Chateau Murdoch: Fox media mogul finds solace at his Bel-Air winery

His views on climate change may differ from his winemakers at Moraga estate, but Murdoch appears bitten by viticulture bug

Rupert Murdochs empire is under a cloud turmoil at Fox News over sexual harassment allegations, threats to the Sky takeover deal but he has found solace in a small, sunlit corner of his domain: the vineyard he calls home.

The 3.2-hectare (8-acre) property resembles rural Tuscany but nestles amid the mega-mansions of Bel-Air, the plutocratic neighbourhood in the Santa Monica mountains just west of Los Angeles. Here, amid steeps slopes lined with vines, the 86-year-old media mogul has discovered a passion for making wine.

The estates winemaker, Scott Rich, said the soil and climate, cooled by Pacific breezes, matched Bordeaux more than Napa in the north, so the estate produces sauvignon blanc and a cabernet-merlot dominant blend. Rupert just wants us to keep doing what were doing and make the best wine we possibly can.

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The climate and soil at Moraga match Bordeauxs rather than Napas, says the estates winemaker. Photograph: handout

Theres just one cloud on the horizon. Climate change, said Rich, is affecting production.

Were finishing harvest a little bit earlier than we used to. Thats the big thing. A blessing, it turns out, he added. Its been a positive thing. We dont get rained on. Rain can ruin everything for us.

But Murdoch has ridiculed climate change science as alarmist nonsense, a view echoed in his media outlets.

Asked if they had discussed the impact of a warming planet on the vineyard, Rich shook his head. I have not. My general feeling about peoples beliefs is that Im not going to change them regardless of the discussion. I havent broached it with him.

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Moraga winemaker Scott Rich.

As part of a marketing push for his vineyard, Murdoch agreed to take some questions from the Guardian possibly his least favourite publication just as long as they were about wine.

Being involved with a winery of Moragas calibre has been a wonderful chance to experience something new and to learn about what goes in to producing a wine so unique and special, Murdoch said via email. Im absolutely passionate about it.

He bought Moraga, the only vineyard and winery within LA city limits, for $28.8m (22m) in 2013. Its 1920s Mediterranean-style house nine bathrooms, 11 bedrooms – is home when he and wife, Jerry Hall, come to the west coast.

Staff say the boss is serious about wanting to personally harvest grapes. But work commitments keep sabotaging that.

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The hi-tech winery at Moraga.

The property abuts the 405 freeway but feels rustic. Last week a suspected coyote killed one of the estates chickens.

A previous owner, Victor Fleming, the director of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, used to host Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman and other Hollywood illuminati.

Thomas Jones, a corporate titan, bought the property in 1959 and turned it into a vineyard before deciding to sell. Murdoch spotted the ad in the Mansion section of the Wall Street Journal, which he owns.

With his offspring taking more control of his companies he hopes to spend more time amid vines and barrels.

I try to help out on the property whenever I can and am looking forward to doing so even more in the future, said Murdoch. This year Im hoping to be there for the harvest. Im in contact with the staff almost daily and very aware of what is going on both in the vineyard and with regard to sales. For me, Moraga is a fascination as well as a business that Im passionate about.

As well as discovering his passion for making wine, the media mogul has also discovered his passion for selling it. One of his first acts as owner was hiking the price, deeming the wine world class. Perched on Bel-Air real estate, with slopes too steep for tractors, requiring everything to be done by hand, costs are certainly high.

He hopes more restaurants will stock his output in spite of sharply increased prices.

Moraga
Moraga wine is not cheap. The red is $225 a bottle.

Tasting notes for the sauvignon blanc cited citrus rind, a hint of citronella, fresh green apple, Bosc pear, Asian pear, honeydew melon, honeysuckle and hints of pineapple and white peach. The texture is exceptionally round and viscous and the wine finishes with mouthwatering persistence. The price is approximately $115 a bottle.

Notes for the red said aromas include cassis, briar and cocoa, with hints of sandalwood, pipe tobacco and wet sandstone. Moderately concentrated, the wine finishes with a juicy persistence. The price approximately is $175 a bottle.

And when the Guardian relayed Richs belief about climate change and asked whether this might influence his views, Murdoch responded: Im not a climate denier. Climate is always changing. We just had years of drought in California. Now were having a lot of rain.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/may/26/chateau-rupert-murdoch-fox-media-mogul-bel-air-winery-climate-change-moraga-estate