Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) A huge crowded gathered at the recent SSU WineSense tasting, lured by the “flash” of the flamboyant Buena Vista Winery, and the “fun” of tasting its newly released wines. The meeting was led by Hospitality and Tasting Room Associate, Amber Lesniewski, who wowed the audience with stories about the winery’s amazing history, as well as the products they offer.
Buena Vista Winery – The Oldest Premium Winery in California
The history of Buena Vista Winery is quite interesting to say the least. Self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy, a vivacious immigrant from Hungary and lover of grapes, founded Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma County in 1857. This makes Buena Vista the oldest premium commercial winery in California.
The Count first settled in Wisconsin, where he planted both hops for beer-making. This made him one of the founding fathers of the American beer industry, as well as wine. But the harsh winters in Wisconsin weren’t ideal for planting grapes, so he decided to move to San Diego, California. Here he became the first sheriff, and then marshal, of San Diego. Eventually he made his way north to San Francisco in 1852, and then to Sonoma in 1856, where he acquired 800 acres and set the foundation for the successful Buena Vista Winery.
Buena Vista Today – Renovated by Jean-Charles Boisset
Fast forward to the present, where the winery sits on its original property and is currently owned by Boisset Family Estates, led by Jean-Charles Boisset, who purchased the winery and the historic property in May 2011. Since that time, Jean-Charles had made many improvements, including renovating the old caves, adding a museum, updating the tasting room, and creating the famous “White Room,” filled with priceless antiques and chandeliers.
The original hand-dug caves are still on site and after reconstruction; they have been re-opened to visitors for tours. The visitor center, located inside the old wine press house, provides access to the original champagne cellar as well as many other amenities. Boisset continues to make the winery the best it can be, and the efforts he has brought forth have surely been noticed.
A Tasting of Three Famous Buena Vista Wines
Amber led the members of WineSense club through a tasting that featured three Buena Vista wines. The included a 2014 Buena Vista Chardonnay, a 2012 Buena Vista Pinot Noir, both from Carneros, and a 2013 Sheriff. The latter was a powerful wine brimming with personality and a bold combination of Cabernet, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Grenache. Amber walked the students through the characteristics of each wine tasted, and then encouraged them to visit the winery to taste many of their other special varietals.
Favorite Wine of the Evening – A Bow to the 2013 Sheriff
At the conclusion of the meeting, club members were asked to vote for their favorite wine of the evening. Each participant could vote once and with a unanimous vote, the 2013 Buena Vista Sheriff was clearly not only the favorite, but the winner of the evening. It was an enriching night and a wondeful educational tasting that students will not forget any time soon.