Agoston Haraszthy, an immigrant from Europe founded the Buena Vista Winery in 1857. Haraszthy proclaimed himself “The Count” of Buena Vista. Coming from Europe, he was outspoken about the rights of Chinese workers. He continued to employ the Chinese even after threats were made against his life; some so relentless he began carrying a firearm on his hip at all times. Though an innovator and a man ahead of his time, the Chinese he employed were still paid much less than the average white man: $8 per month to the White laborers $30. Even a man as progressive as Haraszthy benefited from the unequal pay between White and Chinese laborers.
The Count was supportive of Chinese labor not only because they were great workers and he could pay them less, but they did not suffer from the “bottle flu”. In other words, they did not deplete his inventory of wine. He also did not have to provide their meals as they had their own diet consisting of rice, fish, pork, and vegetables. This is unlike the White laborers who would often partake in the wine they made, needed lodgings, and were provided meals by The Count.
Nearly everything at this time was done by hand and the caves were no different. With pick in hand, each cave was dug out of the large mountainside and took many different men. In fact, when looking at the pick marks still present in the solid rock, one can note different angles and stroke depths from the many hands it took to dig this cave.
Not only did the Chinese accomplish the difficult task of digging into a mountain, they also took care of the grapes grown to make the wine. The soil was turned regularly so the moisture stored within it could be released back into the vines. This was done so that flooding of the crop was less necessary; an innovative move by The Count in a time where flooding was the method to use.
The winery was in operation from 1857-1877 and was reopened after the Prohibition. The Count met a sad end when, exploring in Nicaragua, he fell into the river and was eaten by crocodiles in 1869.