Saturday, August 4, 2012

Boisset Part 1: Buena Vista

A week ago our best seller at that Friday tasting was the 2010 Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon.  Last night the winner was the 2010 Cabernet-based Raymond R Collection Field Blend.  Besides both being moderately priced California Cabernets, they are both owned by French Vougeot-based multi-national, Boisset Family Estates.  We blogged about Raymond back on February 16th of 2011.  This time we'll look at Buena Vista.

Jean-Charles Boisset, head of Boisset Family Estates, purchased Buena Vista in May of 2011.  While the Cabernet we tasted a week ago was made prior to his ascendancy to ownership, Jean-Charles, being very historically reverent toward this industry, would no doubt view his position as a temporal custodianship.  Buena Vista was founded in 1857, making it 155 years old.  One of the new owner's first moves was a label change to approximate an 1860 Buena Vista label.

Jean-Charles was born in Vougeot in Burgundy and his California winery purchases all reflect that inherent historical context.  Deloach Vineyards, purchased in 2003, was the first Russian River Pinot Noir.  Lyeth Estate was the first red Bordeaux blend from California even before the term, Meritage, was coined.  Raymond boasts five generations of Napa winemakers and Buena Vista is all about history.

Buena Vista was founded by Count Agoston Haraszthy of Hungary, a notorious bon vivant and dealmaker.  The Count was actually Hungarian royalty by birth (1812) but moved to America in 1840, returning to the homeland periodically to visit and bring others back with him to America.

 Haraszthy became known in California as "the father of California winemaking" and is credited with introducing 300 European grape varieties to California, Zinfandel arguably being one of those credits. Before Buena Vista, Haraszthy experimented with viticulture for a decade in various locations and partnered with like-minded agriculturalists resulting in the 1858 "Haraszthy Report", the first published treatise on winemaking in California.  The following decade yielded further written delineation on the subject along with much speechmaking advocacy for the industry.

Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma was a natural outgrowth of Haraszthy's grape experimentation which continued for years on the Sonoma property prior to the opening of the winery.  The winery itself was a "gravity flow" creation built of stone with nearby hillside caves for cellaring.  Charles Krug was one of the notable winemakers hired by Harszthy.

Winemaking history has largely been eclipsed by mammoth production in California in the current era.  For twenty years prior to Boisset, no wine was actually made at Buena Vista and, sad to say, that isn't unusual.  Now winemaking has returned to the old stone winery and so has the Count in the personage of actor/historian George Webber who aptly recreates that larger than life figure on the premises.  "The Count" may be experienced more viscerally in the Buena Vista wine of the same name, another red field blend from Boisset.

Because this is the slow season, stop in the store and get a ten percent discount on our wines from the past week's tasting.  Curtis Gauthier of Empire Distributors will be feting us with some of his stellar California wines this Friday between 5 and 7pm.  Please join us.

By the way...Count Haraszthy joins a relatively short list of notables who all died in mystery, that is, they disappeared!  Amelia Earhardt, anyone?

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