Two Good Bottles

Todd Coleman

In the 1830s, the Bordeaux-born viticulturist Jean Louis Vignes, California’s first commercial wine producer and my great-great-great-great-grandfather, recognized that the Los Angeles terroir was much like that of his childhood home and decided it was a fine place to grow French grapes. More than a century and a half after Vignes’s first vintage, the husband-and-wife growers Tom and Ruth Jones, and the wines they produce at Moraga Vineyards on their 16-acre estate in the Bel Air hills, are still proving him right. Moraga vines, one of more than 40 small vineyards in the Los Angeles area, are planted on slopes that were, long ago, seabed; the marine fossil-filled soil and cool canyon nights create the conditions for two Bordeaux-quality wines: a luscious cabernet sauvignon-merlot blend and a finely balanced sauvignon blanc. Harvested late in an unusually cool year and aged for 18 months in new French oak, the big 2005 red ($125) is bursting with both black and red fruits, along with tobacco and a hint of cake spices, but its juiciness is balanced by moderate tannins and Moraga’s characteristic minerality; it demonstrates tremendous grace for its size. Cellar it, or drink it now; it’s a deft partner for any rich meat dish, or even foie gras. A warm, dry 2007 growing season, on the other hand, produced a deliciously nuanced white wine ($65), with a nose full of flowers and apricot and a mouth of citrus and flint that gives way to peaches and cream on the finish. It’s brilliant with butter- or cream-sauced seafoods.