In 1943, when the property still contained the grounds of the Buena Vista Winery, the property was purchased by newspaper magnate Frank Bartholomew and his wife Antonia, and they restored the original winery building and press house. In 1968 the Bartholomew’s sold the small parcel of land on which Buena Vista Winery is located. After that sale Frank started Hacienda Cellars with partners, and Hacienda remained in operation until the late 1980s.
Frank and Antonia established the Frank H. Bartholomew Foundation to preserve and protect the land as a Private Park open to the public, and expressly directed that as long as it is economically feasible the Winery Building and Vineyards be maintained in operation with a focus on educating the public about California grape growing and winemaking. After the Foundation was formed, they transferred title to the land now known as Bartholomew Park to the Foundation, and Anna Pope currently serves as Trustee.
In the early 1990s the Foundation leased the 2 acres site on which the Estate Winery now stands to the Vineburg Company, which operated in the space until fall of 2018. In the spring of 2019, Bartholomew Estate Winery (owned by the Foundation and winemaker Kevin Holt) officially opened its doors to the public.
A Place For Restoration – The Bartholomew Estate Winery Building
One hundred years ago, the State of California purchased the current BEW winery site and the surrounding 640
acres for $50,000 to establish the State Industrial Farm for Delinquent Women, an experiment in women’s penal reform: care, confinement, reformation. The “fallen angels” would be “restored to physical health first, then not turned loose on the community to be a menace, but trained and shown their own capacity for clean living” with healthful farm work close to mother nature. The wayward women would be housed in the 30 room Johnson mansion known as the Castle; however, the property needed additional infrastructure, most importantly, power, water and a hospital to treat the prostitutes, drug addicts, and “loose women” sent here to be reformed.
In 1921, as part of a job creation bill to employ returning WWI veterans, the Legislature appropriated $40,000 to construct a hospital and dam on the property. The dam formed the beautiful lake in the redwoods that is a popular Bartholomew Park hiking destination on the trails behind the winery. The Mission-style hospital was completed in early 1922. However, the wayward women experiment was short lived, ending when the Castle burned to the ground in March 1923. However, the hospital would become a beloved Sonoma Valley institution.
The building became part of the Sonoma Developmental Center, housing epileptic patients until it was shut down on the eve of World War II. When the Bartholomews purchased the property at auction in 1943, the only hospital in the Sonoma Valley was an obsolete facility on Burndale Road. Prior to the sale, a local group of doctors unsuccessfully lobbied for a community hospital at the site. However, the Bartholomews saw the need and agreed to lease the building to the newly-formed Sonoma Valley Community Hospital district.
After a successful tax measure was overwhelming passed, the new Sonoma Community Hospital, renovated and outfitted with the latest equipment, opened in 1946. It would serve Sonoma residents for over a decade until the current hospital was built in 1957. We continually hear from visitors who were born here. When the old hospital closed, the building was used as a convalescent home until the Bartholomews established Hacienda Cellars winery here in 1973.
With Hacienda Cellars, the building began its history as the home of premium estate wines. At Bartholomew Estate Winery, we are once again reviving this historic structure with an intention of making it a place of comfort and restoration, where visitors can escape the constant pressure and noise of today’s 24/7 news cycle, sipping great wines while soaking in the unique beauty and quiet atmosphere of this special place.