It’s not very often you’re invited to a luncheon with a soap opera legend to drink wines unreleased to the public, made from grapes grown on a private property in Malibu. The luncheon, held at Napa Valley Grille, featured the wines of Mandeville Vineyards, a project from actress Donna Mills and partner, Larry Gilman.
These are handcrafted wines. Every step of the process is literally done by hand, from one set of hands to another. And we are talking about small scale. The grapes on their property were planted in 2013 on 12,000 sq ft of land. We are talking about less than an acre of vines here. 431 plants in total: 287 Malbec and 134 Cabernet. All fruit is hand-harvested (out of necessity because of the steep grades). And to continue with the hand-holding, when the vines were planted, Donna and Larry hosted a planting party and guests wrote notes to the vines and tied them to the plants!
The vineyard site started as an overgrown, hard to reach mess on a very steep grade. They had a crazy idea and brought in a geologist who did soil samples. The guy had a bad leg and Larry LITERALLY had to carry him. The geologist told him: you’re f*ing crazy. So what did Larry do? He started creating access to the site. They had to use a chainsaw to cut through rocks. The area is now terraced with extremely high grades (most is 20-30% but some areas it goes up to 45-50%). The area gets a lot of sunlight. In fact, they are toying with the idea of adding a shade structure to cover the plants. Speaking of pampered plants: classical music is played in the vineyard at times. These are some coddled Malibu vines!
The property is located in the Mandeville Canyon area of Malibu. Initially they named the project: Ethereal Wines, but after that didn’t work out, they landed on Mandeville Vineyards.
Larry himself had no wine experience, but he is learning. Winemaking has been outsourced to The Village Winery, a custom crush facility based out of Westlake Village. The 2016 harvest was tough as it was too hot. That year logged 30+ hours of 112-degree heat. They lost 70% of the Malbec and 25% of the Cabernet. The vintage only yielded 12 cases. In 2017 they grew to a whopping 60 cases.
It was a treat to taste the special wines of Mandeville Vineyards. The passion and excitement of Larry is palpable. He can’t wait to tell you more. Every little detail about the vines, the grapes, the wines, etc. As Larry said: watching this thing is extraordinary. This is something he and Donna birthed from literally nothing. It will be very exciting to see where things go from here.
We enjoyed Mandeville’s two fine wines with food courses impeccably paired from Napa Valley Grille. To round out the pairings, we were also served a couple wines from Tavistock, which are the private label wines for Napa Valley Grille and the restaurant group Tavistock Restaurant Collection (TRC). This is because Mandeville does not currently have any white wines.
Aperitif: Tavistock NV Prosecco, Veneto
A dry bubbly. Yellow apple, pear, white peach, apricot, and floral notes.
Napa Valley Garden Salad
Sugar Snap Peas, Asparagus, White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Feta, Fried Prosciutto
A delicious fresh salad. Perfect for summer.
Pairing: 2017 Tavistock Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie
A light and easy drinker that works well with this simple salad. Light bodied, crisp, with balanced acidity. Citrus and tropical fruit notes.
Skull Island Tiger Prawns
Torched Carmelized Lemon, Herb Oil
Only three ingredients: simple, clean, delicious.
Pairing: 2016 Tavistock Sauvignon Blanc
A nice pairing. Shrimp and Sauvignon Blanc is generally a winner. Green fruit, stone fruit, and tropical fruit.
Mushroom Broth Pappardelle Pasta
Spinach, Goat Cheese, Walnuts, Truffle Oil
This pasta was insane. Out of this world.
Pairing: 2016 Mandeville Vineyards Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Wow. I’m impressed. Clearly New World. I like when I wine tells me where it’s from. Extremely layered and complex. It was a gift to taste this wine. 10 months in bottle. 12 cases produced and only 4 cases left. The wine aged in a breathable container for 10 mos with oak sleeves. Not a super-premium treatment, but they’re just getting started. I have a feeling this will be refined as time goes by.
Marinated Wagyu Skirt Steak
Red Bell Pepper Tomato Coulis, Fried Peewee Potatoes, Upland Crest, Pesto
Unbelievable. One of the most tender pieces of meat I’ve ever had.
Pairing: 2016 Mandeville Vineyards Reserve Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Tight, but quite delicious. This wine will only get better. Aged for 20 mos in New French Oak. 24 cases. Blackberry, rose/violet, black pepper, vanilla, earth, tobacco.
The pricing for Mandeville Vineyards is yet to be determined, but it will fall in the super premium category.