The Fascinating History of Malibu Wines and Beer Garden

Historical photo of two men walking away from the Malibu Wines building

Nestled between a family-owned nursery and a beautiful west hills neighborhood, Malibu Wines and Beer Garden has impressed locals and visitors alike with its fun, lovely ambiance, and its collection of delicious saddlerock and saddlerock estate label wines as well as its offerings of local craft beer.

The gorgeous mission-style building inspired Ronnie and Lisa Semler, the owners of the Saddlerock and Saddlerock Estate label, with its rustic style and great location. Driving through west hills to reach the nearby hospital to see their newest grandchild, the Semlers spotted the building and fell in love immediately. Happily, they knew the owner of the property and the surrounding housing developments and purchased it in 2017 with excitement. The Malibu Wines and Beer Garden opened soon after, in September 2018.

Two young boys bringing horses out of a stable

1936-1963 – The Stables

This building has had many lives and a long history. Despite its appearance, it was never actually a mission. It was built by a 1930’s American silent film star named Francis Lederer, who was known for appearing in films such as One Rainy Afternoon (1936), Million Dollar Weekend (1948), and for playing count Dracula himself in the 1958 movie, The Return of Dracula. During the 1950s, he even served as honorary mayor of nearby Canoga Park, which included west hills in 1987. With the help of John R. Litke, a builder known for mediterranean and mission revival styles, the building that would eventually become the Malibu Wines & Beer Garden was constructed in 1936 using local stones. The building was initially built to be a barn to house his wife, Marion Irvine’s horse, Gypsy.

Two men in suits at The Art Centre

1963-1967 – The Art Center

After Lederer no longer needed to stable his and his wife’s horses on the property, sculptor David Brockman gained permission to convert the barn into an art center with his business partner, John Naftzger. In May 1963, the barn became Lederer’s Canoga Mission Community Art Center. This art gallery showcased many art styles and local artists such as abstract modernist Robert Frame, abstract expressionist Fritz Faiss, pottery and ceramics created by Bob Harris and Jim Sullivan, and wood paintings done by Dr. Charles “Chuck” Bowdlear. Art classes were also held here.

Canoga Mission Gallery plaque

1967-2000 – The Gallery

…And becoming a historical monument. In 1967, Lederer’s wife, Marion (Irvine) Lederer, took over operations with family friends Jody Hutchinson and married couple Mary and Obdulio Galeana. They reopened as Canoga Mission Gallery, which was a non-profit art center exhibiting artists’ work from around the world. Art from California and Mexico was showcased most often, as the Galeanas and Marion often traveled to Mexico to collect Mexican folk art. This gallery was an incredible boon to the community and stood for many years, even after being damaged by the 1997 Northridge Earthquake.

Because of its historical and cultural significance, the building became a protected historical landmark and a registered Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (LAHCM) in 1978. It is designated as LAHCM No. 135.

Historical photo of people in a garden

2000-2015 – Hidden Chateau and Gardens

In 2000, Francis Lederer passed away, and the building changed hands to actor and comedian Jill Milligan. It was named Hidden Chateau and Gardens. It became not only a supposedly haunted gift shop selling antiques, home, and outdoor furnishings, and fine accessories but also a beautiful and beloved wedding and event space. Through Hidden Chateau and Gardens, Milligan began to gain attention and helped to design her retail clients’ homes. They appreciated her eye for unique and attractive décor and color coordination. Unfortunately for her business, however, developers began to eye the nearby properties in 2016. They soon informed her that she would not be able to continue weddings because of the planned construction in the area and the abundance of nearby homes. This effectively shut Hidden Chateau and Gardens down. It was fortunate for the Semlers, though, because they discovered the location one year later.

Malibu Wines building

2018-Present – Malibu Wines & Beer Garden

Since opening in 2018, Malibu Wines and Beer Garden has become a well-known and well-loved spot for guests to relax and enjoy. It is a beautiful location, and the rustic, mission-style architecture makes it especially appealing. As of 2022, it is the singular tasting room where wine tasters and wine lovers can sip the delightful varietals that the Saddlerock label provides, though other tasting rooms are in the works. In addition, numerous events keep guests returning every week, such as excellent weekend food trucks, yoga and mimosa events, local vendors selling unique hand-crafted wares, and silent discos every Friday and Saturday evening. As a family-owned and operated business, managers and servers take great measures to ensure guests have great products to taste and outstanding events to participate in.

Guests can now join in as Malibu Wines and Beer Garden celebrates the lengthy history of the property. A photo wall is currently in the works where many photographs of the building and surrounding property are being collected to show the property throughout history. Recently, West Hills residents and previous visitors have discovered pictures in their collections and brought them to add to the wall. Check out the images, wine, beer, and fun events at the historic location of 23130 Sherman Way in West Hills, California. If you have been to the location at any point in the past, bring your own photo to add to the wall!