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Sonoma-Mendocino - Notable Wineries By District And Region

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(Note: Information Originally Published In 1955 - Presented For Historical Perspective!)

Buena Vista Vineyards, Sonoma

It seems only suitable to begin the presentation of the wineries of California with Buena Vista, once the home of Haraszthy, the "father of modern California viticulture:"

Agoston Haraszthy, a man of temperament and of many talents, came from a noble Hungarian family. Because of wanderlust or because he aided in plotting Magyar independence, he left his Hungarian domain and sailed for America. He first settled in Wisconsin, where he founded the town of Haraszthy, which was to become Sauk City. Known as the "Count," he later shed this title for the more democratic one of "Colonel."

In 1849 he came West, to San Diego, which he helped to develop and where he was elected the town's first sheriff. He later represented that county as state assemblyman and moved north to Sacramento. San Francisco, thriving with the Gold Rush, next attracted the colonel's energetic spirit and he became the official melter and refiner of the U. S. Mint. He landed in difficulties, accused of exceeding his legal limit of gold wastage, but was absolved by the court and his name completely cleared.

Haraszthy had been interested in viticulture ever since his early Hungarian days. In California he had planted vineyards near San Diego and in San Francisco near Mission Dolores as well as at Crystal Springs, in what is now San Mateo. He realized, from the example of Jean Louis Vignes at Los Angeles, that the better California wines were produced from European grape varieties and he himself had already imported many such vines, including, as has been widely accepted, the one he named and became known as Zinfandel.

Haraszthy finally chose Sonoma as the ideal place to realize his ambition of establishing the finest vineyards in California. He became a neighbor of the pioneer grower General Vallejo, who produced a wine of great repute, Lachryma Montis, named after his estate. The two families became friendly rivals in wine making, and became much closer than friends when the double wedding took place at Lachryma Montis in 1863, uniting Natalia and Jovita, daughters of General Vallejo, to Attila and Arpad Haraszthy, sons of the colonel.

Haraszthy had named his country place Buena Vista and here he constructed an imposing Pompeian mansion. Hundreds of acres of vines were planted and a series of tunnels dug deep in the hillside for cellar accommodation. Skilled viticulturists came to work at Buena Vista, among them Charles Krug, who was himself to become one of California's leading wine growers.

It was at Buena Vista that Haraszthy wrote his classic "Report on Grapes and Wines of California." He advised all growers to test as many varieties as possible, to cultivate those which throve the best and produced the finest wines. He was certain that California could yield "as noble a wine as any country on the face of the globe."

In 1861 Haraszthy was appointed by Governor John G. Downey to report on wine growing in Europe. From a viticultural point of view the trip was a great success. He visited all the important European winegrowing districts and collected some 100,000 cuttings from 300 grape varieties, all of which he planted on his return. Financially the journey proved a source of discord. The California Legislature refused to pay the expenses incurred, but the colonel could find consolation in being made president of the California Agricultural Society.

Haraszthy had reached the summit of his prestige. The fame of Buena Vista wines had spread far; offices of the company were operating in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and London. In October 1864 Colonel and Mrs. Haraszthy were hosts at a Vintage Ball and Masquerade, the social event of the time.

Then financial and other troubles succeeded each other rapidly. Phylloxera struck, Haraszthy suffered losses on the Stock Exchange, taxes on spirits wiped out his profit on brandy, a fire raged at Buena Vista, ruining much of the wine, credit was cut off from the bank, and financial assistance from other sources proved unavailable.

So the father of California's modern wine industry left Buena Vista, Sonoma, and California for good. He went to Nicaragua, where he obtained a government contract for the distillation of spirits from sugar and there he started a new domain. But one day, in July 1869, he vanished. It is believed that he tried to cross an alligator-infested stream by means of an overhanging branch which broke off by his weight and plunged him to his doom. The life of a great American pioneer had come to a tragic end.

In California Attila and Arpad Haraszthy continued the family wine-making tradition. Arpad became famous for his Eclipse Champagne, while Attila stayed on at Buena Vista to fight the phylloxera, which was not conquered till the turn of the century. The estate suffered a further great blow when the r9o6 earthquake brought down in ruins much of the winery and caved in the storage tunnels, burying, so it is believed, much champagne beneath the debris. Buena Vista entered a dormant period in wine making which lasted till 1943.

In that year Frank H. Bartholomew, now president of the United Press, acquired a large acreage of the former Buena Vista vineyards and revived the society, restoring also the two stone wineries from Haraszthy's days.

The following high-quality wines are available under the Buena Vista brand:

Table wines: RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel (from the vineyards where the the wine grew to fame), Burgundy;

WHITE: White (Johannisberger) Riesling, Traminer, Sylvaner, Green Hungarian (one of the few produced in the state), Vine Brook (rhine wine), Chablis;

ROSE: Rose Brook (from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes);

Champagne (bottle-fermented) : Extra Dry Champagne (from Pinot Chardonnay grapes);

Aperitif and Dessert Wines:

SHERRY: Ultra Dry (Solera);

PORT: Vintage Ports, marketed under governmentally certified vintage dates; 1946 and 1951 to be followed by later vintages;

VERMOUTH: Dry and Sweet.

Hanns Kornell Cellars, Sonoma Hat-ins Kornell represents the third generation of a family known in Germany since 1848 for the production of superior wines. He attended agricultural college and worked in vineyards and wineries, acquiring experience in France and Italy as well as in his native country. When political conditions made it impossible for him to remain in Germany, he chose America as his new home. He worked in California at Los Amigos, Fountaingrove, the Gibson Wine Company, and at the American Wine Company in St. Louis, where he was the wine maker and became production manager.

His great ambition always was to manage his own winery and this he accomplished in 1952 when he took over the Sonoma Wine Company at Sonoma, which he renamed Hanns Kornell Cellars.

The great specialties of the winery are the Sparkling wines, bottlefermented. These are marketed under the Third Generation brand and include a Brut, Extra Dry, and Sec Champagne, as well as Pink Champagne and Sparkling Burgundy.

Table and Dessert wines carry the Hanns Kornell Cellars label and include Cabernet, Burgundy, and Claret in the red table wines, Riesling, Sauterne, and Rhine in the whites as well as Pale Dry Sherry, Cream Sherry, Ruby Port, and Muscatel.

Napa & Sanoma Wine Company (Castler Cellars), Sonoma The company has a history which dates back in San Francisco to 1896. Its president, Paul Rossigneux, operates the Castler Cellars in one of the two large stone wineries at Buena Vista, dating back to the days of Colonel Haraszthy.

Rossigneux is that rather rare type of producer in California, but usual enough in France, the vintner, who buys fine wines from vineyards not large enough to be exploited separately and then blends and ages the wines to a high standard of quality. Rossigneux prides himself on the fact that although custom demands that California wines are usually named after foreign wine types, he has developed high-quality wines of truly Californian character. Although he prefers not to use varietal names for his California wines, he markets the first-class French wines, which he imports, under their varietal grape names, which is most unusual.

The California wines of the company are marketed under the Castler brand as follows:

Table wines:

RED: Rubio Castler (burgundy type);

WHITE: Green Castler (rhine wine type), Sauterne (medium dry), Haut Sauterne (sweet), Chablis;

ROSE: Pink Castler;

Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) : Dry Champagne and Sparkling Burgundy;

Aperitif and Dessert wines:

SHERRY: Club Sherry (pale, dry) and Cream Sherry;

PORT: Tawny Port;

MUSCATEL: Golden Muscatel;

VERMOUTH: Dry and Sweet.

Paul Rossigneux publishes, from time to time, recipes in card form entitled "Wine & Food Tips."

Sebastiani Winery, Sonoma This winery, one of the largest producers in Sonoma County and the oldest wine enterprise in Sonoma Valley operated continuously by one family, was founded in 1904 by Samuele Sebastiani, who emigrated to this country from Italy at an early age. From a small beginning and in spite of many adversities Samuele Sebastiani gradually built up his enterprise through hard work, determination to succeed, and a strong faith in spiritual assistance. When Prohibition forced the closing down of many wineries, he continued to operate for the production of medicinal and sacramental wines as allowed by the dry laws. He was for many years a colorful and dominant figure, not only in Sonoma, but in the whole of the wine industry.

After Samuele Sebastiani passed away in 1944, he was succeeded by his son August Sebastiani, who now conducts all winery operations and continues the family tradition. Of historic interest at the winery is a 50i-gallon tank, which represented the total wine output of the enterprise at its founding and which is still in use.

Some vineyards are owned in Sonoma Valley, but most of the wines are produced from grapes purchased from the same local growers from year to year. The winery's operation was mostly on a bulk basis, supplying bottlers throughout the United States, when it was decided in 1954 to enter the field of quality wines. The Sonoma winery specializes in table wines and champagne stock, while aperitif and dessert wines, including vermouth, are also produced.

The S&S and Casa de Sonoma brands are used for the quality wines, while Sebastiani is the regular brand for commercial wines of standard grades.

Table wines: S&S: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Zinfandel, Burgundy, Chianti, Claret, and Red Table Wine; Riesling, Sylvaner, Sauterne, Chablis, and Rhine; Vin Rose;

Casa de Sonoma: Cabernet (featured), Burgundy, and Sauterne; Sebastiani: Burgundy, Claret; Chablis, Sauterne; Vin Rose;

Aperitif and Dessert wines:

S&S: Pale Dry Cocktail Sherry and Sherry; Port, Ruby Port, and Tawny Port; Muscatel, Tokay, White Port, and Angelica; Sebastiani: Pale Dry Cocktail Sherry and Sherry; Port and Ruby Port; Muscatel, Tokay, and White Port; Sweet and Dry Vermouth.

Glen Ellen Winery & Distillery, Inc., Glen Ellen The origin of this property goes back to 1853, when Joshua Chauvet, a Frenchman, bought a saw and flour mill from General Vallejo. The mill was located where the distillery now stands and some of the original redwood timbers are still in use. Chauvet, who owned a great part of Glen Ellen, including the Jack London ranch, built the adobe three-story winery in 1881. He went to France and purchased one of the finest continuous stills that money could buy and had it shipped around Cape Horn. It is still in operation for the production of a grape brandy.

Charles J. Pagani, who knew Jack London and used to visit him on his mountaintop above Glen Ellen, ran the winery from 1913 until his death in 1954. Louis C. Pagani, his brother, is now in charge.

Sound-quality table wines produced number Cabernet, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret in the reds, and Semillon, Sylvaner, Riesling, Sauvignon Vert, and Sauterne in the whites. They are marketed under the A. Pagani, Glen Ellen and Glen Hills brands.

F. Mancuso Winery, Glen Ellen Felix Mancuso, the owner, purchased the winery and vineyards in igzr, but the winery was not put into operation till 1933, when the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed. A Frenchman, Lemoine, who formerly owned the estate, planted part of the vineyards to different varieties right next to each other so that the various grapes could easily be harvested together and crushed to obtain the desired type of wine. The mansion he built is now the site of the Mancuso residence. Felix Mancuso is ably assisted in the family enterprise by his son, Peter F. Mancuso.

Red table wines, as is often the case in Sonoma, are the specialty and are typically sound "country wines." Dessert wines, including vermouths, are purchased, aged, and bottled for sale.

Under the Mancuso brand standard-quality wines are available, such as Zinfandel, Claret, and Burgundy and also Sauterne. The featured wine is a Special Reserve Burgundy, aged in small oak casks, which has deservedly won more than a local reputation for itself.