History and Land
Even though Northern California and Napa Valley in particular have grabbed the world’s attention and gained international recognition, the history of winemaking in California actually begins in the South, and the extreme south of California with the founding of Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769. As the missions advanced northward, vine cuttings were planted at each of them, some sites being more successful than others. The Mission San Gabriel, just north of present-day Los Angeles, produced wines that were generally regarded as the finest of all the mission wines.
In the early 19th century, the California wine industry was mainly concentrated in Southern California, with a number of successful wineries established in what is today downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley and other favorable locations, including, a little bit later Cucamonga Valley. By the end of the 19th century though, Northern California had become the leading production center of the State.
But all the roots were not dead. In the late 1960’s, Southern California grape growing and winemaking began a form of revival with the planting of grapes notably in the Temecula Valley. Now the rest of Southern California is developing and improving its wine production, from rural San Diego County to the most exclusive pieces of land in world famous Malibu.
Between Malibu and San Barbara County, the region of Ventura counts quite a few wineries, but most of them do not produce wines from local grapes. Only the region of Ojai, just east of the small town of Ventura, produces high quality estate wines. Among them, Ojai Vineyard is probably the most famous and recognized winery. It has a tasting room where you can sample among others their crisp Viognier and well-balanced Syrah (tel.: + 1 805 798-3947, www.ojaivineyard.com). These two grape varietals seem to do particularly well in Southern California. If Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are typical of Northern California and Pinot Noir a specialty of the Central Coast, Rhône type wines are probably the most successful in the Southern part of the Golden State
Who is Who
Malibu and Hollywood probably count the highest concentration of stars and celebrities in the world. The beach community along the Pacific Ocean, is the home, among others of Jennifer Aniston, Cher, Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg. They try to hide away from the frenzy of the paparazzi’s in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. But, many celebrities and movie stars still live in Los Angeles itself, thus the constant parade of mini vans taking hoards to tourists to see the well gated properties of international movie stars. The star spotting business is booming so much that the famous TV show TMZ has started its own tours (www.tmz.com/tour). Some celebrities who are closely connected to Southern California, like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, David Beckham own do own vineyards and wine estates, but they are mainly in Central and Northern California and meant solely for personal use.