The Elder Statesmen

Remnants from the earliest days of California’s wine industry dot the Sonoma landscape. These rich relics add more than just a few bottles to the county’s annual production -- they add to the tapestry that is the romantic history of an industry that could use a bit of grounding.

I don’t think anyone alive today can vouch for the oldest vines in the county, but some can venture a guess as to the oldest vineyard plots. Many vie for the title, so I’ll give you a group that together represents the oldest of the old-timers.

Martin Ray Winery

While the Martin Ray Winery has gone through a few iterations, it can trace its roots back to 1881 when it was originally founded as the Twin Fir Winery. Martin Ray stakes its claim as the oldest continually operating winery in Sonoma County. They were able to stay open during prohibition by selling “training” wine to rabbinical students. I can’t make this stuff up, folks!

Gundlach Bunschu

Gundlach Bunschu is the oldest family-owned winery in Sonoma, and in all of California for that matter. Founded in 1858 by Jacob Gundschu it was the first winery and vineyard in Sonoma to be planted by someone other than the Christian Missionaries, and, for obvious reasons, its vineyards are among the oldest in the county.

Buena Vista Winery

The title of oldest winery in Sonoma, though, rests with the Buena Vista Winery, which beat old Jacob by just a year. Founded in 1857, it remains as the oldest winery in all of California.  The Buena Vista of today really has very little to do with the Buena Vista of the past -- they source all of their fruit from Carneros, using none of their original vineyards, but the name endures and the work done by the winery’s Hungarian founder, Count Agosthon Haraszthy, set the stage for much of what was to follow.