Life of an extraordinary business person

FLIGBY’s player takes on the role of the General Manager (GM) of an imaginary midsize wine business in California. As the recently appointed GM of the “Turul Winery“, the player faces the challenging task of having to achieve a state of harmony and co-operation in a team significantly weakened by internal conflicts. This great adventure takes the player actually to the West Coast, but few people know that the story of the Californian wine-business was started by a Hungarian entrepreneur, Agoston Haraszthy.

Wine, I’m your father – Agoston Haraszthy

haraszthy-agostonCount Agoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian nobleman born in 1812 in Budapest, came to the United States in 1840. Early in 1849, he was elected captain of a train of wagons destined for California via the Santa Fe Trail. Although most California-bound travelers were lured westward by dreams of gold, Haraszthy said that he was going to California “to settle, not for the gold,” and that he intended to plant a vineyard near San Diego. Traveling with his entire family, he left Wisconsin in March, 1849 and arrived in San Diego the following December.

While in San Diego, Haraszthy imported grape vines by mail. Some came from the eastern United States, others from Europe. He also planted a vineyard on a tract of land near the San Diego River. On April 1, 1850, in the first election held under the new American administration of California, Haraszthy was elected sheriff of San Diego County. He also served as city marshal. In his capacity as a private contractor, he built a jail for the city of San Diego, which was completed in 1851.

On March 25, 1852, Haraszthy began to buy real estate near Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) in San Francisco. He tried raising grapes in San Francisco but found the climate too foggy. He acquired a large tract of land near Crystal Springs on the San Francisco Peninsula (now part of San Mateo County) and planted it to vineyards, but eventually gave up the effort to make wine there, again finding the climate too foggy to ripen the grapes. In both San Francisco and Crystal Springs, Haraszthy continued to import a wide variety of European grape vines and experimented with their planting and cultivation.

In 1856 Haraszthy moved to Sonoma, about fifty miles north of San Francisco, and bought a small vineyard northeast of the town and renamed it Buena Vista. He moved his vines there from Crystal Springs and began to expand the vineyards. In 1857, he began to bore tunnels into the sides of a nearby mountain and build stone cellars at their entrance. He eventually had two large stone winery buildings, equipped with underground tunnels and the latest wine-making equipment in California. Haraszthy’s cellars at Buena Vista were the first stone wineries in the state. In 1857 his attention was called to the vineyard of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo at Sonoma. At the time Haraszthy made his first appearance at Sonoma in 1857, Vallejo was the leading vintner.

In 1856, a ship sailed through the Golden Gate with thousands of cuttings of Europe’s choicest vines — the Flame Tokay, Zinfandel, Muscat of Alexandria, Seedless Sultana, Black Morocco — all selected by Haraszthy. That Zinfandel grape is now the most planted grape in California. Haraszthy bought more land and named his new domain Buena Vista or “Beautiful View Again.” By the end of 1857 he had more than tripled the total grape acreage of Sonoma Valley. In that single year he had planted 80,000 vines on about 118 acres.


In Sonoma, Haraszthy became friendly with Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, the former comandante general of Mexican California, founder of Sonoma, and a neighboring landowner and well-respected winemaker. On June 1, 1863, the Haraszthy and Vallejo families were united in a double wedding, with two of the Haraszthy sons marrying two of the Vallejo daughters. In that wedding, Natalia Vallejo became Mrs. Attila Haraszthy, and Jovita Vallejo became Mrs. Arpad Haraszthy. One of Agoston Haraszthy’s grandchildren was actress Natalie Kingston.

In 1868, Haraszthy left California for Nicaragua to develop a large sugar plantation near the seaside port of Corinto, Nicaragua, where he planned to produce rum and sell it in American markets. On July 6, 1869, he disappeared in a river on his Nicaraguan property. Whether he fell into the river and was thereafter washed out to sea, or was dragged under the water by alligators which infested the area, was never finally established. His body was never found.

Haraszthy was an outstanding character in his era, with a grand-style of thinking. He was even acknowledged by John Tyler, US President, who dedicated an evening reception to his honour.

His American fans claim „Count Haraszthy” was well known for his quick thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and concern for social issues. A love of the soil, never ending energy, ingenuity and avant-garde thinking might be considered keys to Agoston Haraszthy’s over-all success as a businessman and as a citizen with international interests and perspective.