In with the zin

The 3rd annual Malibu Wine Classic takes place Saturday at Sunset Restaurant. Rich Schmidt / TMT

Malibu kicks off its annual Wine Classic this weekend.

By Kim Devore / Staff Writer

Wine lovers will rejoice this weekend as they prepare to celebrate the glorious grape. The third annual Malibu Wine Classic will take place on the tented grounds next to the Sunset Restaurant at Westward Beach on Saturday, April 1. Proceeds will benefit the children’s organization, Childhelp USA, a national nonprofit that specializes in child abuse prevention.

More than 100 top-notch wineries from Malibu, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Ventura counties will be uncorking their very best zins, chardonnays, pinots and cabs, as well as special reserves and new releases.

Participants include well-known establishments such as Fess Parker as well as boutique micro-wineries like Saxum, Linne Colado and L’Aventure, which usually offer their wines through insider mailing lists.

“That in itself is huge,” said Wine Classic organizer and aficionado John Selman. “We have all the top guys, but also a little cluster of super-cult favorites from Paso Robles who don’t do wine tastings.”

To give wine lovers a little more elbow room, Selman and co-founder Michael Barnes have doubled the tent size this year and split the event into two sessions-one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

The Malibu Wine Classic started off three years ago as a private competition at BeauRivage. Selman and Barnes enjoyed the get together so much they decided to take it public.

Today, the classic not only allows out-of-town vintners to showcase their wines, but it also allows people who don’t live in Malibu to discover our local wines as well.

This, Selman said, adds up to a winning combination.

“The Malibu name is such a big draw, so to do something fun like this at the beach with the best Central Coast wineries, all for a good cause, what could be better?”

Co-founder Barnes agrees. Best of all, he predicts the rain will be over come wine time on Saturday and it could turn into a picture perfect day.

“The spectacular weather forecast is good news for the hundreds of visitors and locals who will come. It’s encouraging to see dedicated volunteers, the small business community of Malibu and the various local authorities all cooperate to create this public event for our community,” Barnes said.

In addition to commercially available local wines like Malibu Vineyards, Rosenthal and Griffin, many of the city’s 37 grape growers will be offering barrel samples of upcoming vintages.

They’ll also be cooking up a lot of great grub to go with those glorious grapes. Local restaurants on hand will include Allegria, Duke’s, Tra Di Noi, Lino, the Sunset, Hideaway CafĂ©, Geoffrey’s, Casa Escobar and Moonshadows, as well as well as L.A. area eateries and first class food emporiums like L’Orangerie, Il Grano, Water Grill and The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.

Also new this year, a $20 shuttle service called The Malibu Loop. If you fear you’ve had one too many, the loop lets you enjoy the wine experience without worry.

Selman says he couldn’t be more pleased with the response to the Classic and sees “phenomenal growth” in the years to come. For now, the Malibu Wine Classic seems to be gaining in popularity and who knows? One day it could rank right up there with the Chili Cook Off as one of Malibu’s favorite community events.

Malibu Wine Classic: Afternoon session 1 p.m.-4 p.m.; evening session 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Individual advance tickets, $75, individual tickets at the door $100. For more information call 310.451.7600.