By chance I read about the Moraga Estate being for sale in the Mansion section of the Wall Street Journal some time in 2013. I’d met the owner Tom Jones before – he had been the CEO of the huge aircraft manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, and I remembered meeting him at The White House many years earlier with President Ronald Reagan. Tom had always been a wine lover as well as an exceptional aeronautical engineer, so when I saw the advert in The Journal I enquired and met up again with Tom at Moraga.
Tom and his wife Ruth spent 20 years developing the vineyard into the special place it is today. When they bought the 14-acre property in 1959, it was a small horse ranch built by the famous movie director Victor Fleming. Tom told me some great Hollywood stories from when Fleming owned the property; Clark Gable riding around the estate during the filming of Gone With The Wind and lunches on the terrace with Vivien Leigh and Spencer Tracy. The original stables and barn from 1937 are actually still there and under the beautiful live oak trees, there was an old corral where Tom and Ruth kept donkeys for their children. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Moraga instantly.
I have been a lifelong student of wine and I knew that it would be a great interest for me to work with our amazing winemaker Scott Rich to continue the winemaking traditions that Tom had started. When Tom retired in 1989 as CEO of Northrop Grumman, he and Ruth produced the first Moraga Red Table Wine. They had been experimenting for ten years before that having realized the similarity to the soils of the great vineyards of Bordeaux.
We now produce about 10,000 bottles a year. Seventy percent is red and thirty percent white. True to Tom and Ruth’s suspicions, the Moraga Red is more like those from Bordeaux than California. And the Sauvignon Blanc is astonishing. It’s not too sweet and not too heavy or dry.
My claim is that Moraga is a unique wine. It is certainly as good as anything made in California. When I go to dinner parties in New York, nothing I drink compares to it. I really do not have a favorite year, they are all very good but at the same time all different. I’ve had great fun introducing my friends and colleagues to the various vintages and everyone has a debate over their favorite. Scott and I say we don’t have best years, we have different years.
Tom had only one condition of the sale: keep the property as one. I was happy to agree to that. All of our negotiations were of course done over a glass of Moraga or two!
The 2005 vintage marked a significant milestone in Moraga’s history. A state-of-the art winery was completed just in time for the 2005 harvest. This, coupled with the barrel ageing cave completed in 2004, established Moraga as an Estate Wine. Moraga is the first commercial winery to be bonded in the city of Los Angeles since Prohibition ended in 1933.
Membership is the best way to own Moraga.
Due to our limited production, space is limited.
Moraga Estate is not open to the public; therefore, we do not offer tours or tastings.