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A Beautiful View for Value

Revitalized Buena Vista's first releases are promising for wine and history lovers
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jan 23, 2013 12:00pm ET

The list of California wineries that reliably produce a good range of tasty values has been growing short for years, but there's a new player now. Well, "new" is misleading since the producer in question is Buena Vista, the oldest commercial winery in the state.

Yet in nearly every sense Buena Vista is a new player, and is now releasing a promising lineup of very good wines selling for $25 and less. For those of us who have watched what the historic Sonoma winery has gone through during the past 25 years, it's a welcome development.

Since 2001 alone Buena Vista has been through five owners. That's right, five. That's a recipe for wine disaster, but the owner now is Boisset Family Estates, a major wine player in Burgundy that's reinvigorating a portfolio of California wineries. President Jean-Charles Boisset is smart and savvy and has a knack for showmanship. He's passionate about California and its wine future. Along the way he also married winemaker Gina Gallo and bought Robert Mondavi's house in Napa Valley.

Buena Vista has a storied past. Hungarian immigrant Agoston Haraszthy established Buena Vista, or "Beautiful View," in 1857 and helped launch California's wine industry. Haraszthy built an impressive stone winery in 1864 and last year Boisset impressively renovated the winery while maintaining its history and romance. Wine is now being made there for the first time in decades.

That would amount to just another tourist destination if the wines didn't show potential, but they do. Buena Vista is making various price ranges at this point and since Boisset has owned it for only two years, it's hard to make sweeping predictions. One of the first changes by Boisset was bringing in additional sources of wine and juice to create a new line of value wines that are already being released. Here are a few worth checking out:

Buena Vista Merlot Carneros 2009 (89 points, $20) Impressive for the price. Elegant and supple with toasty cherry flavors.

Buena Vista Pinot Noir Carneros 2009 (88, $25) Appealing savory herb and dried berry flavors with complexity on the finish.

Buena Vista Chardonnay Carneros 2009 (87, $19) Refreshing and zesty with citrus-laced green apple flavors.

Buena Vista Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2011 (87, $13) Lively and crisp with spicy pear and apple notes.

We'll keep an eye on the winery's future releases. If you have any wines to recommend—or other good value producers—please share.

Don Rauba
Schaumburg, IL —  January 23, 2013 6:54pm ET
"Please share"... what, and risk them selling out everywhere? LOL. (OK, devil on my shoulder, you've had your say. Now Sssh!)

Milbrandt makes some amazing value wine, though I've not tasted even a quarter of their offerings... and they use twist-offs! Their Traditions Cabernet is astounding for the price.
Andrew J Walter
Sacramento, CA —  January 24, 2013 7:57pm ET
I just drank the 14 Hands "Hot to Trot" wine from Washington. $9 at Trader Joes and a really nice, everyday wine. Its worth checking out...
Shauna Rosenblum
Alameda, CA —  January 28, 2013 6:31pm ET
Great article. I agree. In a recent wine competition, while tasting blindly, we gave a silver medal to a bag of Cabernet Sauvignon from Cliff Bar. A 1.5 liter bag which is marketed to 'climbing junkies', skiers and the like, goes for $16.99. It was pretty darn tasty too.

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