What if every decision you made for your winery had to be planned around ensuring that the estate property was thriving 100 years from now? Anna Pope has that mandate. As Trustee of the Frank H. Bartholomew Foundation, which owns and operates Bartholomew Estate Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma, California, Pope is charged with ensuring the 375-acre private park (open to the public) with winery remains financially sound and the land prospers.
We sat down on the tasting room patio with Anna for the podcast to learn about the park’s amazing history and evolution as a winery and to learn how she plans for its future.
Most Sonomans think of the town’s history as beginning with the construction of the Spanish Mission Solano de Sonoma in 1823 and, in 1833, with Mariano Vallejo’s arrival. The Bartholomew Estate vineyards occupy the most historic and fabled site in California viticulture.
In 1832, a Native American homesteader, baptized Viviano, planted the first privately owned vineyard in the Sonoma Valley on the banks of Arroyo Seco, two years before the founding of Pueblo Sonoma by Mariano Vallejo. This six-acre vineyard now forms the heart of Bartholomew Park, and the original vineyard site is now their prized Viviano Syrah Block.
Fast forward a few decades and a few owners of the land: In 1853, Julius Rose, a prominent attorney and land speculator, purchased the property. Rose made the first major expansion of the rancho’s vineyards, planting another 18 acres, for wine and table grape production. And Rose’s expanded vineyard won gold for best vineyard at the first California State Fair in 1854.
In 1855, Agoston Haraszthy sampled Rose’s wine. Its quality convinced him this was finally the spot to fulfill his decade long quest to produce European quality wines in America. Haraszthy purchased Rose’s vineyard and surrounding acreage and constructed the first wine caves in California (1857-58). He introduced dry-farmed vineyards, constructed the stone winery (1858), his signature villa (1859), and assembled his 6000-acre Rancho Buena Vista, planting over 200 acres to vineyards by 1860.
Eventually he was undone by a tiny vineyard pest: phylloxera began to slowly devastate the vineyards in 1874. During the ensuing years, new owners continued farming the vineyard until it became non-producing. It became a country estate, with owners Robert and Kate Johnson completing their 40-room Victorian “Castle” in 1883, converting the creekside vineyard into their formal lawn and gardens. It was the end of an era.
The estate passed through many private hands until it was purchased in 1919 by the state for the State Industrial Farm for Delinquent Women. The castle burned to the ground a few years later, and the property was abandoned for a number of years until it was purchased in 1943 by Frank H. Bartholomew as a gift for his wife, Antonia.
They had no idea that buried below weeds were the remains of a zinfandel vineyard. Upon learning of the property’s illustrious viticultural history and that they had acquired the storied Buena Vista Winery, they set out to restore both it and Count Haraszthy to their rightful places in California viticulture history.
The original Buena Vista Winery building was restored in 1946, and the more damaged Press House several years later. Frank and Antonia ran the resurrected Buena Vista Winery for several decades before selling it and 12 acres while retaining 375 acres including the historic vineyards, the hospital building, and forest land as their country residence.
But wait, there’s more!
Frank Bartholomew missed the winery business and founded Hacienda Wine Cellars in 1973, producing small lots of award-winning wines. He eventually sold his majority share to another investor, who in turn, sold the brand to Bronco Wine Company.
Realizing the value of the land as a vineyard (22 acres) and the bulk as forested wilderness (350+ acres), the Bartholomews created a foundation in 1980 to ...