Although Los Angeles is a large area that defies description due to the variety of things one can do, the popular perception is that outside of industrial highways, the Hollywood sign, and Disneyland, the area is a bit of a barren wasteland. This perception is a shame for numerous reasons, particularly because of the great variety of terrain the region has from alpine to beach, and because of the number of interesting activities that the greater basin provides, including bungee jumping from the Bridge to Nowhere, and sliding down a glass slide in downtown Los Angeles proper. Along these lines comes an activity that was inspired by African safaris, the Malibu Wine Hikes.
While it is hard to pick a singular region in Los Angeles that is the best, Malibu will always be located near the top because of its undulating hills, wild expanses, and epic coastal views. Just outside of Malibu, the thousand acre Saddlerock Ranch sits as a pristine gem of mostly undeveloped property, as a working winery and ranch. While Malibu Wines has owned the property since 1978, and has been producing wine for that period of time, as of the last ten years, it has been offering tours of the ranch by car (wine safari), and recently has expanded to offer tours of the ranch by foot (wine hiking). While walking around an active vineyard is generally enough incentive for most people, in this case, the ranch also features wild animals not native to California, including one bona fide celebrity, Stanley the Giraffe. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the ranch on a wine hike with Josh from California Through My Lens and the lead guide of Malibu Wine Hikes, Kurt.
The Experience/Tour. It is worth noting at the outset that Malibu Wine Hikes has a number of hikes through the ranch that range in both price, and what one will do. While there is a slight bit of variation, generally, all of the hikes range from two to three miles roundtrip, and all of the hikes require some sort of closed toe shoe. For our tour, Kurt took us on basically a large overview of the ranch that included meeting Stanley, and seeing the Cave of the Four Horsemen. As I’ll get to below, I think the best and signature part of this experience was meeting Stanley, and because of that, I would strongly encourage anyone considering a hike to book a package with Stanley included in it, because it is that amazing of an experience.
For our tour, we set out through the vineyards with Kurt, who is very knowledgeable about the property and area as a whole. As we walked, he first told us about the history of the property, the vines, and was able to point out recognizable local landmarks. Our first stop, a tenth of a mile in was the “Tree of Life”, an old growth black oak on the property with distinctive gnarled branches, which is a popular spot for photos on the tour. From there, it was downhill into the center of the ranch to meet the star of the property, Stanley. In case you’ve never heard of Stanley, he is a giraffe that is best known for his movie role in The Hangover Part III. Like many Los Angeles locals, as he does not have any active acting projects, he enjoys being social, and hobnobbing with whomever visits him.
Stanley has his own platform, own enclosure, and own giraffe sized house. When we arrived at the platform, Kurt kindly gathered some branches for Stanley to eat, and informed us how to feed Stanley, and pose for pictures with him. Once up on the platform, everyone had their own moment to spend with him, and plenty of time to get their own unique giraffe selfie with him. While various zoos around the country now allow similar feeding stations for wild animals, and giraffes, to me this was a personal, one of a kind experience that allows for greater interaction with a giraffe than one could likely get anywhere else in the world, which is why I would highly recommend some form of package featuring Stanley.
Once we were done with Stanley, we moved on through the ranch, and saw a number of other animals – camels, llamas, cows, and zebras, which also make the ranch a unique spot. We also were able to visit the Cave of the Four Horsemen, which is a genuine archeological treasure in its own right. Before ending the hike, we also were able to stop near – and pose by – numerous pieces of modern art that adorn the property. And at the end we were able to stop by and taste a number of the fine wines that Malibu Wines produces, some of which bear names inspired from the ranch.
Overall, the hike as a whole was a great experience, and one that I’d strongly recommend for anyone with an interest in hiking, wine, or just Southern California. As I said repeatedly, my strong opinion is that if you’re going to go on a Malibu Wine Hike, you have to see Stanley, but in this respect, everyone has to make their own choice. Also, if you can, be sure you book a tour that includes the Cave of the Four Horsemen, because it is a spectacular example of ancient rock art. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not again mention Kurt, who was an excellent guide for our group. While Kurt can’t guide every hike, I would also strongly recommend that one try to go in one of his groups, mainly because of his excellent personality, and superb knowledge of the area.
Directions: Malibu Wine Hikes is located at 32111 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, California, 90265, which is roughly forty miles to the West of downtown Los Angeles.
Disclaimer: As I mentioned above, I was provided a free tour in connection from Malibu Wine Hikes. While I was not compensated for this review other than being provided with the free service, readers should be aware of the underlying arrangement that exists, and know that the opinions provided herein regarding this product are based solely on my own experience with the service.