Count down – Tokaj approves Sonoma as Sister City

Close to 50 people turned out for last week’s Sonoma-Tokaj Sister Cities organizational meeting. Pictured here, Nicholas Bartsch, Honorary Consul of Hungary in Sacramento, George “The Count” Webber and Sister Cities President Bill Boerum.

As Count Haraszthy’s 200th anniversary approaches, Sonoma is preparing for a grand celebration.  First on the agenda, being approved as a Sister City to Tokaj, Hungary, the town at center of the world famous Tokaj wine producing region.  The news was delivered in a letter exchange between Janos Majer, Mayor of Tokaj sent to Sonoma Mayor, Joanne Sanders.

Said Majer, “The main motivation of the partnership will be the spreading of wine culture, the cooperation of wineries and that of touristic entrepreneurs. We would like to add that we see further perspectives in cultural, educational, health care, industrial and social relation as well.”

Bill Boerum, president of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association, said that the association’s board of directors previously had voted to support formation of the Sonoma-Tokaj Sister Cities Committee and was now seeking a date on the Sonoma City Council’s calendar for consideration of the relationship.

“This initiative is further evidence of Sonoma’s increasing international allure in the world of wine, said Boerum. “If approved by the City Council, Tokaj would be the fourth premier wine city we are connected with, among them, Chambolle-Musigny in Burgundy, France, Greve in Chianti in Tuscany, Italy and Penglai in Shandong Province, China.”

The relationship developed from a visit last November to Buena Vista Winery by members of a Hungarian trade and tourism mission and the dinner meeting with Jean-Charles Boisset, the new owner of Buena Vista. The Hungarian delegation included Sandor Fazekas, Minister of Rural Development of Hungary and Ambassador Balazs Bokor, Consul General of Hungary in Los Angeles. The Buena Vista group in addition to Boisset, an international wine entrepreneur from Beaune, France included Tom Blackwood, Director of Retail Operations of Buena Vista and George Webber, who portrays Count Agoston Haraszthy at the winery and at promotional events around the United States telling the story of Haraszthy’s life. Webber is the chair of the Sonoma-Tokaj Sister City Committee.

Haraszthy, a native of Hungary, is universally regarded as “The Father of California Viticulture” and is the single most important European to begin California’s hugely successful wine industry.  He founded Buena Vista in 1857. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Count’s birth and will be marked by a grand celebration at the winery on September 1.

Webber recently conducted the organizational meeting of the committee and has scheduled the next meeting for Thursday, March 22 at 6 p.m. at Buena Vista. Anyone interested in joining the committee and attending can reach Webber at or 260.9511.

Webber, who professionally has portrayed a number of historical figures including Charles Krug and General Mariano Vallejo, commented on his portrayal of Agoston Haraszthy: “It is a great honor to portray this exceptional man; he was a visionary who rightfully deserves the accolades showered upon him. We are fortunate indeed in Sonoma to now have another European in our midst – the new owner of Buena Vista: Jean-Charles Boisset. He has generously agreed to sponsor the activities of the Sonoma-Tokaj Sister City Committee, and assist in furthering the activities of this fun and exciting volunteer opportunity. “I invite anyone interested in joining our merry group to come to the next meeting on March 22 at Buena Vista!”

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