The French Connection

My paternal grandparents (August and Marie) were born in the foothills of the southern French Alps and emigrated separately to this country at the end of the 19th century. Born in towns barely six miles apart, they or their families knew nothing of each other in the “old country.” My grandparents met at a cow camp in Rock Springs, Wyoming where she was a camp cook and he a cattle drover. He was eight years her senior. She was seventeen. They married a year later and

The Saurets in 1919 - Oak Flat
L-R Marie,(?),Elise, Edmond, August, Lucille, August

returned to my grandfather’s place in Oak Flat, relocated for a few years to Sebastopol, California (like Rock Springs and other places a haven for French immigrants who needed “sponsors” in order to move about), and raised their family of four. The background photo on the label was taken from our property. Oak Flat is to the left (south and west), in the foreground. Oak Flat was Sauret country in those days and there were lots of us. Oak Flat also has beautiful little canyons and in those days live streams on the banks of which grew oaks, watercress and mushrooms and a profusion of wild flowers and herbs. My grandparents planted grapes and dozens of fruit trees on their small ranch.

In 1919 the United States embarked upon the Nobel Experiment which was Prohibition. This banning of alcoholic production and consumption made absolutely no sense to my grandparents. They had been making homemade wine for years. My grandfather had a small still which he used to make some “medicinal brandy” from time to time. They were upright productive citizens well-known in the then tiny town of Paso Robles. Soon after Prohibition began, some locals began to stop by the ranch to see if my grandparents had any wine or brandy which could be purchased.

And so it was that my grandparents blithely ignored the obvious risks and went into the business of making something they knew how to make already and a product which suddenly was in great demand. They hid the still in the picturesque creek bed. They had the best kind of “protection” – no Mob here – Sheriffs, judges, city councilmen, even ministers were their clientele. When Prohibition was finally repealed it was the saddest day of my grandparents’ lives. Years later my grandmother told me that they had a large sum of money in banks and other places when Prohibition ended. “We would have had more but Papa drank too much of it and gave too much away” my grandmother would complain later.