Smith: Kin of Nagasawa return, bear gifts to charred Fountaingrove

The group from Japan at the Paradise Ridge Winery.


Silently and reverently, visitors from Japan took in the devastation of the Fountaingrove Round Barn and Paradise Ridge Winery.

These were special guests. They came as an official delegation from Santa Rosa’s sister city of Ichikikushikino in the prefecture of Kagoshima.

Among them were descendants of Kanaye Nagasawa. One of the first Japanese to step foot in America, Nagasawa was living and making wine at Thomas Lake House’s hillside utopian colony in Santa Rosa when he oversaw construction of the round barn in 1899.

Nagasawa died in 1934 but remains hugely important to Japanese, certainly to those on the visit to Santa Rosa. They expressed their sorrow at the destruction of the round barn and of the historical exhibition at Paradise Ridge that included Nagasawa’s Samurai training sword.

Winery founder Walter Byck was walking with the visitors, describing his family’s plans for rebuilding, when they handed him two envelopes. He thanked them, thinking to open the envelopes later.

One contained a letter of greeting and consolation from the mayor of Ichikikushikino, who told of eagerness by people there to help with reconstruction of the Nagasawa exhibition at the winery.

In the second envelope: 55 $100 bills.

Walter said staffers of the Sonoma County Museum stand ready to help recreate the exhibition, and he’ll be happy for them to have the thicker of the two envelopes.

An aside: With the fiery loss of their winery and Nagasawa exhibition, the Bycks thank the stars that a few years ago they donated a number of Kanaye Nagasawa artifacts to the museum in Ichikikushikino that preserves his remarkable story on that side of the Pacific.


THERE’S A SONG on YouTube that David Benjamin Gruenbaum titled, “I Love Santa Rosa.” It’ll be the concluding number at school choral concert next week that could be the sweetest thing ever.

Students from the Strawberry Elementary chorus, Slater Middle School chorus and Montgomery High chamber singers will come together for the I Love Santa Rosa Benefit Concert, a brainchild of songwriter Gruenbaum.

The concert starts at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8, at Strawberry School. Guests are asked to donate $3 each, with proceeds going to school families that have struggled since the October fires.


FOR 25 BUCKS we can keep relief flowing to many fire survivors who still need it — and get a shot at winning $25,000.

Members of the region’s Rotary Clubs began providing assistance to people who suffered setbacks in Lake County’s Valley fire, and since last fall have distributed $1.4 million to people reeling from the North Bay fires.

To encourage donations to the Rotary District 5130 Fire Relief Fund, club members are selling $25 tickets that entitle purchasers to take part in a drawing April 9 — the six-month anniversary of the firestorms.

The winner will take home the $25,000 prize. If you’d like to buy a ticket, or a few, drop an email to

And if you suffered uninsured losses and need help getting back to work or onto your feet, you can apply for a Rotary grant of up to $5,000 online at

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and