David Martin sits on a bench overlooking a steep hillside with 1,000 grape vines. Photo by Westside People
A growing number of backyard hobbyists are catching up with their Malibu neighbors and growing vineyards in the Palisades
David Martin owned two vineyards in Northern California when he bought the home off Amalfi Drive in Pacific Palisades about six years ago. It hadn’t even occurred to him at the time that the steep canyon walls funneling to the sea could offer an ideal place to grow wine grapes.
“We just loved the house and the view,” he says. “Nobody had vineyards up here when we moved in.”
Then one day about three years ago, Martin looked out his bathroom window and saw his neighbor, Stephen Spielberg, planting a vineyard on the terraced hillside. Spielberg’s property, similar to Martin’s, has a backyard that extends down the canyon.
“I thought, ‘If he’s doing it then we could do it, and I know something about wine,’” says Martin, who made most of his money as a real estate developer before buying the wineries.
The following year, Martin planted 1,000 vines of a Roussanne variety from France that’s directly related to one of the most prominent wines from the region.
Martin’s own Red Car label on the left and a Roussane related to his own vines in the Palisades. Photo by Westside People
Martin, Speilberg and Cosimo Pizzulli, who we featured previously, are among a growing number of homeowners in Pacific Palisades catching up with some of their Malibu neighbors in the art of backyard winemaking. Anthony Dias Blue, a well-known wine and lifestyle personality who lives in the area, says there are about 50 wineries in Malibu that get together for community tastings. He says the wine can be pretty good.
“There’s no question about it,” he says. “There’s the proper amount of sun and the exposure to the right weather. It’s at a different level though because these people have a lot of money and the ability to do this. Otherwise for somebody just a dirt farmer making wine in his backyard this isn’t going to happen here.”
For Dias Blue, who has a nationally syndicated radio show and publishes a magazine called The Tasting Panel, the Westside hills are rich with people connected to the wine industry. The well-known Pali label, with its varietal names from Pacific Palisades neighborhoods, commemorates this in a way, he says.
Tom Jeffries, president of the Beverly Hills Food and Wine Society, says the locally produced wines haven’t been much to write home about.
“It’s not easy at all,” Jeffries said. “There are so many good winemakers up in the Santa Rita hills and Santa Barbara and up into Napa. They’ve learned so much about making wine. To try and beat these professionals in your own backyard might be fun and kind of unique, but I don’t think you’re going to blow anyone away.”
Martin may or may not be able to taste the fruits of his labor at his home in the Palisades, which he recently put on the market. But no matter, he only moved next door so chances are his new neighbor will likely share a bottle or two.
“What’s great about winemaking is there’s a lot of science involved, but when the fruit comes there’s also a very artistic side,” he says. “It’s really how you blend the two of those together that you get the kind of wine that you’re looking for.” WP
For related story on Cosimo Pizzulli who has an entire winemaking facility in his backyard click here.