History of the Demostene Ranch


The Demostene family has a long history in Healdsburg, and in the wine industry.  It began when Manuel Demostene and Abele Ferrari both arrived separately from Italy in the early 1900’s.  Their paths had not yet crossed but time would show that their destinies are linked.

Manuel Demostene moved to Healdsburg in 1902 where he found work on Santo Botti’s ranch. Santo died shortly thereafter and a few years later, in 1906, Manuel would marry his widow, Julia, taking possession of the ranch.  Around the same time, Abele Ferrari arrived and purchased what is now known as the Healdsburg Machine Shop. Then in 1925, he purchased the run down Soda Rock Winery, refurbishing it after prohibition.

my great grandfather abele ferrari at 98 and 25

Abele Ferrari at 98, holding a picture of himself at age 25.


Abele’s daughter, Rose, graduated from UC Berkley in 1934, and was determined not to marry a farmer. That changed when Manuel’s son, Leo Demostene, asked her to dance, and swept her off her feet. Rose and Leo married in 1936. At the time, Leo was helping run his father’s ranch, and he continued to do so until 1943 when they moved into the Victorian house in front of Soda Rock Winery. There they raised four children (Ed, David, Peachie and Cindy) while running the ranch and winery. All of the kids helped from early on. Ed fell in love with tractors while David gravitated towards winemaking.

Leo Demostene in 1937

Leo Demostene, 1937


Rose and Leo bought the 113-acre Sausal Ranch in 1956. One of its distinguishing features was that it had the oldest documented zinfandel vines in Alexander Valley (Thompson’s Historical Atlas of Sonoma County published in 1877 shows their block was already planted at that time). In the mid-1960s, Rose and Leo were able to help buy two additional nearby properties for their boys, Ed and David. Ed’s property consisted of 25 acres and, lucky for him, already had a block of old vine zinfandel and carignane on it.

The Demostenes’ lives changed dramatically in 1973. Leo passed away early in the year. His children, Ed, David, Peachie, and Cindy decided to go forward with his plans to convert the old prune dehydrator that was on the property into a winery. That year Sausal Winery had its first crush, and Soda Rock Winery had its last.  The family would go on to run the winery for the next forty years.

Ed on Sausal Ranch b4 the winery was built

Ed Demostene at the Sausal Ranch before the winery was built


The family decided to sell the Sausal Winery and Ranch in 2012.  Ed retained his original 25 acres, and focused on teaching his daughter, Leisa Demostene, everything he knew about growing grapes. Leisa has a degree in biology that helped teach her dad a few things too. Together they blended the best of old and new practices. In 2015, Ward Willis joined the team, and with Ed’s approval, took over some of the tractor work on the ranch. Ed passed away later that year, and Leisa and Ward continue the family legacy, giving special attention to that block of old vine zinfandel and carignane that are now over 100-years-old.

Our inaugural vintage, the 2016 Demostene Ranch, was produced specifically for our ATP members.

Categories: Vineyards

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