Spend time outdoors at the popular Malibu Wines Tasting Room. // © 2017 Creative Commons user malibufamilywines
Feature image (above): Neptune’s Net is a 1950s Malibu landmark on Pacific Coast Highway. // © 2017 Creative Commons user elizabeth_albert
Malibu, Calif., brings to life the postcard of quintessential Southern California. Here, rolling, flower-flecked hills tower over cliffs; sandy stretches meet with crashing waves; and sun-kissed inhabitants race the sunrise to surf and hike in the fresh air.
The seaside city hugs the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and has a bounty of natural lures, from stunning beaches to tree-filled, hillside hikes. But Malibu has also evolved into a beloved food-and-wine destination, thanks to sprawling vineyards and fresh fish, oysters and the like sourced from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
As an Angeleno, I have spent many day trips and weekend getaways in Malibu, wasting no opportunity to get my fill of the city’s best drinks and eats. Here are some of my favorite spots.
WHERE TO DRINK
Malibu Wines Tasting Room
Malibu Wines Tasting Room, nestled into the city’s Santa Monica Mountains off Mulholland Highway, is popular with locals, especially for a weekend rendezvous. The picturesque outdoor space for adults 21 and over offers two labels of wine, Semler and Saddlerock, and guests are welcome to bring in food for picnicking on the sprawling patio. (Outside alcohol is not permitted.) Check the calendar on Malibu Wines’ website to time visits with live music and special events, from making flower crowns to practicing yoga and drinking mimosas.
Reservations are available for groups; otherwise, tables and seating are first-come, first-serve and usually claimed by noon. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. From November to May, the tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
Another fantastic option is Rosenthal Wines, located right off PCH with gorgeous views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean. Somewhat less crowded than Malibu Wines (but still lively), Rosenthal has wine tastings that can be enjoyed either within its doors or in a spacious patio area. Outside food is permitted here, too, but weekends at Rosenthal include a food truck or two serving up yummy bites, as well as live music. Don’t miss the pair of comically large chairs and an equally disproportionate table set with an oversize bottle of Rosenthal wine and two glasses. It makes for a fun photo opportunity.
For a quieter, more traditional wine tasting experience that includes discussing wine with Rosenthal’s tasting room employees, Marc Appelbaum, Rosenthal’s tasting room manager, recommends planning a weekday visit.
Rosenthal is open Monday through Thursday, 12-8 p.m.; Friday, 12-9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations are suggested for groups.
Malibu Wine Safaris
For a fun twist on wine tasting, why not swirl, sniff, sip, swish and swallow in the company of a water buffalo named Safariana Grande, a llama that goes by M. Knight Shamallama and an alpaca called Ziggy Marley? By signing up with Malibu Wine Safaris — also owned by Malibu Wines — guests ride open-top safari vehicles and explore Saddlerock Ranch’s some 1,000 acres that houses many other furry friends, including bison, zebras, horses, donkeys, yaks and a giraffe. Six tour offerings are available, ranging in tour length, number of wine tastings, snacks and activities. Select the family tour so kids ages 7 and up can partake in the fun — they’ll be served lemonade instead of wine.
Ollie’s Duck and Dive
Beer drinkers will be thrilled to happen upon this low-key, dimly lit gastropub — the only gastropub in Malibu. Choose from a multitude of beers on tap or by the bottle, perfect for washing down elevated pub food including quinoa-lentil cakes with microgreens and “Duck Dip,” duck confit with gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and grilled kale. True to Californian cuisine fashion, ingredients are mostly seasonal, locally sourced and hormone-free. For discounted small bites and select draft and bottled beers at $5 each, stop by during happy hour, held from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
WHERE TO EAT
For higher-end cuisine, Geoffrey’s Malibu constantly receives raving reviews from its patrons, and for good reason. Though brunch is superb — the baked brie in puff pastry and crab cake eggs Benedict are standout dishes — it’s hard to beat dining on the patio with an unobstructed sunset outlook, best paired with the pan-seared Chilean sea bass with pesto tomatoes, heirloom tomato marmalade and basil oil or the seafood paella featuring prawns, mussels, manila clams, pork chorizo, chicken, scallops and saffron rice in a seafood broth.
Malibu Farm Cafe
Positioned at the end of Malibu Pier is Malibu Farm Cafe, a cute and casual spot for noshing on delicious healthy bites such as a cauliflower-crust pizza and acai bowls with gluten-free granola, to decadent treats such as Swedish pancakes with berries and whipped cream as well as grilled chocolate cake. On-the-go visitors can grab a dirty chai latte or a refreshing watermelon juice, ideal refreshments for a stroll on the pier or nearby beach.
Note: The pier is currently being renovated, so Malibu Farm Cafe is temporarily located at the start of the pier with sister restaurant Malibu Farm Restaurant — also a lovely and tasty dining option.
Located alongside PCH, Malibu Seafood is the premier market/eatery where locals order at the counter and satisfy cravings of fresh oysters, deep-fried scallops, steamed clams, shrimp sandwiches and more. Housed in a modest, beachy shack with limited open-air patio seating, the establishment offers no frills to patrons — just outstanding seafood and ocean views. Like many of the quality restaurants in Malibu, it gets crowded fast, so go early. Best of all? It’s BYOB (bring your own beer) without any corkage fees.
Hollywood fans might recognize this 1950s Malibu landmark on PCH — the restaurant has made an appearance in films such as 1983’s “Losin’ It” with Tom Cruise, 1991’s “Point Break” with Keanu Reeves and 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious” with Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker. It’s also a stomping ground for local bikers; you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a congregation of gleaming Harley-Davidsons and BMW motorbikes, as well as their leather-wearing owners, below the iconic Neptune’s Net sign.
Although the casual seafood joint is often crowded, the line — which wraps by an impressive collection of craft beer and other refreshments — moves quickly. Order the shrimp or fish tacos with pineapple slaw, avocado, crema and cilantro, as well as a side of clam chowder soup.