by Fred McMillin
for November 14, 1997

Winery of the Week

The Count Was Paramount

Buena Vista's First Winemaker

From the 1906 Wisconsin Historical Society Proceedings dealing with Agoston Harazthy's founding of Haraszthyville in Wisconsin (1842):

"Count Haraszthy was a large, arresting figure...both a dreamer and a doer. His prowess as a hunter was legendary. He seemed born to command. As his town rose from the mud of the prairie, he moved about always wearing a stovepipe hat, carrying a cane, and giving orders in several languages to foreign-born workmen."

What did Hungarian-born Haraszthy think of California's wine potential when he surveyed the Golden State in the 1850's? He wrote: "The California climate is eminently adapted for the culture of grape-vines...there will be localities discovered which will furnish as noble wines as [Europe] has ever produced."

As if to demonstrate this, he founded the Buena Vista winery in today's Sonoma County, including the new Zinfandel in his 600 acres of vines. He entered his wine in the State Fair for the first time in 1858. He took first prize, upsetting the habitual titlist, General Mariano Vallejo. It was not a fluke, since the Count won again the next year. However, there were no hard feelings. In fact, soon after, Haraszthy sons Attila and Arpad married General Vallejo's twin daughters, Natalie and Jovita, in a double ceremony that was the highlight of the Sonoma social season.

Buena Vista's Current Winemaker

Old Winery, Tasting Room, Picnic Area.
Judy Matulich-Weitz is going to win her share of awards, too. After graduating with highest honors in wine science from U.C. Davis thirteen years ago, she worked with distinction at several wineries before becoming head winemaker at Buena Vista in 1994..and during that time a dream came true. TWICE she got to work with the greatest California winemaker of the century, Andre Tchelistcheff. His legacy: 1) pay attention to the smallest details, 2) look constantly for ways to make wine better. Along with such a marvelous background, Judy has something else going for her...great grapes. Buena Vista owns the largest vineyard in the esteemed Carneros district, 935 acres. She says the fruit has absolutely "gorgeous flavors." Watch particularly for the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Somewhere Count Haraszthy must be smiling. His winery is in VERY GOOD hands.

Just the Facts

Name   Buena Vista Carneros
Founder   Agoston Haraszthy, honored by Congress as the "Father of California's Viticulture."
Capacity   Over 200,000 cases
Phone   (707) 252-7117

Postscript: Buena Vista was the Count's second "beautiful view" winery. His first was in Wisconsin, which he named Szeptaj, or in Hungarian, "beautiful view."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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