THE HARASZTHY MYTH
WHEN THE MATTER CAME UP IN THE PRESS IN MAY 1885, THE FIRST thing anyone should have asked was, “Well, can't someone show me where Colonel Haraszthy mentioned the Zinfandel in his voluminous public writing on California wine?” It had been almost seventeen years since the extraordinary Hungarian had quit California for Nicaragua, where he apparently was devoured by alligators a year later. But he was well remembered as the man who, more than any other, had filled the Northern California press between 1857 and 1866 with letters, articles, speeches, and interviews on viticulture and winemaking. But if Agoston Haraszthy ever uttered or wrote the word “Zinfandel, ” not a trace of it remains, or remained even in the 1880s, except in the imagination of his son, Arpad Haraszthy.
The basic biographical data for the father has never been in question. It can be found in any good library in the Dictionary of American Biography, volumes that contain few, if any, nobodies. Haraszthy is truly an important figure in the history of the American West. 1 But what I and other writers have termed the “Haraszthymyth, ” orlegend, has at tached a powerful set of “facts” to the basic data. Added to the misinformation concerning the Zinfandel, we find the belief that Agoston Haraszthy was the father of the California wine