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The evolution from aerospace to winemaking may not seem like a natural one. Yet for Thomas V. Jones, former Chairman and CEO of defense giant Northrop Corporation, the transition to vineyard life at his unique Bel-Air estate called upon the same bold thinking and creativity that had secured his status as an industry legend. For nearly 30 years, Jones built Northrop into a technological innovator that changed national defense strategies around the world. During the same time, he and his wife Ruth built reputations as gracious connoisseurs of fine art, wine, and the California landscape.
Tom Jones was born in Pomona, California, in July 1920. After graduating magna cum laude from Stanford University, he began work as an engineer at Douglas Aircraft, already one of America's largest aerospace firms. During World War II, his engineering prowess led to better designs and more effective fighter planes. He developed a philosophy that would serve him throughout his career: employ groundbreaking technologies to create the best aircraft at an affordable cost. After the war, he spent several years in Brazil, where he advised the country's air ministry and established the Aeronautical Institute of Technology of Brazil. Jones soon moved on to the influential RAND Corporation, where his research facilitated the development of wide-body jet propelled aircraft, including Boeing's first commercial jetliner--the legendary 707.
In 1953, Tom Jones joined Northrop Corporation as an assistant to the chief engineer. The company had been a major supplier during the war and continued to forge its reputation as an industry innovator. Jones became President of Northrop at age 39 and just two years later was featured on the cover of Time magazine as a "brilliant young star" in aerospace. Under Jones's direction, Northrop developed such aircraft as the T-38 Talon, F-5 Freedom Fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet, F-20 Tiger Shark, culminating with the revolutionary B-2 Stealth Bomber. Jones retired in 1989 and his honors for advances in aerospace include the Reed Aeronautics Award and the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy. Jones became a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and was inducted into The National Aviation Hall of Fame.
At his estate in the idyllic Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, Tom Jones's life as a winemaker appeared far removed from his time at one of the world's largest aerospace firms. Yet business travels to winemaking countries such as France and Italy nurtured what would become a lifelong passion. In 1959, Jones purchased his family's home and the property that would evolve into Moraga Vineyards. The house and surrounding acreage had originally been developed by Victor Fleming, the legendary director of, among many other classics, two films recognized among the top ten in motion picture history: Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Fleming created a horse ranch that became a popular retreat for friends that included Hollywood stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and another legendary director, Howard Hawks. Tom and Ruth Jones were dedicated to maintaining the rural beauty of the property, which featured wild roses and hills reminiscent of the picturesque Tuscan countryside. Although Tom had considered purchasing a vineyard estate in Napa or Sonoma, he decided that there was "no place like home" in Bel-Air for his next creative challenge.
Wild grapes had been noted in the Moraga Canyon by Spanish missionaries in the early 18th century, and Tom recognized the similarities in soil and precipitation to the Bordeaux region of France. Jones planted the first grapes in 1978 and, encouraged by their potential, purchased additional land eight years later to expand his vineyards. The first Moraga Red, a Cabernet and Merlot blend, was released commercially in 1992, and a Sauvignon Blanc followed in 2000. The nature of the Joneses' small vineyard ensured quality control and attention to detail at all levels of production. Moraga was the first bonded commercial winery in Los Angeles since the end of Prohibition. In 2005, he completed work on a state-of-the-art winery, thus establishing Moraga as a true estate wine in the Bordeaux tradition.
Moraga Vineyards remains a testament to rural preservation and has become a critically acclaimed winemaking landmark in the heart of Los Angeles. From spearheading innovations in aircraft technology and manufacturing to producing two of the most sought-after wines in the world, Tom Jones's diverse life speaks to a thirst he and wife Ruth have shared for surrounding themselves with beauty in all forms. Their extraordinary art collection reflects a keen eye and a level of curatorial excellence developed over more than fifty years of following their creative passion.
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF TOM AND RUTH JONES