Winery reborn

  • Buena Vista Winery production manager Greg Gallagher punches down pinot noir grapes from the Sangiacomo Vineyard in the cellar at the Sonoma winery. This is the first time in 40 years they have produced wine at the facility.

The first California winery Jean-Charles Boisset ever visited was Buena Vista, at age 11, on a trip with his parents and grandparents in 1980. It was this tie to history, and the taste of the wine (which his grandparents allowed him to sample, sequestered safely back at their hotel) that so sparked the boy in Boisset all those years ago.

The Boisset family's vineyards in France go back some 17 centuries. Buena Vista Winery goes back to 1857, founded by self-proclaimed "Count" Agoston Haraszthy, who is credited with bringing European vitis vinifera to California, the vine species responsible for most of the world's wines.

Vinifera replaced the mission grapes brought from Mexico and the palomino grapes procured from Peru by Russians and planted at Fort Ross.

Buena Vista Winery


Now head of his family's wine business in California, Boisset Family Estates, the parent company behind such local wines as DeLoach Vineyards, Lyeth Estate, Raymond Vineyards and JCB, Boisset is on a mission to restore the once-grand Buena Vista to its former glory after buying the 35,000-case Carneros-based winery in 2011 from Ascentia Wine Estates.

"We want to re-introduce what the state is all about, what a great region it is," Boisset said, "to celebrate the power and history of this place."

To that end, Boisset and a team of architects and landscape designers have spent the last year re-invigorating the neglected Buena Vista estate, beginning with the historic champagne cellars and caves on the property, which had been closed to the public since 1989, and unveiling them in a 200th birthday celebration of the count right before Labor Day.

"Buena Vista is such a beautiful facility and a special spot," said vintner Anne Moller-Racke of Donum Estate, who owned Buena Vista with her former husband Markus from 1981 to 2001. "Jean-Charles has the means, the foresight and the respect for history to do something very exciting."

The count was, to put it mildly, a colorful figure. He is credited with not only bringing cuttings of over 300 wine grape varieties to California, but also for building the first gravity-flow winery, digging Sonoma County's first excavated wine caves (employing Chinese labor) and using redwood barrels for fermenting and aging his wines.

Having served as the metallurgist in San Francisco during the Gold Rush and then chief assayer of the San Francisco Mint, Haraszthy also once predicted that "wine growing in (California) will, before long, exceed in value the amount of gold exported."

Anyone who loves a juicy tale most remembers Haraszthy as the man said to have been eaten by a crocodile in the jungles of Nicaragua during an excursion there in 1869, a legend whimsically perpetuated by Boisset's upside-down stuffed crocodile now hanging in the Buena Vista tasting room.

© The Press Democrat |  Terms of Service |  Privacy Policy |  Jobs With Us |  RSS |  Advertising |  Sonoma Media Investments |  Place an Ad
Switch to our Mobile View