The New Malibu Coast AVA Might Be DOA

Malibu Vineyard The New Malibu Coast AVA Might Be DOA

In effect, the L.A. County Supervisors have told the Malibu wineries, “Drop dead.”

The new Malibu Coast AVA might be DOA.  Today the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a far-reaching coastal plan that specifically prohibits planting new vineyards.  Existing vineyards with a valid permit are grandfathered in, but there are a few with no permits that may be forced to rip out their vines.

This is perhaps the ultimate in NIMBY behavior.  Here’s a quote from the background story in the Los Angeles Times:

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the regulations would ensure that the coastal mountains don’t become suburbanized, like those to the north in Calabasas or Agoura Hills.

“This plan makes sure that development doesn’t dictate the land,” he said, calling the vineyard ban “a very small tail that’s not even wagging the dog.”

Yaroslavsky dismissed claims that he targeted the wine community, saying the decision is really about the greater good.

“We’re being guided by science, not by the politics,” he said. “I love vineyards. I love Cabernet. But I wouldn’t want it at the expense of the natural area.”

Hey, we love pinot noir and we know full well that the grapes have to be grown somewhere.  Supervisors that voted for this plan should be prohibited from consuming any wine.

Pegging the Irony Meter

Ironically, the Malibu Coast AVA regulation was finalized on August 18:

“T.D. TTB–121, Establishment of the Malibu Coast Viticultural Area, which establishes the approximately 44,590-acre “Malibu Coast” viticultural area in portions of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties in California. This viticultural area includes the smaller, established Saddle Rock–Malibu and Malibu–Newton Canyon viticultural areas.

Both of these final rules are effective on August 18, 2014.”

Who says government can’t act fast?  Eight short days later the Supervisors told the wine industry to forget it.

Press Coverage

KPCC in Pasadena has a 30 minute segment that was aired just as the Supervisors were voting on the plan.  I stared at my radio in disbelief when one of the guests informed host Larry Mantle that it had passed.

And there’s more from today’s Los Angeles Times story on their website:

“The passage of the plan, known as a local coastal program, consolidates land use authority with the county and sets rules for future development in the coastal area near Malibu. Among the limits on future development is a ban on new vineyards. Permitted, existing vineyards would be allowed to remain.

Vineyard owners complained that the plan unfairly singles out their crop from other forms of agriculture.”

Indeed.  The previously quoted  Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says, ““Vineyards are water suckers, there’s no question about it. … It would be irresponsible for this plan not to address that.”

So much for being guided by science.  Most vineyards get all the water they need from winter rains.  Even in a drought year like this, Napa and Sonoma wineries are not watering their vineyards.  Vitus vinifera needs to struggle to produce high-quality grapes.

Finally, here’s the reality faced by two vineyard owners who went into winemaking:

Although the proposed rule would prevent them from expanding, vineyards with Coastal Commission permits would be grandfathered in. Vintners who didn’t get those permits, however, might have to yank up their vines.

That’s the reality facing Dave and Ruth Gomez, who planted grapes on two slopes near their home 15 years ago.

Malibu Coast AVA

The official website of the ava is   Here’s a map showing the area:

Malibu Coast AVA The New Malibu Coast AVA Might Be DOA

Malibu Coast AVA

And here’s a list of the members of the association.  We urge you to buy their wines. (Click the image to make it larger — and readable).

Malibu Coast Members The New Malibu Coast AVA Might Be DOA

Malibu Coast Members (click the image to enlarge it.)



About the author

Tony Lima has been a California wine fan since arriving in California from the east coast in 1974. He's lived the growth and expansion of the West Coast industry first hand. He's seen the fickle California Wine consumer fads pop up and burst... the craze for Zinfandel, then oaky Chardonnay, then Merlot, now Pinot Noir. On behalf of fellow Californian oenophiles, he hunts for great pinot noir and great values in pinot noir all along the West Coast. His day job is Professor of Economics at California State University located in Hayward. His undergrad degree in chemical engineering (MIT) and his MBA (Harvard) and Ph.D. Economics (Stanford) are the root of his interest in the Business of Wine. He is a card-carrying member of the AAWE - American Association of Wine Economists.

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