Site founded Sept. 1, 2000. We passed 3.5 million page views on Oct. 10, 2009
The home pages remain free of any charge. We need donations or subscriptions to continue.
Please pass on this website link to your family, relatives, friends and clients.

(SLSE Railroad)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Free Home Page Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

(Click to send email)

Introducing our Food and Wine Portal:
Sausal, Sonoma, old Zinfandel and all that jazz

(Gnarly Zinfandel vines)
Gnarly old Zinfandel vines at Sausal Vineyards. Click on the photo for a much larger version.

      About 35 years ago, while I was living in The City and mainly partying on Fillmore, at Bill Graham's joint and The Fillmore itself and the jazz clubs up and down the street, I got a wakeup call about "domestic wine." That was the Mediterranean Summer of San Francisco, as my friend, the late Doug Martin, used to call it. I had tasted many of the finest California wines, from Robert Mondavi's Fume blancs — and David Stare's Fumes in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley — to Andre Tchelistcheff's sensational Bordeaux blends at Beaulieu to the fat Chardonnays crafted by brash young fellows like Mike Lee at little-known Kenwood in Sonoma's Valley of the Moon.
      Having learned about the truly noble grapes while living and traveling in Germany and France a decade earlier, I bought mainly table wines but I yearned to see dozens of wineries in all the unique valleys and micro-climates of California, to see them wipe that smirk off the Froggy faces. About a year before Steven Spurrier did exactly that with Mike Grgich's equally brash, beautiful baby Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena, I picked up the Bay Guardian one day and got that wake-up call.
      I wanted a bold zinfandel from grapes planted before Prohibition. I had tasted a lot of wonderful red table wine — with zinfandel as a leader in the field mix, that was inexpensive and the ideal complement from dishes all the way from Juanita's Fetters Hot Springs Stew, to spicy pizza, cheeseburgers and prime rib, but I sought a zinfandel that would actually soar. I grew up watching Bald eagles winter practically in my backyard, after all. One that would continue to soar until the new millennium. And the reviewer, whose name escapes me, pointed me in the right direction. Due north, he pointed like Horace Greeley; follow the Northern Star to the vineyards of Sausal in Alexander Valley.
      So I jumped in my Chevy Nova, conned my sales office into thinking that I was on my way to close an important computer sale and I drove up 101 to what has been my Mecca ever since, the twin to my later home, the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma.

    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2010, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2001) by donation too. Thank you. Thank you.
      The reviewer was right. In those folding feminine hills that remind many of pocket valleys in the Rhone and Italy, the Demostene family showed me vines that had weathered many decades. Some of the zin vines were planted the year that the War to End All Wars broke out in Europe, and some were even older, planted while Teddy Roosevelt gained fame as a Rough Rider. They were gnarly, they were stingy in their yield of blue-black, beautiful berry fruit; they looked like miniature oak trees. I was at home. Observing small, tightly knit wineries and vineyards during crush time crossed the boundaries of the arts to me. Julie Childs was the food artist who knew intrinsically how to marry wines to her cuisine. And young artists were seen in the hills and valleys all over Sonoma County, starting in the late 1960s. I used to love to take jazz-musician friends for winery tours. They literally drank in Sausal as well as the handful of neighbor wineries in the late 1970s, from David Stare in Dry Creek Valley to his irascible near neighbor, Barefoot Davis Bynum. And sometimes they would go back to The City and improvise on the themes they saw in the vineyards. The call and response of a small jazz group; the musicians whose play their voices like instruments; the teamwork of a jazz quartet all of that can be seen in the syncopated work from vine to cellar that still goes on at small family wineries. Like Miles Davis playing his trumpet as if he were Pan, or Dionysus, the Greek God of wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy.
      Through an unusual series of events, I later became a wine writer in Sonoma County and went on to direct the Washington Wine Institute when I returned home almost a decade later and published the first wine newspaper in Washington state. But I always knew where I had to return. No matter how much I love the Merlot and Syrah, and now the Sangiovese, grown in Washington, Alexander Valley always beckoned me.
      While recuperating from cancer and surgery, I finally returned after 25 years, in 2009. My heart was leaping out of my chest as we drove up the road. My driver was my dear friend, Greg Martin. Back when I read that review and followed the directions nearly 35 years earlier, we popped many corks together, but neither he nor I could read back then the future. We certainly did not know that he was destined to marry Cindy Demostene, the cute little gal who was laughing and dancing in the vineyards the first day I visited. She and her siblings have lived out the dreams of their ancestors and parents, Manuel and Leo Demostene and Abele and Rose Ferrari. And then some, as those old Italian families used to say.

(Sausal label)
      I can barely express my joy when I saw those old vines again, now 90 and 115 years old. And the wines they produced almost made me cry; I was that happy. The whole family has been full of hard workers for at least three generations since the elders emigrated from Genoa, Italy. They are no different today, except that they have defied the odds and maintained their quality to this day. The "Big R's" still dominate the headlines of the wine mags, led by their Sonoma neighbors Ridge and Ravenswood, and I reveled my time in those vineyards too, but my heart will always be close to those gnarly trunks in Alexander Valley.
      The visit last summer was so invigorating that it inspired me to write my first wine review and travelogue in nearly 20 years, now that I write mainly about history of the Pacific Northwest. But this, my friends, is history in a glass. See a reprint of that review, included in the pages of the nearby Hanchett family's Cloverdale Reveille (northern Sonoma County), reprinted at this web site: Page 1 . . . Page 2.
      P.S. I'm returning again in 2010, and I hope to return often for the rest of my life, The Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise.


Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on Feb. 1, 2010 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them


Getting lost trying to navigate or find stories on our site?
Read how to sort through our 700-plus stories.
Return to the new-domain home page
Links for portals to subjects and towns
Newest photo features
Search entire site
Our new weekly column, Puget Sound Mail (but don't call it a blog)
debuted on Aug. 9, 2009. Check it out.
(bullet) See this Journal Timeline website of local, state, national, international events for years of the pioneer period.
(bullet) Did you enjoy this story? Remember, as with all our features, this story is a draft and will evolve as we discover more information and photos. This process continues until we eventually compile a book about Northwest history. Can you help?
(bullet) Remember; we welcome correction & criticism.
(bullet) Please report any broken links or files that do not open and we will send you the correct link. With more than 700 features, we depend on your report. Thank you.
(bullet) Read about how you can order CDs that include our photo features from the first five years of our Subscribers Edition. Perfect for gifts.

You can click the donation button to contribute to the rising costs of this site. You can also subscribe to our optional Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online, which enters its tenth year with exclusive stories, in-depth research and photos that are shared with our subscribers first. You can go here to read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research or read how and why to subscribe.

You can read the history websites about our prime sponsors
Would you like information about how to join them in advertising?

(bullet) Our newest sponsor: Cygnus Gallery, 109 Commercial St., half-block uphill from Main Street, LaConner. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 5 p.m., featuring new monthly shows with many artists, many local. Across the street from Maple Hall, 1886 Bank Building and Marcus Anderson's 1969 historic cabin. Their website will be up in early 2010.
(bullet) Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 89 years.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20, day, week or month, perfect for hunting or fishing
Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley
(bullet) Joy's Sedro-Woolley Bakery-Cafe at 823 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley.
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First section for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.
(bullet) Are you looking to buy or sell a historic property, business or residence?
We may be able to assist. Email us for details.

Looking for something special on our site? Enter name, town or subject, then press "Find" Search this site powered by FreeFind
    Did you find what you were seeking? We have helped many people find individual names or places, so email if you have any difficulty.
    Tip: Put quotation marks around a specific name or item of two words or more, and then experiment with different combinations of the words without quote marks. We are currently researching some of the names most recently searched for — check the list here. Maybe you have searched for one of them?
Please sign our guestbook so our readers will know where you found out about us, or share something you know about the Skagit River or your memories or those of your family. Share your reactions or suggestions or comment on our Journal. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit our site.

View My Guestbook
Sign My Guestbook
Email us at: skagitriverjournal@gmail.com
(Click to send email)
Mail copies/documents to Street address: Skagit River Journal, 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, WA, 98284.