The hills above Malibu are full of beautiful nature; trees, rolling hills, plants and flowers… all part of the scenery that includes some pretty amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.
And then there are the vineyards, such as the one I visited earlier this year in Malibu, an acre of Chardonnay planted on a sloping hill directly below the home of Elliott and Lynn Dolin, a Spanish Colonial Revival beauty they purchased and restored in a grand way. It’s the headquarters of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards.
“The place was in awful shape when we bought it, and it took a while, but it’s where we want it now,” Elliott Dolin told me on a sunny and warm day. We were sitting in the Dolin Salon, an outdoor entertaining area that the couple added to the property. Below us, the Chardonnay vines, and beyond that the majestic Pacific Ocean. To my right, above us, the beautiful home.
We were tasting a few bottles, including the 2014 Dolin Malibu Estate Chardonnay and a 2015 Rosé. The grapes that made the former were harvested 30 feet from where we were sitting, and Elliott Dolin had greeted us with a bottle of the Rosé as we walked down the driveway toward the house.
The Rosé was perfect for the day. It’s youthful and bright, full of rose and fresh cherry. Pinot Noir from three vineyards create this wine, which has impressive acidity and a balanced, crisp finish. Next time I’m relaxing by a pool, a bottle of this will be with me. Order it directly from Dolin for around $22 a bottle.
The Chardonnay was up next. Fewer than 200 cases of the 2014 vintage were made, and this one would appeal to you if you like a hint of oak and a great balance of acidity and fruit. Dijon 96 is the clone here, and the wine spent about a year in oak. I liked this one; the bottle had not been overly chilled, and the bouquet was strong and distinct. Pear and honeysuckle were at the bouquet’s top, and the mouthfeel was rich and bold. I’d happily pay $39 for this, which is what it goes for at the winery. Pair with a shrimp salad and you’ll be rewarded.
Dolin also is behind some very good Pinot Noir, which we tasted at a dinner that day in Malibu at a restaurant perched above the Pacific Ocean. (David Geffen once owned the Malibu Beach Inn and restored it to great splendor.) The 2012 Talley Rincon Vineyard ($45, clones 667, 777) and the 2012 Solomon Hills Vineyard ($45, clone 777) were tasting especially remarkable. The former was voluptuous and rich, full of spice (cardamom, a bit of cinnamon), while the Solomon Hills was more delicate. Both are worthy of duck, a good hamburger, or even a steak.
Elliott Dolan’s name might be familiar to some; he was the original bassist for Manhattan Transfer, and has sat in on sessions with the likes of Johnny Cash, John Prine, and Don Everly. He was born in Brooklyn, and while playing on the Jersey Shore was asked to join the band of a then-unknown Bruce Springsteen. Instead, Dolin went to Israel to volunteer, a choice he said he has never regretted.
He moved to Nashville in 1974, and spent the next nine years working as a musician. He was the band leader for Donna Fargo, and worked as a staff musician for the legendary Jack Clement. During that time, he purchased a duplex in Nashville and rented out the second unit… an experience that gave Dolin the property-investment bug, which played a major role when he moved to Los Angeles in 1983.
Dolin got his real estate license, made some great investments with a partner, bought and restored some vintage cars and took part in a number of road touring events, including the prestigious Mille Miglia. The wines we were drinking are the fruit of his efforts (and profits). The 900 vines at the Dolin residence were planted in 2006, and the rest is vinology history, a story written with Lynn and winemaker Kirby Anderson.
“I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t let regrets bother me,” Dolin told me during our lunch. “I had a great career in music, and the real estate business has given me the opportunity to make some wine.”
An affable, easygoing man is Elliott Dolin, and his wines will, with any justice, reach an ever-growing audience.