Day 4: GEV’s 12 Days of Giving Holiday Giveaway Dec15


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Day 4: GEV’s 12 Days of Giving Holiday Giveaway


The fourth gift in our 12 Days of Holiday Giving is for anyone who loved “Bottleshock” or “Somm”. Here’s a chance to blend your OWN wine as Count or Countess for the Day at Buena Vista Winery!


DETAILS: Would you like to be The Count or Countess? Join Buena Vista at a Winemaker for a Day: ‘Be the Count/Countess’ experience and you will have that chance! During this unforgettable experience, you and a guest will be guided through the art of blending by one of Buena Vista’s knowledgeable wine educators. Enter the beautiful Cave of Curiosity to create your own personalized bottle of red wine the Count himself would envy. You will have the opportunity to create three different blends, select your favorite, and then bottle your wine with your own customized label. Leave with a newly branded wine tailored to your masterful palate. If one bottle isn’t enough, you are welcome to order additional bottles of your distinct blend to enjoy with your family and friends!

The experience is available daily at 10:30am and 1:30pm by appointment. Reservations required 48 hours in advance. Learn more at:

About Buena Vista Winery

Before there were vineyards in every valley north of San Francisco, before Napa and Sonoma were household names, before there was a California wine world at all, there was Buena Vista.  Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s first premium winery, and its history is as colorful as it is proud. Today, the legend is being re-born under the vision of Jean-Charles Boisset. Just outside the town of Sonoma, the original winery is now a California Historic Landmark, and home to a Winery, Tasting Room, and Visitor’s Center.

Many kinds of grapes have existed in California since the late 18th century. The first vineyards dotting the California landscape were of grapes brought by missionaries from Mexico, becoming known as the “mission grape.” And, as early as 1817, Russian settlers on the Sonoma Coast planted Palomino grapes imported from Peru. These grapes grew well, but they did not produce the extraordinary wine we associate with California today.

This changed gradually after California joined the US in 1848. During the 1850s, several pioneering vineyardists brought noteworthy varieties like Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon to the state. While this was a significant milestone in the history of California’s viticulture, it was nothing compared to what Buena Vista and its colorful founder would do.

Self proclaimed “The Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa was a vivacious pioneer whose love affair with grape-growing started in his homeland of Hungary. Born into a wealthy, land-owning family, The Count grew up amidst famed vineyards and orchards that had been in his family for centuries.

Like other intriguing tales that surround him, exactly why The Count emigrated from Europe is unknown. Some say wanderlust, some say political exile. Regardless, in 1840 Agoston Haraszthy set sail for America, where he chose to settle with his family in Wisconsin. He founded the town of “Szepataj,” now Sauk City, developing roads, bridges, a sawmill, a gristmill and even introducing a steamboat line.

A skilled lover of all agriculture, The Count was extremely successful with many of his crops. He was the first to plant hops in Wisconsin—which grew in abundance—thus planting roots for the American beer industry. He also tried growing his treasured grapes, but the harsh winters of Wisconsin proved problematic and he conceded that he would have to go elsewhere to pursue his real love of grape-growing.

Settling in San Diego in 1849, The Count, with a continued flair for accomplishment, became the first sheriff, then marshal, of San Diego and eventually rose to the California State Assembly. More importantly he continued his vineyard attempts in Mission Valley. But once again, the vineyard conditions were not to his standards or expectations, which is why, determined to find the perfect location for making superb wine, he would relocate further north.

In 1852 Haraszthy headed north as a member of the state legislature. He purchased 120 acres near the old mission in San Francisco and later acquired a larger piece of land to the south in San Mateo County. In both locales, however, he discovered that the constant coastal fog was not conducive to grape-growing.

While in San Francisco, with the Gold Rush exploding in the Sierras, The Count continued with various pursuits and occupations. As a metallurgist he assessed gold arriving in San Francisco from the lucky strikers. He became a smelter and then the first Chief Assayer of the San Francisco Mint, where he was surrounded by scandalous rumors and charges of missing gold and embezzlement. The charges were dropped, but he became a household name which, when combined with his innocence, would later proved invaluable.

Throughout this exciting era, The Count never stopped dreaming of “purple gold.” He was absolutely certain that superb grapes could be grown in California, and in 1856 he set his sights on Sonoma—a place already in the history books following the Bear Flag Revolt. He acquired 800 acres just outside of town, after being impressed by an old, dry-farmed vineyard on the site. On what was already known as Buena Vista Ranch, the Count constructed an elaborate home and a beautiful stone winery, and planted his first Sonoma vineyards.

Just as we know today, The Count understood that great wine comes not only from great grapes, but also from great terroir—that magical combination of all the attributes of a particular site required to create remarkable wines—from the soil, to the climate, to the site’s exposure to the sun, to the vine itself. Upon first experiencing Sonoma, The Count knew immediately that this was going to be that perfect place for producing superb wines.

Sonoma’s sun-soaked lands are protected from fog and rain by the Sonoma Mountains to the west—and yet cooled by the sweet breezes from the San Pablo Bay to the south at night. Its climate combined with fertile, valley-floor soils and rocky, well-drained hillside vineyards makes Sonoma’s diverse terroir an ideal location for world-class vineyards.

Knowing he had struck his purple gold in Sonoma, The Count finally established his winery in 1857, producing 6,500 gallons in the first vintage. Buena Vista continued to grow and expand and by 1860, more than 250 acres of vines had been planted. The Count’s passion also inspired many others to take up wine growing in Sonoma. One of the more notable was Charles Krug, a friend from San Francisco, who purchased land from Haraszthy and also began planting vines. Krug later moved to the Napa Valley, crushing his first grapes on a press borrowed from Buena Vista and pioneering wine growing in that equally famous valley.

Story credit: Buena Vista Winery

Photo credit: Scott Chebegia