Firefighters saved California’s historic Haraszthy Winery in last year’s wildfire

Northern California is slowly rebuilding after last November’s deadly wildfires and according to experts it could take years to recover. The fires destroyed 9,000 structures and killed about 50 people.

The fire hit the picturesque wine region of California where several dozen wineries were damaged or destroyed. I was relieved to learn that the oldest winery of the area, the Buena Vista Winery, also known as the Haraszthy Winery in the City of Sonoma, had survived. With tremendous luck and the heroic efforts of the firefighters the Sonoma landmark was saved while many of the neighboring wineries burned to the ground.

Old Buena Vista Winery covered with ivy.

The Buena Vista winery was founded in 1857 by Ágoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian immigrant and adventurer. Haraszthy was a writer, a politician and some claim a bit of a swindler, who mysteriously died in Nicaragua. The Hungarian was also a visionary and a pioneer in the Napa Valley, the first one to realize the wine-growing potential of the region. The “Count”, as they called him, is recognized as the “father of the California wine industry.” (Haraszthy had some noble lineage but he was not a Count.)
Today, 160 years later, it is home to a billion-dollar industry.

The new Buena Vista Winery building.

I first saw the Haraszthy Winery almost 40 years ago and I remember well that the majestic structure was covered with ivy. A couple of years ago under new ownership, the building was rebuilt and expanded.

Occasionally, the winery recreates the famous 1863 double wedding which united the Vallejo and the Haraszthy clans, two of California’s most powerful families at the time. General Vallejo founded the town of Sonoma in 1835 as a military outpost on what was then Mexico’s northern frontier, while Haraszthy built California’s first commercial winery.

Re-enacting the famous double wedding of 1863.

The Vallejo and Haraszthy families were friends and Attilla Haraszthy, 28, and Natalia Vallejo, 25, as well as Arpad Haraszthy, 23 and Jovita Vallejo, 19, got married in the “wedding of the century.” The re-enactment is usually followed with a fabulous banquet at the winery.

I’m truly relieved that the historic structure, a piece of California’s early history, has survived the 2017 firestorm.

György Lázár


  1. Been to Buena Vista several times during my 30+ years living near Berkeley, CA. A very interesting, historic spot. Didn’t realize there were still Haraszthy family members around there.

  2. György Lázár,thanks for the article post. Really thank you! Great.

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