If you’re looking for a way to change up your hiking routine — or perhaps for a way to celebrate a special event with some friends that includes some outdoor hiking time in beautiful SoCal chaparral, hanging out with some exotic rescue animals, getting up close and personal with some extremely well-preserved pictographs, and topping the whole thing off with some local wines, you may want to check out the new “Wine Hikes” from Malibu Wines.
If you’ve spent time hiking in or even just traveling through the Malibu side of the Santa Monica Mountains, you’ve likely passed the Malibu Wines tasting room (or maybe seen some of the shuttle vans transporting tasters to and from some off-site parking areas). Malibu Wines is a family owned and operated local business that began when Ronald Semler purchased land from the previous owners following a fire in 1979.
Semler and his family (9 children — all of whom have worked on the ranch at some point) planted avocados on the property before transitioning some of that space to winemaking grapes in the late 90s.
Now the property is known for its festive tasting rooms and ‘Wine Safaris,’ where you can tour the gorgeous property on a large, open-top vehicle. But if you’re looking to enjoy those grounds with a bit more quiet (and maybe try to burn off some of those wine calories before the tastings), the Wine Hikes are a wonderful new option for you.
Reserve a hike ahead of time — you’ll need a minimum of 5 people to book and can have a maximum of 12 per group. You’ll meet up in the large gravel parking area that shuttles people to the tasting room, but instead of hopping on a van or other vehicle you’ll be lacing up your boots and joining guides as they take you right into the vineyards.
If you’re a hiker, the crowd scene at the parking area may be a bit much for you — especially if you’re doing this on a weekend — but the good news is that almost as soon as you step foot on the old ranch roads and exit the parking area, the sounds and activities melt away behind you, leaving only some stunning scenery and the sound of wind blowing through grapevines.
Today the property has 90 acres devoted to viticulture. They grow more than eight different varietals of grapes, including cabernet, merlot, syrah, malbec, sauvignon blanc, viognier, and mouvedre.
On the hike you’ll start walking through some of these rows of grapevines before ducking into some surprisingly shady and dense groves of old native oaks.
If you selected a giraffe-feeding hike when you booked your trip, you’ll also make a quick side-trip to the property’s exotic animal area. The ranch houses zebra, llamas, alpacas, water buffalo, and other animals — most of which are rescues from the entertainment industry.
Stanley the Giraffe is the most well-known of these animals, and for an extra fee your group can feed the tall guy (and maybe get some giraffe kisses, too).
In this area, the ranch is also in the process of building out some space for a sizable organic garden where they’ll soon host some additional farm-to-table events. The space looks very well laid out and I’m pretty excited about heading back here to see it when everything’s finished.
The ranch is also home to an archeological site called The Cave of the Four Horsemen, a collection of Chumash pictographs that is not only the largest and best-preserved rock art site in the Santa Monica Mountains, but is also the only known site with a depiction of horseback riders along the entire coast of California.
Although the Chumash lived in this area as long as 5,000 years ago, most of the remaining paintings in the Cave of the Four Horsemen are no older than 1500 years and as late as the late 1700s.
The current hypothesis is that the central panel of this expansive mural depicts a meeting between the chief of Humaliwo (Malibu) and the Portola expedition in 1769.
After the pictographs, the hike continues through some truly stunning sections of the property. On clear days, the views north toward the Santa Susanas are nothing short of spectacular.
Once the hike has concluded, your guides will join you on a shuttle to the Malibu Wines tasting room, where you’ll be treated to a flight of wine tastings and have the chance to pick up any snacks you’ve ordered ahead of time (you are also welcome to pack your own food in if you’d like).
Again, on a weekend, the shift from the peacefulness of the hike to the relative madness of the tasting area can be a bit of a culture shock, but the wines are tasty, the curated cheese and cracker plates are delicious, and it’s a great way to wind down (or wind up) an incredible evening in the mountains.
During the summer, you may even have a chance to catch some live music outdoors as the sun sets.
Malibu Wine Hikes
Prices vary depending on number in group and day of the week. Special events available. All hikes must be scheduled ahead of time.
Malibu Wine Hikes provided Modern Hiker with a complementary group hike for the purposes of this review, but did not exercise any editorial control over the content of this post.