Interview with winemaker Jeff Stewart of Historic Buena Vista Winery

Interviews with California's Winemakers, Wine Experts, and Notable Chefs show

Summary: Before there were vineyards in every valley north of San Francisco, before Napa and Sonoma were household names, before there was a California wine industry at all, there was Buena Vista. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s oldest premium winery, and its history is as colorful as it is proud. Just outside the town of Sonoma, the original winery is now a California Historic Landmark, and home to our Tasting Room & Visitor’s Center. Buena Vista’s founder, Count Agoston Haraszthy, arrived in Sonoma County as a Representative to the State Legislature from San Diego (nearby Vallejo was the capital at that time). Previous to this post, he had been Sheriff of San Diego, founder of a city in Wisconsin, ferryboat owner and member of the Hungarian Royal Guard. But chief among the Count’s many interests was growing grapes. Upon arriving in Sonoma, he planted some of the state’s first European varietals and laid the foundation for Buena Vista’s winery buildings. As California’s wine industry grew, so did the Count's role in its leadership. He brought back thousands of vine cuttings from Europe and published an account of his journey, which helped to bring California’s wine industry into the world spotlight. Unfortunately, he met an untimely demise not long after. While exploring rum interests in Nicaragua, legend has it that Count Haraszthy perished crossing a crocodile–infested river. A dramatic ending for a vibrant and important figure in California wine history. Buena Vista lived on, however, and became a prominent name in California winemaking until the great earthquake of 1906 destroyed its underground cellars. It was not until 1940 that the winery drew new breath under the direction of journalist Frank Bartholomew. With the help of famed winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, Bartholomew restored Buena Vista to its original grandeur. In 1979, the winery began investing in vineyard land from the then up–and–coming Carneros region. Strong confidence and commitment to the quality of the Carneros region paved the way for today's remarkable Buena Vista Carneros wines. Today, the working winery is located in the heart of Carneros, and Buena Vista is the largest landowner in Carneros, investing in new rootstock clones and a new winemaker are helping to ensure Buena Vista’s rich tradition of world–class wines endures another 150 years.