The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2012

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Page 118 of 140

Buena Vista T Rebuilding THE STORY BEHIND THE RESTORATION OF COUNT HARASZTHY'S HEROIC DREAM story and photos by Randy Caparoso his past August 31, Jean-Charles Boisset, the colorful hands-on President of Boisset Family Estates, proudly cut a red ribbon and sabered gushing bottles of sparkling wine in front of the doors of Buena Vista Winery's newly restored stone Champagne Cellar, leading to caves originally dug into the hills of Sonoma Valley in 1857. The occasion was the winery's symbolic "rebirth" and a commemoration of the 200th birthday of the "Count of Buena Vista"—Agoston Haraszthy, who founded the estate as California's first grand-scale producer of premium wine. The day was an emotional one for Boisset, whose family acquired the Buena Vista brand and winery, along with a long-term lease of vineyards, in April 2011. Says David Ramey, the esteemed winemaker hired as a consultant by Boisset immediately following the purchase: "I've only worked with one other person, Christian Moueix, who was as fascinated with California history as Jean-Charles Boisset. This is a tremendously exciting project because of Jean- Charles's determination to restore Buena Vista to the way it was originally intended." Jean-Charles Boisset. "I draw parallels to the old Burgundy houses that are also in the Boisset Family—like Bouchard Aîné & Fils, which dates back to 1750, and J. Moreau & Fils, dating back to 1814. We need to be proud of our history and heritage. We want to play a part in the re-introduction of Buena Vista to the 21st century. We want people to come here from all over the world—yes, to taste Buena Vista wine, but also to experi- ence its magnificent past." The full extent of Boisset's commitment is now plain to see in the gleaming, multi-million dollar restoration of Buena Vista's iconic Champagne Cellar, once shrouded completely in ivy. This building had not been used as a winemak- ing facility since the 1970s, and A bottle of Buena Vista Zinfandel looms in the foreground, the restored Champagne Cellar behind it. had been completely shuttered since the last big earthquake in 1989. Off came the ivy, revealing the native stones, being steadily pulled apart by the plants. Then the real work began, guided by a San Francisco firm special- izing in historic restorations. Says Boisset, "The original winery buildings are a gateway to the past—it is a matter of paying tribute to that past." To enhance the facelift, the asphalt road leading to the old stone Press House (built in 1862, now serving as a tasting room) and Champagne Cellar was completely torn out and replaced by a walkway of hand-chiseled cobblestones imported from Belgium, flanked by smooth paths of decomposed granite set by fine crushed cement, plus beds of edible plants common to 19th-century Sonoma. This dogged devotion to detail comes not a moment too soon, following 44 years of neglect at the hands of owners for whom faithful restoration of the historic property was a low priority. 110 / the tasting panel / october 2012

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