Sunday, July 5, 2009

North to Santa Rosa – Nagasawa Park and the Paradise Ridge Winery

I was recently asked to write an article about US/Japan relations for a Japanese publication, and as part of that wanted to include the story of Kanaye Nagasawa, who was born in 1852 in Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu in southern Japan and, through a very circuitous route, ultimately made his way to the Santa Rosa area north of San Francisco in 1872 where he was one of the founders of the California wine industry.

Nagasawa's accomplishments were recognized during a speech made by President Ronald Reagan before the Japanese Diet during a visit to Japan in 1983 as follows:
"The Pacific Basin represents the most exciting region of economic growth in the world today. Your people stretch your abilities to the limit, and when an entire nation does this, miracles occur. Being a Californian, I have seen many miracles hardworking Japanese have brought to our shores. In 1865, a young samurai student, Kanaye Nagasawa, left Japan to learn what made the West economically strong and technologically advanced. Ten years later he founded a small winery at Santa Rosa, California, called the Fountaingrove Round Barn and Winery. Soon he became known as the Grape King of California. Nagasawa came to California to enrich our lives. Both our countries owe much to this Japanese warrior-turned-businessman."

The winery that Nagasawa helped to establish no longer exists today, but the property

where the winery existed is close to the Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa and the Winery has a small exhibit of photographs of Nagasawa and related memorabilia at its tasting building. In addition, Paradise Ridge has named its wine making building the Nagasawa Building, and one of its vineyards the Nagasawa Vineyard. They produce an excellent Chardonnay from the grapes grown there.

Friday was a beautiful day and since I was going to be in Petaluma and needed some pictures to accompany my article, I decided to drive up to Fountaingrove, both to visit the Nagasawa exhibit at the winery and to see the Nagasawa Community Park which was opened in 2007 and dedicated to Nagasawa’s memory. I first stopped by the park, which is on the shore of Fountaingrove Lake and is quite a pretty spot.

I then drove the short distance to the Paradise Ridge Winery where I visited the Nagasawa exhibit. I had met Walter Byck & Marijke Byck-Hoenselaars, the husband and wife who founded Paradise Ridge on a visit to the winery in 2005, and appreciated the efforts they had made to honor Nagasawa’s memory.

Sadly, Marjike was killed in a traffic accident in 2006, but the Byck’s children remain active with the winery. The Paradise Ridge tasting building is set on a hillside with a beautiful view from its terrace to the west across the vineyards to the Russian River Valley.

I also took some time to visit Marijke’s Grove next to the winery building and its wonderful sculpture garden, currently featuring works by a number of artists, including Gale Wagner, Ron Rodgers, Robert Ellison and, in particular, the “Rootings” exhibit by Bruce Johnson, several pieces in redwood and copper.

Since it is not in the heart of the Sonoma wine producing area and is in a relatively developed area, I am afraid that Paradise Ridge may be overlooked by some. However, both the excellence of its wines and the beauty of its surroundings are deserving of attention. Paradise Ridge's wines are not the easiest to find in wine stores, but one place I know in San Francisco that usually has a good selection is Wine Impressions in the Laural Heights Shopping Center.

1 comment:

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