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Monday, November 12, 2012

History and Future of Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Winery hasn't gotten much press related to their wines in many years. The focus always seemed to be on corporate profits rather than the wine. For the last couple decades of the 20th century Buena Vista was owned by a German wine distributor. In this century it's been owned by Allied Domecq of Britain, Constellation Brands out of NY and others. Maybe some stability is there now with the purchase and renovation by Jean-Charles Boisset who has been making a name for himself in Sonoma County.

Signs telling the history along the walk to the winery

The town of Sonoma recently celebrated the 200th birthday of the founder of Buena Vista Winery, Hungarian Agoston Haraszthy, considered the originator of California viticulture. He founded Buena Vista Winery in 1857. In 1861 he brought back cuttings from European vineyards. He started a viticultural society, wrote a book on the subject, dug out the first wine caves, and was the first to use redwood barrels for wine (a practice that was popular until the 1970s). Buena Vista Winery is a California state historical landmark.

The winery closed in the late 19th century then was bought by the Bartholemews in the 1940s. They consulted with California's most famous mid-20th century winemaker, Andre Tchelistcheff. The winery was quite successful for a number of years. The Bartholemews sold in 1968 and that began the succession of mostly remote ownership.

The new entrance--still under construction

In 2011 Boisset purchased Buena Vista and has been renovating the place. Boisset is a bit of a flamboyant type just as the original owner, Haraszthy, was. Haraszthy called himself a Count because it was a cool title back then. Boisset married into California royalty when he married the granddaughter of Julio Gallo.

The very dapper Boisset
Image from pressdemocrat.com

Under Boisset there is a lot of work done recently and still proceeding on the winery site. Next will be the wines, hopefully. A sampling of the current offerings (made before Boisset's influence) shows well-made wines without any real flaws, but too much vanilla oak for my liking. The prices are fairly reasonable for premium wines.

Very old casks in the cellar


New casks--French oak--very expensive


 We'll see what the future brings for Buena Vista Winery. It looks like, at least, it will be a more interesting place to visit.

The Ultimate Tchotchke
It's a Count Haraszthy bobblehead available in the gift shop!