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by Fred McMillin
for June 27, 2000

 

This Zin Is In


Prologue

Sign in window of local bistro: Come in before we both starve!


The Rest of the Story

So I did, and the first step was to check the wine list. Happily, they had Buena Vista wines. One of them is...


Our Bargin of the Day

1997 Buena Vista California Zinfandel
Composition—100% Zinfandel
My tasters' rating—RECOMMENDED
Typical Retail Price—A lovely $8.75


The Disappearing Winery

Buena Vista  
Buena Vista, one of Sonoma's oldest wineries, has an exciting history. Highlights:

The spectacular Hungarian, Count Agoston Haraszthy de Mokcsa, on January 1, 1857 purchased for $5,500, 560 acres stretching from the floor of the Sonoma Valley up into the Mayacamas Mountains. Hence, the name "beautiful view," Buena Vista.

The Count was long on planning and short on execution. with the help of San Francisco investors, he expanded and created what became "the largest winegrowing estate in the world, and also the most unprofitable."

On July 6, 1869 Agoston's horse was found, with the pistols still in the saddle holster. He was exploring rum production opportunities in Nicaragua and apparently fell into a stream.

Perhaps mercifully, the S.F. 1906 earthquake caused the collapse of the winery's stone tunnels and Buena Vista was forgotten.

It's 1941 in Sacramento. San Francisco newsman Frank Bartholomew buys at auction 435 acres of Sonoma land he's never seen, planning to build a country home. Puzzled by what might be ruins of a winery, Frank invites the dean of American wine history writers, Leon Adams, to take a look. Leon did and announced that the newsman had bought Buena Vista in repose. The Bartholomew family changed plans and became vintners, restoring the storage tunnels, etc. (I got goose bumps when I first entered those tunnels 25 years ago.)

That's enough Buena background. Let's eat!


The Zinfandel Cookbook (by Nix and Smith)

Our choice is a dish created in California just as the Count was about to create Buena Vista. I grew up on it, as my father loved to cook it, since we could get sensational oysters from a nearby seafood shop on the shores of Puget Sound. The dish is a child of the Gold Rush, born in Hangtown (later Placerville). It's an egg-and-oyster one-skillet meal loved by hungry miners. The recipe is on page 58 of the cookbook; to order, phone (800)600-9086, FX (650)851-5579 Oh yes, the name of the dish? Hangtown Fry.


Postscript—Eggs & Oysters

Authors Nix and Smith tell us that the cost of an egg in the Gold Country was about 5O cents. The cost of an oyster there? Don't ask.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created June 2000

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