One of the biggest winemaking secrets in California can be found in Los Angeles.
Tucked in a residential neighborhood, in the shadow of The Getty, lies 14 acres of vineyards and a winery.
The Moraga Bel Air vineyards and winery, as its name suggests, is in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the vines grow in the Moraga Canyon of the Santa Monica Mountains. “It’s just a regular neighborhood,” says Paul Warson, winemaker at the estate. “You would never know there’s a vineyard and winery here. The gate is so tall you would not know until the gate is opened.”
The wines themselves are renowned in certain circles, and they’ve received some of the highest ratings out there. But the folks at the winery want their secret to get out, and they would like to have more visitors.
“Our latest mission is to make Moraga Bel Air more accessible,” Warson says. “We want to allow people to visit the property by appointment or by attending one of our events, which historically has not been the case.”
Not many people have visited Moraga; mainly, because not a lot of people know it’s there. It’s kind of a best-kept secret, and it’s a secret the folks at the winery want to change, he says.
“Moraga is a singular and unique vineyard situated in one of the most unlikely places you can imagine - the heart of Los Angeles,” Warson says. “We grow the grapes and the grapes never leave the property. The grapes are made here, they are aged here, and they are bottled here.”
The estate winery, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, has a bit of a storied history. It was originally the home of Victor Fleming, director of Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, and Fleming created a horse ranch on the land. In 1959, Tom Jones, CEO of Northrop Corporation, and his wife Ruth purchased the property, and in 1980, they planted Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Three years later, the vines had to be replanted with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Later, Petit Verdot and Sauvignon Blanc grapes were added, and in 1989, Jones transformed his non-commercial wines into a commercial operation. In 2004, a barrel-aging cave was added, and in 2005, a state of the art winery was built. Murdoch purchased the property in 2013.
“We have a gorgeous, rare and exceptionally special property in the heart of Los Angeles, and we want to bring neighbors and visitors together by creating the ability for us to share it whenever possible,” Warson says. “So many people don’t know about Moraga, and we want to change that. It’s an exciting time for Moraga.”
The wines themselves are classified as California wines, but with the uniqueness of where they are grown, it wouldn’t be hard to seek a separate American Viticultural Area of its own. “Moraga is a terror driven estate wine from the heart of Los Angeles, delivering farm to table in the area and sharing what it has to offer nationwide,” Warson says. “I can’t think of anything to compare it with in that sense. It’s beyond classification, because as far as I know, no other such thing exists in the world.”