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Topanga Canyon: Nature's Solution to L.A.'s Noise Pollution

When you've had enough of cellphones, cement, and Mercedes, then it's time to take the short drive from L.A. to Topanga Canyon to bargain shop, drink margaritas, and play cowgirl for a day. Here's the game plan: Call Los Angeles Horseback Riding (tel. 818/591-2032; www.losangeleshorsebackriding.com) and make a reservation for a guided horseback ride in the late afternoon. Next, take the winding drive up Topanga Canyon Boulevard to tiny Topanga, one of the last art communities left in Southern California -- it was the former haunt of Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, and other music legends of the '60s and '70s -- and the perfect antidote to the dig-me L.A. scene. Spend an hour or so picking through the treasure-trove of vintage clothes, accessories, and antiques at Hidden Treasures (154 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.; tel. 310/455-2998), one of the funkiest little shops I've ever seen (the custom-made sea-theme toilet seat lids are mesmerizing). After the scenic horseback ride through the boulder-strewn Topanga canyons lined with oaks, sycamores, chaparral, and sage, finish off your relaxing day with a leisurely dinner in Topanga at Abuelitas (137 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.; tel. 310/455-8688; www.abuelitastopanga.com), a popular Mexican restaurant; or try the romantic Inn of the Seventh Ray.

The New Malibu Wine Country

The California coastline north of Santa Monica has more than great beaches and surfing. A new wine country is emerging right here in Los Angeles County, and nothing is quite as exciting to a Master Sommelier as an internationally recognized wine region right in his own backyard.

Within the Malibu region are two officially recognized wine-producing appellations (called American Viticultural Areas, or "AVAs"): Saddle Rock-Malibu AVA and Malibu-Newton Canyon AVA. In fact, there are now more than 50 wineries in these Santa Monica Mountains and at several tasting rooms to visit along the Malibu Wine Country "Wine Trail," where warm days and cool nights create ideal conditions for growing grapes.

Our Malibu wine country beckons you to come discover and enjoy. So venture off into the Malibu canyons for a relaxing day of wine tasting, then enjoy a great sunset dining experience at one of the scenic Malibu waterfront restaurants, such as the Beachcomber Café at Malibu Pier. For a free Wine Trail map, contact the Malibu Chamber of Commerce (tel. 310/456-9025; www.malibu.org). Cheers!

-- Michael "Malibu Mike" Jordan, Master Sommelier

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.