Stellar California wine tasting destinations, including Buena Vista Winery, California’s oldest winery
Traveling to a new destination is always an adventure, and even more so, when all our senses become immersed. Wine tasting unmistakably delivers information about the peculiarities and uniqueness of the area. Wine is produced in every state in the U.S., but California is the state with the most wineries. From northern to southern California, visitors and locals alike can enjoy the tasting experience and also bring a few bottles home for the pleasure of reliving it. Some of the most relevant California wine regions and wineries to visit are outlined below:
Sonoma County is home to 13 AVA’s (American Vinicultural Area) and more than 500 wineries. Sonoma grows more Pinot Noir than any other county in the state, but also found in abundance here are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel are produced in smaller proportions.
Recommended wineries to visit: Kenwood Vineyards, Kenwood; Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Kenwood; Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood; Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma
Napa Valley’s 16 AVA’s account for 4% of all California wine, but are home to 600 wineries, plus some of the best restaurants in the country. Napa is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, but also produces fine Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Zinfandel.
Recommended wineries to visit: V Sattui, St. Helena; Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga; Inglenook Winery, Rutherford; Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe Rothschild’s joint venture, Opus One Winery, Oakville; and Domain Carneros, Napa
A day trip from Newport Beach, Temecula is beginning to expand its presence in the state’s wine profile. The most popular wines in this region are Sangiovese, Syrah, Zinfandel and Tempranillo, among others.
Recommended wineries to visit: South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Temecula; Monte de Oro, Temecula; Ponte Vineyard, Temecula
With so many options, planning a wine vacation presents many challenges. Plotting the right course for your tours is not only time-consuming but can also be quite overwhelming. To simplify the process, we have selected Buena Vista Winery as THE mandatory stop for any wine enthusiast.
Buena Vista Winery History
Buena Vista Winery, considered California’s first premium winery, was founded in 1857 by the intrepid Hungarian noble, Agoston Haraszthy. The self-proclaimed count came to California leading a wagon train in 1849. Shortly thereafter, he was elected Sheriff of San Diego County and to the California State Assembly. It was Haraszthy who envisioned Sonoma’s great potential as a world-class wine producer.
He was responsible for the creation of the first gravity flow winery, the excavation of the first wine caves in Sonoma, the first to experiment with redwood barrels for aging and fermenting, and he brought more than 300 grape varieties from Europe to California. In addition, Haraszthy founded the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society (BVVS).
As a trailblazer, he traveled to Nicaragua in the pursuit of finding an alternative route from Central America to California. Haraszthy’s plan was later adopted by Theodore Roosevelt for the Panama Canal. In 1869, while in Nicaragua he fell from a tree branch while crossing crocodile-infested waters and was never seen again.
In May 2011, Buena Vista joined the Boisset Collection of worldwide wineries, which included California wineries DeLoach and Raymond Vineyards, acquired in 2003 and 2009, respectively. Buena Vista’s new owner, Jean-Charles Boisset, was born into the world of wine in Vougeot, Burgundy, France, the birthplace of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Boisset Collection was founded in 1961 and today includes wineries that share more than 18 centuries of combined winemaking heritage and tradition. They are in some of the world’s most prestigious terroirs, from Burgundy to the South of France to California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Jean Charles’ leadership stands out due to his commitment to family, history and innovation through the implementation of organic and biodynamic farming.
David Ramey is the consulting winemaker at Buena Vista. A 1979 graduate of University of California, Davis is responsible for a thesis on how flavors evolve in wine. This thesis is still used today worldwide as a reference. Ramey works on making sure that wines are a true reflection of the character and style of Sonoma.
“…My goal is to help Buena Vista achieve its goal of crafting wines with true Sonoma character: balance, harmony and deliciousness,” Ramey says.
Brian Maloney, also a Davis graduate, oversaw the rebirth of the legendary Buena Vista Winery in 2011. His team was responsible for the first production in more than 30 years of wine in the historic Champagne cellars. In addition, he supervises the production of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of JCB for the Jean-Charles Boisset Collection, and he collaborated to create the innovative and critically-acclaimed JCB No. 3, a wine that unites the best of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with the best of Burgundy, France.
The Buena Vista tasting experience is a must. Count Haraszthy has been called the “Father of California Viticulture” for his introduction of innovative winegrowing techniques, championing improvements in grape quality and the promotion of California’s ability to become one of the greatest wine regions in the world.
Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy the tastings and tours offered year-round by this historic winery. The Winery offers a Press House Tasting Room experience, set in the 1862 Press House, a Historic Wine Tool Museum Tour and Tasting, a Barrel Tour and Tasting, and a Private Reserve Tasting, all for between $20-$40 per person. Wine Club members have 4 complimentary tickets for the Press House Tasting Room.
Book tastings or tours online at BuenaVistaWinery.com/Visit/Contact/#, through its relations team at CustomerService@BuenaVistaWinery.com, or by calling 800.926.1266.
Buena Vista Winery is located at 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, CA 95476.
Timeline and Great Reasons to Visit Buena Vista Winery
1849 Count Agoston Haraszthy leads a wagon train to San Diego, becoming its first Sheriff.
1852 The Count migrates to northern California.
1857 Founding of Buena Vista Winery produces its first vintage
1861 The count brings over 300 cuttings from Europe’s finest vineyards
1863 Founding of the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society
1864 California’s first wine caves completed at Buena Vista
1873 Buena Vista receives numerous winemaking accolades and awards from around the world
1906 The great earthquake and the rampages of Phylloxera end commercial activities. The winery is donated to the Catholic Church, who in turn sells it to the State of California
1943 Frank and Antonia Bartholomew purchase Buena Vista property
1989 The caves are closed to the public due to damage by the Loma Prieta earthquake
2011 Buena Vista becomes part of Boisset Family Estates
2012 Jean-Charles Boisset leads a massive restoration of the caves
2013 Buena Vista is selected Winery of the Year by the California Travel Association and awarded the California Preservation Design Award for “Craftsmanship/Preservation Technology” at the 30th Annual California Preservation Awards in San Francisco.
2014 Buena Vista survives Napa Valley 6.0 earthquake thanks to 2013 retrofitting.
2015 Full restoration of Buena Vista Winery completed
2016 Buena Vista Winery is awarded the Sonoma League Historic Preservation Award