Planning begins for Count’s 200th birthday bash

Count Agoston Haraszthy, who founded Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery in 1857, was born in 1812 in the Hungarian town of Tokaji. The connection between the adopted home of “The Father of California Viticulture,” and the European city of his birth, 200 years ago, is the focus of a group of volunteers now forming.

Plans are underway for a grand celebration of Haraszthy’s 200th birthday at Buena Vista Winery on Sept. 1, 2012. A committee is forming to include the Count’s hometown in the celebration and create a Sonoma–Tokaji Sister City relationship.

An introductory meeting will be held on Thursday, February 16 from 6 to 7 p.m. Free and open to anyone interested in hearing more about the volunteer activity, the meeting will be held at the winery’s Historic Press House at 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma.

This idea was sparked when a high-level group of Hungarians visited Buena Vista on a trade and tourism mission in November. Participants included: Rural Development Minister Dr. Sandor Fazekas; Ambassador Balazs Bokor, Consul General of Hungary in Los Angeles; and several wine company principles from Tokaji, Hungary’s world famous wine district. The guests were hosted by the new owner of Buena Vista Winery, Jean-Charles Boisset, along with Tom Blackwood, director of Retail Operations, and Sonoma History Actor George Webber, who has now taken on the role of The Count.

“We are looking specifically for Hungarians living in the greater Bay Area, who could help us in making the Hungarians feel at home and converse in their own language,” Webber said.

If formed, the Sonoma-Tokaji Sister City Committee will plan and present a fundraiser in early summer as well as the Count’s 200th Birthday on Sept. 1.

Webber said it is also hoped that the Sonoma- Tokaji Sister City Committee will create fruitful and rewarding relationships between organizations and individuals in the two “justly famous wine country cities.”

The Sonoma-Tokaji Sister City Committee would be formed under the auspices of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association. For information call Webber at 707.694.5097.

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