by Payne Johnson [Article re-published]



You can comfortably date the birth of California winemaking as early as 1773,  three years after Father Junipero Serra had established California’s original mission in San Diego (1769), planted his initial crop of what were known as Mission grapes and enjoyed his first harvest in San Diego. He and other Spanish priests had been growing grapes and producing wine in Mexico’s Lower Peninsula since 1697, thanks to an early decree by Governor Hernando Cortes mandating that all ships from Spain must carry grape cuttings to the New World. Father Serra continued his work in northern California, erecting new missions with vineyards until his death in 1784.

Buena Vista founder

Count Agoston Haraszthy

     This all changed with the arrival of a farsighted immigrant who was destined to bring exceptional grapes and  winemaking to California. He was a Hungarian nobleman and entrepreneur, named Agoston Haraszthy. Born in 1812 in Futtak, Hungary, he had been raised working in his family vineyards and proudly carried with him a love of fine wine and the title of “Count.” In 1840, surrounded by intrigue and political exile, Count Haraszthy set sail for America and settled in Wisconsin, founding a town, building a sawmill and planting the first Hops for beer making. But the fierce Wisconsin winters made him quickly realize he required a warmer climate to make wine.

Haraszthy traveled to San Diego, California in 1849 and became their first Sheriff, then their first Marshall, and while there, he planted vineyards in San Diego’s Mission Valley. But he was still searching for the ideal land and climate for growing grapes. Haraszthy was next elected to the California State Assembly and he migrated to northern regions of the state. His first sight of the Sonoma Valley with its rich soil and warm summers made him realize that his long search may have ended and he had found the grape region he had been looking for. The Count understood that great wine comes from great grapes, but also from great Terroir, and he felt that he had found the perfect balance for making fine wine in Sonoma.

Buena Vista Old Bldg

Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Zin Bottle (1)In 1856 he acquired 800 acres just outside of the town of Sonoma, which included an old dry-farmed vineyard on a site that was known as the Buena Vista ranch, and he renamed the site the Buena Vista Winery and produced its first vintage.
By the end of 1857 he had more than tripled the total grape acreage of Sonoma Valley. In that single year he had planted 80,000 vines on about 118 acres.He had planted more than 250 acres of grapes and had constructed a beautiful stone winery building next to a small stream in a lovely wooded area and added an elaborate home and horticultural garden with fruit trees and shrubs from the east. Buena Vista was now successfully selling its wines and had become California’s earliest commercial winery, which was a dream come true for the Count.



In 1861 he bought a shipment of six choice rooted vines and 160 cuttings from Hungary. That shipment included two bv botte 2small bundles–one was Muscat of Alexandria and the other was said to be a Zinfandel grape, which was actually a very old Croatian variety, named Crljenak Kaštelanski, and was also essentially the same variety as the Primitivo grape, traditionally grown in Puglia (the “heel” of Italy). With the grapes growing and his wine gaining popularity in California, it became better known by the name Zinfandel and since that time has been closely associated with the Buena Vista Winery. Haraszthy also ordered and received a large shipment of the massive oversize oak barrels 

in which to age his wine, just as it was done in Eastern Europe. In 1864, an article in Harper’s Magazine proclaimed that Buena Vista was “the largest establishment of the kind in the world.” In 1864 the winery’s cellars, Sonoma’s first wine caves were completed.

In 2011 the Boissett Family Estate, a renowned family owned business that had been  involved in wine making in Burgundy for centuries, purchased Buena Vista Winery. The family business in the United States is now under the leadership of Jean-Charles Boissett, who, in his 40’s, is constructing a state-of-the–art modern winery and tasting rooms on the site where Agoston Haraszthy built the original stone winery. On his earliest visit to California and having found themselves in the Sonoma town plaza by accident, he personally had the opportunity to visit the original winery in the 1960’s, and Jean-Charles Boissett firmly believes in his destiny.

Buena Vista’s wine varieties today include: a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and of course, a bottle of Zinfandel Reserve, sporting Count Haraszthy’s historic 1857 wine label.

 While visiting The owner at Raymond Vineyards we saw a play area for dogs (many folks take them!).  It’s called Frenchie’s Winery! No kidding!  Jean-Charles Boisset has dedicated a place for mans best friend to stay

Jean-Charles Boissette

Jean-Charles Boissette

comfortably while seeing his amazing winery, including bottling some of Frenchie’s good wine.  

Visit Raymond Vineyards if you can; it is an absolutely unique experience.      We saw a play area for dogs (some folks take them!).  It’s called Frenchie’s Winery! No kidding!  Jean-Charles Boisset has dedicated a place for mans best friend to stay comfortably while seeing his amazing winery, including bottling some of Frenchie’s good wine.



dogs at Raymond winery 3

One comment

  1. Gonzalo Ballon-Landa /

    I am the Connetable de la Confrerie de Chevaliers du Tastevin, Sous-Commanderie de San Diego . I was at a lunch today with several chevs and it was recommended that I visit Buena Vista when my wife and I visit Sonoma on the fifth of March. I heard that Chev. Jean-Charles Boisett is also a Chevalier du Tastevin. I visited you 30 years ago and I learnt then about Count Agostin Harasthy from Hungary. I would like to make an appointment to visit you.

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