Hungarian TV Visits Sonoma

Their documentary on historic winemaker Agoston Haraszthy can be seen via the Internet after March 15.

Visitors to Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma encountered something a little different on Thursday—a Hungarian TV crew.

The crew from Hungary's national channel "MTV" was filming a documentary on Agoston Haraszthy, the winery's founder. The channel is not to be confused with the American "MTV" music channel, Judit Koltai, one of the crew, explained.

"That's been a problem for us," she said. "But the Hungarian MTV has been around since the 1950s." MTV is an abbreviation for the Hungarian name of the channel.

Koltai said the documentary will be called "Hungarian World Star—Portrait of Count Agoston Haraszthy."

Haraszthy was a Hungarian immigrant, who established the winery in 1857. The location is a State Historic Landmark, considered the oldest premier winery in California. Haraszthy is known as the father of the California wine industry, having brought vines back from Europe to plant here.

The documentary is due to air on TV on March 15. It will likely appear on the TV channel's website after that, so anyone in the world can see it via the Internet, Koltai said.

The TV crew stayed in Sonoma for about a week. In addition to shooting footage at the winery, they did an interview with Vallejo "Val" Haraszthy—the "Count's" great-great-grandson and they recorded at Vallejo House and the surrounding area of vineyards and countryside.

Haraszthy was born into nobility in Pest, Hungary. He was not truly a Count, according to this biography by Sonoma State University (SSU). His father was highly educated and spent most of his life in the wine business.

"In California, Agoston planted a vineyard, operated a livery stable, stage line, and butcher shop," the SSU biography states. "He became the first town marshall, first county sheriff and builder of the first city jail in San Diego. Haraszthy's attempt to collect county taxes at Agua Caliente ultimately resulted in a violent Indian uprising and martial law in San Diego."

Haraszthy served in the State Assembly in the 1850s. He did not seek re-election and later moved to San Francisco, the biography notes.

In 1861, he traveled to Europe to collect and purchase grapevine specimens, commissioned by the State Legislature.

Two of his sons married two of General Mariano Vallejo's daughters in Sonoma.

Haraszthy died in Nicaragua when he went there to set up a sugar cane plantation. It is believed he fell off his horse while crossing a river and was either swept out to sea or eaten by an alligator, according to the SSU biography.

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