. Let’s begin with coastal versus inland varietals. There may be Team Rosenthal and Team Semmler but the current leader is the guy with the “pressure bomb” which measures the saturation of his vines so he can regulate levels of stress to bring out the the best quality in ‘Bu vinifera. Two teams but – right now – only one leader. We look for 2011 to be the year when Semmler and maybe Hoyt join Schetter in the Obsessed group.

2009 Malibu Sanity Native Grapes Only Chardonnay $35: He is not permitted to call his wine estate because it is not vinified on his property. Others do anyway but he does not. Estate grown fruit is a point of pride for quite a few Malibu vintners. While this might make sense for those producing a couple hundred cases annually it is meaningless for those aspiring to thousands of cases, such as Semmler, Hendrix and Hoyt. This wine is still young in the bottle. The freshly bottled flavor of glycerin is still there, blending in quickly. Pear flavors. Nice weight. Nice wine. 14.2%.

2009 Malibu Sanity Pinot Noir $35: Not yet released to Schetter’s consternation however he truly will release no wine before its time. In his mind he is late since he already has orders and the 2008 was released in the month of September. The 2008 shows more sweetness today than upon release when it was lean and high toned. This 2009 wine is light in color and weight, both qualities we associate with high end Pinot Noir wines. Schetter tells how he poured the wine for someone who liked it and quickly asked for another pour of the “Ros√©”. Cherries on the nose and in the mouth. Baking soda aroma blows off. Not yet ready for release. 14.3% yet not alcoholic.

2010 was a quiet year for Malibu wines. The rush of recognition in previous years clearly waned. It was a good year for vintners to regroup and reconsider why they chase the dream. The potential is there. Who will awaken from the dream and seize the initiative?


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    igty says:

    how much are schetters pinot cases? should i call him for 1 or 2? are you still sick, and your taste buds wiped out? so you can’t even tell the difference between wine and beer blindfolded? are you stick kissing up to the doctore and agree with his wine drivel so he cuts you a break on root canal.
    man up slime ball………

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