California’s First Winery

Photo by Karsten Würth (@inf1783) on Unsplash.



The original is Napa Valley. Plenty of places around the country boast wine regions and areas referred to as “wine country,” but Napa Valley was the first. Napa Valley was settled around 1830. Shorty after settlement, George C. Young planted the first Napa vineyard. The area quickly populated as pioneers, prospectors and entrepreneurs discovered the fruitful land. Homes, buildings and businesses sprung up in what we now know as the neighboring cities of Napa and Sonoma. Many of these buildings are still standing today, and one of the oldest is part of the oldest premium winery in the state, Buena Vista.

Buena Vista is in the northeast area of Sonoma and has been producing wines for over one and a half centuries. It is incredibly beautiful and rich in history.

Photo by Ashleigh Nushawg on Flickr. Napa Valley.
Photo by Ashleigh Nushawg on Flickr.

The short 7-mile drive from town appropriately sets the mood for your arrival into this historic world. As you wind your way down the narrow country road lined with trees, aptly named “Old Winery Road,” you forget that you are just minutes from a bustling town. The views, the smells, the surrounding natural beauty prepares you for the things to come at Buena Vista Winery.

Signs point you in the right direction and lead you to a large dirt parking lot with plenty of space. Proceed by foot down the short path that leads to the winery. Along the way, historical markers and large signs share the history of Buena Vista Winery.

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In 1840, Agoston Haraszthy left Europe and traveled to Northern California in search of “purple gold.” The Hungarian-born farmer, businessman, innovator, and author settled in Sonoma, where in 1857 he founded Buena Vista Winery. Unfortunately, he had his fair share of challenges with prohibition and phylloxera (tiny insects related to aphids that feed on grape roots) infestation. He left Buena Vista and was met by death in an alligator-infested river of Nicaragua in 1869. However, his history and beloved Buena Vista Winery continued without him.

Photo by HawYu on Flickr. Napa Valley Winery.
Photo by HawYu on Flickr.

The stone building that houses the tasting room which was built in the mid-1800s is one of the best areas of the winery. The building was renovated and restored by Jean-Charles Boisset, a Frenchman who purchased the winery in 2011. Jean-Charles of the Boisset Family Estates first visited the winery with his family when he was a young boy and fell in love with the beautiful place. It was his passion for history and wine that lead him back to Buena Vista where he diligently worked to preserve the historic beauty, including an extensive renovation and earthquake-proofing of the historic site. Today it is a place to see even if you do not drink wine.

The interior of the building is equally as beautiful and features a tasting bar, fireplace, and seating. Look up and see the circular walkway that looks down on the vast space below.

Walk past the tasting room and you will see another European style historic beauty; the restored Champagne Cellars. This building is designated for private events and houses the wine caves, private tasting rooms and the private Bubble Lounge. Like everything else Jean-Charles touches, these spaces boast both historic beauty and elegance.

Head three flights up to where you can tour the Buena Vista Wine Tools Museum. Here, a rare collection of historic viticulture tools from France including plows, bill hooks, blades, harvest baskets and more are beautifully arranged. You are guided through the museum with a 17-minute audio-visual presentation that shares the story of Buena Vista Winery. Some of the tools are artistically suspended from the ceiling and move in unison with the presentation.

Buena Vista Winery is much more than just a place to taste wine — although the wine is also very impressive. Grab a friend, pack a picnic and head to Buena Vista Winery where you too will taste some amazing wines, see beautiful buildings and grounds and explore the wine legacy started here by Agoston Haraszthy.

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