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Before there were vineyards in every valley north of San Francisco, before Napa and Sonoma were household names, before there was a California wine industry at all, there was Buena Vista. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s oldest premium winery, and its history is as colorful as it is proud. Just outside the town of Sonoma, the original winery is now a California Historic Landmark and home to its beautiful tasting room and visitor’s center.
Buena Vista Winery has a rich, delicious heritage as the first premium, and certainly the most colorful, of all of the wineries in California. And its founder, the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy, was a vivacious and eccentric pioneer with a veritable love and unending commitment to California wine.
Surrounded by his own tales of intrigue and political exile, The Count emigrated from Europe in 1840 in pursuit of opportunity and freedom in the burgeoning American West. Following the forty-niners in search of gold in the hills of Northern California, Haraszthy sought “purple gold” — the perfect ‘terroir’ for exceptional wine. He ultimately settled in Sonoma, birthplace of California and capital of the short-lived California Republic, where he founded Buena Vista Winery in 1857.
A committed farmer, an experimental innovator and vintner, a respected author, a shrewd businessman and a brilliant and incredibly zealous promoter, The Count is considered California’s most acclaimed and flamboyant vinicultural pioneer and evangelist. Despite his abrupt death in 1869 — in an alligator-infested river in the jungles of Nicaragua — and following the challenges of the Depression, prohibition, and phylloxera-infestation, his beloved Buena Vista Winery has not only endured but also prospered into the 21st century.
With its roots so deeply ensconced in the foundations of Sonoma, Buena Vista Winery is again introducing wines from Sonoma. The 2011 Sonoma Chardonnay is a medium-bodied wine with aromas of apple and pear and some toasted almond nuances. These flavors carry over to the palate with the addition of honeycomb on the tongue and subtle creaminess. It strikes the perfect balance of acidity and structure, making it the ideal companion to many of your favorite dishes.
The Count originally introduced Cabernet Sauvignon to California in 1862. The 2010 Cabernet, grown in some of the finest vineyards in Sonoma, honors the Count’s legacy and is truly expressive of its Sonoma terroir. Enticing aromas of black cherry and warm blueberry pie are accented with rich caramel notes that linger on the nose. This well-balanced wine offers generous fruit with flavors of forest floor and musk that are supported by supple tannins and lead to a long, delicious finish. Serve this Cabernet Sauvignon with short ribs and truffled mashed potatoes to further bring out the wine’s berry flavors. Blue cheese and figs would also pair well, as would a braised lamb shank over a bed of orzo.
Both Buena Vista Wines retail for around $13. Look for them at many of the fine retailers in the Greater Akron area, such as West Point Market, 750 ML, Regency Wine Store, Mustard Seed Market, Papa Joe’s, North End Market, Riverside Wine & Imports and Wine Reserve of Medina.
/ Rick Rodger is a manager at Heidelberg Distributing Company.