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Buena Vista Celebrates 150th Birthday

Buena Vista Carneros celebrated its 150th Anniversary last September 7, kicking off “California Wine Month.” Buena Vista was California’s first premium winery and was founded in 1857 by Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy (left). Haraszthy was an eccentric character and a bon vivant immigrant who developed an extensive resume of accomplishments in this country before finally ending up in Sonoma Valley. He founded the town of Sauk City, Wisconsin, was the first federal marshal and state representative of San Diego, and authored a book, Travels of North America which led to the immigration of thousands of Europeans to the United States. His dream was to plant wine grapes and produce wines that one day would rival those of the Old World. In March of this year, Haraszthy was awarded the posthumous honor of being one of the very first inductees into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame.

Today, Buena Vista Carneros is a very large landowner in the Carneros appellation with 1,000 acres of vineyards. The focus is on the Ramal Vineyard, which has been replanted and revitalized in recent years. Replanting of all estate vineyards will be completed in 2010. Primarily Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir are grown here. The Ramal Vineyard and winery are in Sonoma Carneros and the original historic winery housing the tasting room is located just off the plaza in the town of Sonoma. Under the guidance of winemaker Jeff Stewart and viticulturist Craig Weaver, and with a large infusion of capital from owner Beam Wine Estates, Inc., the winery has recently taken serious steps to reduce output and improve the quality of its wines. The recent releases have been quite stunning.

2005 Buena Vista Carneros Ramal Vineyard Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 25,295 cases, $23. Winemaker Jeff Stewart can draw from a dozen clones among 40 individual blocks. · This is a delightful cherry-driven wine with a nice touch of spice. Elegant and harmonious with a crisp and fruity finish, this is a terrific wine for the price. This wine is not a Big Boy, but structured for easy drinking with and without food. Many Pinot Noirs at this price point just don’t deliver the goods, but this one hits all the right notes.

Buena Vista Carneros wines have widespread retail distribution and may be purchased on the website, Three other Pinot Noirs are produced in the Estate Vineyard Series (EVS): 2005 Ramal Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2005 Ramal Vineyard Clone 5 Pommard Pinot Noir and 2005 Ramal Vineyard Clone 828 Pinot Noir (all $42). Tasting room: 800-926-1266.

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