Dinner pairings with Buena Vista Wines

California’s first premium winery continues excellence

Buena Vista Winery old and new | BuenaVistaWinery.com

Whether or not you trace back California winemaking to pre Gold Rush days or after Prohibition, grape and wine production in California rivals any region in the world. And as we tasted through three wines from a reborn Buena Vista Winery, our appreciation for this Sonoma winery goes beyond its historic sites.

Founded in 1857 by Agoston Haraszthy, the self-proclaimed “Count”, Buena Vista Winery is California’s first premium winery.

The Count’s passion for innovation and excellence not only led to California’s first premium winery, but also to the development of the California wine world as we know it today. The Count saw the grand vision for producing fine wine in Sonoma County, and Buena Vista was his vinicultural laboratory.

Buena Vista property began producing wine on an old, dry-farmed vineyard pre-Gold Rush. The land was developed by The Count of Buena Vista, Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa of Hungary. | BuenaVistaWinery.com

He created the first gravity flow winery in California and excavated the first wine caves. The Count had been the first to experiment with Redwood barrels for aging and fermenting, and he brought over 300 different varieties from Europe to California.

Now fast forward to last week, Geena and I paired three Buena Vista wines over the course of a week, tasting new releases from the winery known for “purple gold” – the perfect ‘terroir’ and exceptional wines. While the winery’s revival is well documented, we had not sampled Buena Vista wines for years.

The impetus behind this week with Buena Vista was an invitation from the folks at thewininghour.blogspot.com. Owner and leader Lin shared how this historic winery created the first California property to make a true Champagne in Champagne. I was hooked and looked forward to receiving my shipment and began reading its history.

The Count Founder’s Red Wine blend is sourced from Buena Vista Wineries Sonoma properties.

We learned the Buena Vista property already was producing wine on an old, dry-farmed vineyard on the site pre Gold Rush. In 1852, under the direction “The Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa of Hungary, the 800-acre ranch was purchased and developed.

The Count understood that great wine comes not just from great grapes, but also from great terroir—that magical combination of all the attributes of a particular site required to create remarkable wines—from the soil, to the climate, to the site’s exposure to the sun, to the vine itself. Upon first experiencing Sonoma, The Count knew immediately that this was going to be that perfect place for producing superb wines.

I agree!

Throughout the decades, The Count’s innovation and legacy have been passed down to others over the years; the property’s historic relevance and central role in California’s history kept the winery alive and producing wines during difficult years. And while others owned a produced wine on the property, it wasn’t until after World War II ended that the vineyards began their journey to a premium winery location.

However, after it was reborn, after Prohibition and first vintage in 1949, the winery and its owners began to promote innovation, championing new winemaking techniques to the state—including cold fermentation and the process of aging wine in small French oak barrels—thereby once again contributing to the rebirth of California’s incredible wine industry.

Our Mexican steak, homemade refried beans, roasted red peppers, sliced avocados and fresh fruit were a wonderful match to the Buena Vista The Count Founder’s Red Wine Blend.

Our first taste of Buena Vista Wine was just after we opened a bottle of 2014 The Count Founder’s Red Wine blend ($20). I popped the cork just after 2 p.m. and decanted it for 30 minutes before sending it back to the bottle. I wanted to open it up a little before sipping while we prepared dinner (a common practice of mine with young wines).

The fact is cooking and tasting both wine and the foods as we create is so important. While we often will look at up dozens of receipes in the planning process of our meals, we test taste, herbs, spices, simmering broths and sauces ALONG with wine to determine which food and wine pairings compliment each other.

The Count countered the spices in the beans and Mexican steak very well. You might also pair it with BBQ beef or country-style pork ribs.

Sourced from vineyards across Sonoma County, the 2014 vintage of The Count – Founder’s Red Wine offers aromas of rich, dark chocolate and soft baking spices, blending 8 varietals. Aromas include dark chocolate, dark berry, plum with hints of cinnamon and vanilla (baking spices). Nicely strucured and well-balanced, this wine has a long, dense finish that lingers long after the first sip.This immediately enjoyable wine will continue to evolve in the bottle over the next two to three years.

We paired The Count with pan-fried Mexican flat iron steak that we had covered with an oil, chipotle and cracked pepper run for a couple of hours. While those sat, we prepared roasted red peppers, cooked up a pot of spiced refried beans, sliced avocados and mangos and blood orange wedges.

Our second Buena Vista wine pairing coincided with a stormy, wet, and cold January night. We had planned on a second steak dinner the night before, opening the Cab, hoping to pair it with ribeye. However, the storm changed our minds.

The Chateau Buena Vista 2013 Napa Valley Cab. was silky smooth and we couldn’t help but start sipping while the soup simmered.

The weather report predicted an epic cold front and storm far beyond “dreary and wet” in the San Joaquin Valley a couple days later. So we were a bit nervous as we had already opened the 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) and were eager to try it, not wanting to wait another night.

“Is it versatile and pair with a hearty, Italian soup?” Oh boy, we were thrilled.

The Cab is rich, lush and opulent. Red currant, blackberry, black plum and black, dusty cherry with just a hint of chocolate and even coffee. The dark, subdued dark fruit flavors were delicious with the soup my wife calls, “Mimi’s Soup” after her great aunt who made the family recipe for nearly 90 years.

So Mimi’s Soup takes center stage: Chopped vegetables (whatever is in the kitchen, pantry and fridge at time of creation, including kale, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, stewed and/or fresh tomatoes, bits of potato) spices, white and kidney beans, orzo etc. We cook the Italian sausage separately with spices, onions and garlic (at the end), adding beef stock and top with Parmesan cheese.

This is a showstopper all around. Love how versatile the Cabernet is and I know this would pair well with lighter grilled meats. Wilfred Wong of Wine.com calls the 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon the “poster child” of the winery. He’s not far from the truth.

The 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley was lovely velvety goodness with “Mimi’s Soup”, a hearty Italian perfect on a stormy, cold January evening.

Buena Vista Winery joined the Boisset Collection in May 2011. Today, Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset is returning Buena Vista to its original glory with the complete restoration and re-opening of the champagne cellars, which have been unavailable to the public for over 20 years. Buena Vista wines are being driven to greater heights under winemaker Brian Maloney and winemaking consultant David Ramey, including the reintroduction of Sonoma, in honor of where it all began.

Our final Buena Vista wine actually was created as a Boisset Family Wine and from their collection in Champagne, France. Yes, they have a marvelous sparkling wine from France called Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne ($75!

The Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne is elegant, with honey and brioche aromas with stone fruit, pear and peach notes.

Later during our Buena Vista week, we had so much fun thinking about and pairing this Champagne with all sorts of foods and came up with three or four that really seemed to capture our attention. The sparkling was elegant and paired so well with an assortment of appetizers.

We set the table with sour cream & onion potato chips, sour cream and caviar, mixed Italian olives, puffed pastry and Brie with sour cherry preserves, and finally smoked salmon, cucumber, shallots over a dollop of Crème Fraîsch with dill, lemon oil and lemon peel on a Spanish Regains “Tapas” Sesame Cracker from Pardners Pantry, Atascadero.On a side note, I must admit, I did save a little Buena Vista Champagne for a late night popcorn and movie time. One of my favorite snacks all around.

Anyway, the sparking is sourced from 70% Pinot Noir Premier Cru vineyards from Montaigne de Reims, and 30% Chardonnay from Grand Cru Mesnil sur Oger and Chouilly.

Love the Champagne’s elegant mouthfeel with grapefruit, honey and brioche aromas. It is so well-balanced with white stone fruit, peach and peach notes. We really enjoyed this sparkling with so many different snacks. And, I know it will go so well with most anything.

The Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne is so versatile. The bubbly paired well with appetizers, including potato chips and caviar, Italian mixed olives, baked Brie and sour cherry preserves and smoked salmon, cucumber bites.

The Buena Vista wine cellars have undergone extensive restoration from 2011 to 2015 when the renovation was completed. Once again, Buena Vista is becoming the embodiment of the California wine world.

This is the vision that Count Agoston Haraszthy predicted 150 years ago and continues with Jean-Charles Boisset to today, and like many of his other visions for the Golden State, today it has come true.

The caves at Buena Vista Winery.

Today the hope and vision of The Count has been restored and reinvented again. Jean-Charles Boisset and his family purchased the Buena Vista Winery in 2011, beginning a two-year renovation that has refocused and renewed Buena Vista Winery into a world class site. They join a collection historic wineries as part of Boisset Family Estates. Buena Vista produces over 25 varietals of still wines as well as sparkling wines from both California and France.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

TalesoftheCork pre travel checklist for overseas visit

Help ensure a successful trip with these 17 touring tips

Whether you are a seasonal traveler or first time planner, a trip abroad is best when the pre planning stage is meticulous and calculated. Ever wonder why seasoned travelers seem to be at ease before they go abroad? Use this TalesoftheCork pre travel checklist and 17 touring tips before your next foreign country visit.

Whether you are traveling to Mersault, France (pictured), or Sydney, Australia, preparation can be the key to a successful trip abroad.

1) Use Safari Private Window or Chrome Incognito window when checking on flights, hotels and other websites you repeatedly use. Revisiting websites can result in higher costs.

2) While your can book flights up to 11 months in advance, a good rule of thumb is to buy a domestic flight anywhere from three months to 30 days in advance: 47-54 days typically is the prime booking window. Consider buying international flights 276-335 days in advance and buy a flight on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

However there is no magic potion here. Start watching flight costs and pull the trigger when it appears close to the optimal amount you care to pay. If you see a good deal, grab it.

3) Consider buying an “open jaw” flight when booking travel. Fly into one city and return from another. The airfare may actually be cheaper. Also check out budget airlines while overseas.

4) Do your homework. Check guidebooks and “know before you go” something to see or do each day. Many sites require reservations. And give yourself time to walk, take a train or bus, and food breaks in between sights you hope to visit. Rushing on vacation reduces a holiday to “worse than work” status.

5) Know the address and phone number of your embassy in the city and/or country you are visiting before you leave.

Another tip for travelers: When walking a town or village, take the time to explore views of the area from a high point. 

6) An adult passport is currently $110 and apply for your passport at least six weeks before you need it–add $25 for a first time passport. When applying for a passport, you will need an original copy of your birth certificate and two identical passport photos. If your passport will expire within three months of your trip ending, you are encouraged to get a new passport before you leave.

7) The U.S. Passports and International Travel site has a 10-point checklist before you travel overseas. Take the time to photocopy all documents, leaving a copy at home and another with a traveling companion, securing supplemental health/travel insurance, a letter from your physician for the medications you are bringing, check to see if you need a Visa for the country you are visiting at time of travel and if there are any travel warnings.

Explore regions which might challenge you like a visit to Liguria and the Cinque Terre, including Manarola (pictured). With a little planning and preparation, your next trip can be a success.

8) Contact your bank(s) and alert them you will be out of the country using your bank card. You don’t want them thinking it was stolen.

9) While it may be good idea have some local currency if traveling to a small airport overseas, the world uses ATMs and are widely available to exchange money using your debit card. You may be charged a 1% fee by your bank, but the rate of exchange should be close. The “no-fee” Bureau de Change exchange rates at the airport and in currency exchange kiosks are poor compared to bank rates. So, if you must, change only exchange enough money for your first day in a foreign country. You can use your ATM and bank cards to pull cash from your checking accounts when you get to your destination. Additionally, check with your bank card and inquire as to fees they charge for each use. It is probably better to use your VISA for purchases and ATM card for foreign currency withdrawal.

10) Most of us now take our phone with us wherever we go. Make sure you contact your mobile provider to secure a plan for overseas use. Discuss international calling, text, and/or data plan, and confirm voice and data-roaming fees.

11) Download the travel apps you hope to use on your trip before you leave. They are wonderful to use in WiFi and are a wealth of information.

12) Make a list of what is in your suitcase and photocopy it, giving a copy to your traveling partner and leave one at home. You might even write out serial numbers on pricer items and take photos of them.

While travel destinations and preferences may change, if you take an active part-time student role for each trip, you can self-guide your way to a relaxed vacation.

13) Leave a travel itinerary with someone at home and include the phone numbers and addresses of the hotels you plan on using.

14) Cancel or put on hold your mail, newspaper. Consider paying  bills ahead of time.

15) If you plan on renting a car, most countries require an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). You can secure one at most AAA offices. You will need two passport photos, a fee of $20 and show the clerk your state driver’s license. Fill out the application online, print it and bring it along for quicker processing.

16) Rail Europe has a great site for buying tickets ahead of time. You will save time rather than waiting in line at the station. You might consider longer trips via train.

17) Finally, while experienced travelers may opt not to use a passport or money belt, it is a good idea to use one. Especially in tourist areas and big cities, pickpockets and thieves prey on the naive and unsuspecting tourists. I used a money belt and/or a neck pouch to keep documents safe and tucked away.

While my travels over the last 20 years have helped me with this list, Rick Steves also has a great travel checklist. So whether you use my guide or someone else’s, meticulous planning will help ensure a successful overseas trip.

When thinking about a trip to Florence, be sure to cross the river and walk the streets up the other side for a fantastic view of the city.

For more travel related articles, be sure to return in the next couple of days as I will begin posting from our recent trip to the Cinque Terre in Liguria and Tuscany. In the meantime, read my June 26, 2016, post, Hot outside? Love me some Passaggio Rosé.

And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.