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Weaverville Chinese family
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Early Contacts

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Chinese Americans in California:

Haraszthy Buena Vista Winery
Sonoma, Sonoma County

The Haraszthy Buena Vista Winery is located in Sonoma. The wine cellars consist of two main buildings of cut stone, with classical symmetry and low-pitched shingle roofs. The focal point of the facade of each building is a broad, arched doorway, wide enough to admit a horse-drawn wagon. One of the two main buildings is a two-story structure with an arched window on the second floor above the doorway. This window is flanked on either side by two rectangular windows. The front of the building is covered by a thick growth of ivy. There are two signs on the building: "Haraszthy Buena Vista Vineyards" in the second floor central window, and "Buena Vista Sherry Solera" in an arched window on the south gable. A second building is a three-story building of similar design in cut stone with a heavy growth of ivy. A sign, "Haraszthy Cellars," hangs over its main doorway. Inside the buildings are wine storage tunnels cut into the hill behind the buildings.

The two buildings are at the end of a narrow road that passes by some of the vineyards owned by the winery. The buildings face west, and are surrounded by tall trees.

In 1857, Chinese workers employed by "Colonel" Agoston Haraszthy, reputed father of the modern California wine-growing industry, dug a tunnel into a hillside on his Buena Vista vineyards in order to store some 5,000 gallons of wine. They built a second tunnel in 1858, and a third in 1862. In an article in the San Francisco daily newspaper Alta California, July 23, 1863, a reporter observed "Chinese grubbing out oak saplings" at the Buena Vista winery so the vineyards could be enlarged. In the champagne cellar, he saw "four Chinese, filling, corking, wiring, etc. champagne bottles." He also mentioned, "There are now in progress, three new cellars, close to the press house. These are all being blasted and excavated by Chinese. They are to be twenty-six feet wide, thirteen feet in height and three hundred feet long." Chinese workmen were furnished to the Buena Vista Winery by Ho Po, a San Francisco labor contractor. They often plowed the soil, pruned the vines, and excavated tunnels at night, if the heat of the day was too oppressive.

It is estimated that viticulture in California would have been set back 30 to 50 years without Chinese vineyard workers. Although grape vines are now pruned to waist height, they were originally pruned to a foot and a half above the ground. This forced the picker to kneel or to bend his back to a painful angle. Many non-Chinese laborers could not or would not perform stoop labor. About 1890, pruning customs changed, and there was much agitation to replace Chinese workers with White laborers.

Haraszthy Buena Vista Winery
Haraszthy Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, Sonoma County

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