We raise a birthday toast to Agoston Haraszthy, the first planter of grapevines on the winery site. The Hungarian nobleman arrived here in the 1840s. The steep terrain reminded him of his homeland, and was ideal for growing grapes. His words, while looking over the Wisconsin River from the hillside…
“Oh, marvelous! And this it really was, for during my prolonged traveling I had not seen either in Europe or in America the work of Nature in such matchless perfection, and I can say with all the conviction of my soul that there cannot exist a more beautiful spot in any part of the world.”
– Agoston Haraszthy, Utazas Éjszakamerikában 1844 (Travels in North America)
He dug the back section of the hillside cave out of the sandstone, forming it into a square room with visible chisel marks. We believe his intention was to use this for a wine cellar.
Among his many contributions, Haraszthy founded Wisconsin’s first incorporated village, Sauk City, right across the Wisconsin River. He was an influential man and after having laid out the village, built the mills, owned a brickyard, operated a ferry and a general store, and was a legendary hunter. In 1849, Haraszthy left Wisconsin for the California Gold Rush. Once in California, he built Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, introduced more than 300 varieties of European grapes, and today is known as the Father of American Viticulture.
Haraszthy has been described in the following way:
“Bold, flamboyant, extravagant, devious, visionary, Agoston Haraszthy (1812-1869) is one of the most fascinating – and elusive – figures in the history of American agriculture.”
– Brian McGinty, Haraszthy’s great great-grandson and author of “Strong Wine”
Happy birthday, Agoston!