Once upon a time, Los Angeles was known as The City of Vines. There were over 100 wine producers in the area. The success of the wine industry throughout California (which began in the 18th century with the Spanish missions) was built upon the labor of indigenous workers and other immigrants. Once the missions became secularized, both Mexican and European people established vineyards on those lands. One of those immigrants was Jean Louis Vignes, a Frenchman who cultivated 100 acres of vines and citrus in the original Pueblo of Los Angeles where Union Station is today.
When California became part of the United States in 1850, Los Angeles much more rural that it is today, and yet it was still the epicenter of California wine. By the 1850s and 60s, the progression of the wine industry was in full swing, with German winemakers Frohling and Kohler leading the way.
The wine industry took a big hit in the 1880s when Pierce’s disease (which kills the leaves on the grapevines) struck hard. Following that period, Prohibition, urbanization, and the proliferation of citrus farms marked the end of Los Angeles as the epicenter of California wine. But there are still Los Angeles wineries that are well worth a visit on your next trip.
Today, there’s a new chapter being written on Los Angeles wine production. Los Angeles wineries and tasting rooms are once again thriving in Los Angeles County, although most people probably consider Napa the true heart of California wine.
Along with a small group of winemakers dedicated to reviving interest in crafting wines of high quality from Los Angeles County fruit, other winemakers are opening tasting rooms, but growing or buying their fruit elsewhere. These Los Angeles wineries will surprise and delight you, and offer a urban setting to sip your wine — an interesting change of pace from the usual rural setting where vineyards are usually located. From chic Malibu tasting rooms to the oldest existing winery in Los Angeles, these five tasting rooms provide a selection of what’s available in The City of Vines.
The best Los Angeles wineries to visit
San Antonio Winery
San Antonio Winery has been located at the original address on Lamar Street since 1917, though the vineyards are long gone. Owned by the Riboli family, the namesake wines produced under the Maddalena label pay tribute to the matriarch of the winery. Maddalena also had the vision to start a restaurant on site (called, appropriately, Maddalena Restaurant) and to purchase vineyards in Napa Valley, Monterey County, and Paso Robles.
San Antonio Winery has a large selection of wines including sparkling wines, white and red wines, and sweet wines. The winery has survived the urbanization of Los Angeles, Pierce’s Disease, and prohibition, by producing wine for the Catholic Church. San Antonio Winery is a look back into Los Angeles’ golden age of winemaking. Don’t miss it.
The winery is open for tastings and tours. Both the winery and the restaurant are open daily.
Where: 737 Lamar St. Los Angeles, Ca 90031
Strange Family Vineyards
Strange Family Vineyards has a beautiful tasting room located off of Pacific Coast Highway about a mile from the Malibu Pier. There is also seating outdoors and the tasting room is dog friendly. Inside there’s a map of the Santa Rita AVA (American Viticulture Area) where the estate vineyards are located with soil samples should you care to educate yourself on what type of vines grow best in different environments.
Strange Family Vineyards produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from organic estate fruit grown in the Santa Rita vineyards. They also make sparkling wine in the methode champenoise, in other words, the traditional process used to make champagne in France. Three different bottles of sparkling wines are produced: a cuvée, blanc de blanc, and blanc de noir. Fruit for the winery’s Syrah is sourced in Santa Barbara County.
Tastings are $32 per person and reservations are recommended especially on weekends. Grab a glass or a bottle and settle into one of the cozy sofas tucked inside the tasting room.
Where: 3939 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu, CA 90265
Cavaletti Vineyards is one of several winemakers in Ventura County with a passion for bringing back the high-quality wines of the region. The tasting room, located in Moorpark, about an hour from Los Angeles, is a no frills experience that may feature the vineyard owner’s dog and fermenting fruit nearby. Cavatelli farms and sources all fruit from nearby Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and the Santa Ynez Valley.
Cavaletti produces a wide variety of wines from lesser known varieties like Alicante Bouschet, and Nebbiolo, as well as the more well known varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Currently, there are sixteen different bottlings.
Where: 165 Poindexter Ave Suite D, Moorpark, CA 93021
Angeleno Wine Company
Angeleno Winery, along with Cavaletti, is dedicated to putting Los Angeles back on the map as a wine destination. The winery sources fruit from small, family-owned, Los Angeles county vineyards and strives to make wines that are elegant and balanced, reflecting the character of Los Angeles, a region where the desert meets the sea.
Angeleno Winery specializes in wine varieties that only the most dedicated wine experts will be familiar with, including Graciano, Verdejo, and Tannat, and only in small batches: The winery produces around 2000 cases per year.
The winery is pet friendly and open on weekends only. It also allows outside food so bring your lunch or order something to be delivered after you arrive. Reservations are recommended.
Where: 1646 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Malibu Wines And Beer Garden
If you’re looking for more to drink than just wine, Malibu Wines and Beer Garden might be the place for you. The Mission-style building is almost 100 years old and was built by a silent film star. Weekends are busy with activities like yoga in the garden, local craft sales, and food trucks. You should also know that the current owners have an 1100 acre ranch where they grow all the fruit for the Saddlerock Estate label wines.
It’s worth a visit just to taste wines made from grapes grown in the Malibu AVA. Try the estate sparkling rosé. The other label is Saddlerock––those grapes are from Northern California vineyards. Malibu Wine Hikes is the winery’s sister company, which specializes in excursions that end in gorgeous views with a bottle of wine and many photo ops. The hikes actually take you through the Saddlerock vineyards.
Where: 23130 Sherman Way West Hills, California 91307
Summer Somewhere Wines
Summer Somewhere owner Stacy, a designer, and Billy, a winemaker, developed their flagship rosé of Pinot Noir for their wedding, which eventually turned into a thriving wine business. The couple source fruit from vineyards located in Santa Barbara County, an area known for excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Summer Somewhere has a tiny tasting room within the swanky Fred Segal boutique in Malibu. They serve wine by the glass or the bottle specializing in rosé wines made in the Provencal style. Though known for their flagship rosé they also produce a Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, three bottlings of Pinot Noir, two red blends, and a luscious ripe Syrah.
Summer Somewhere at Fred Segal is located right across the street from Strange Family Vineyards tasting room so you could easily stop by both on the same trip.
Where: 3822 Cross Creek Rd, Malibu, CA 90265