The Life of Kanaye Nagasawa Samurai of Kagoshima, Winemaker of Fountaingrove, Santa Rosa, California
February 20, 1852 Birth and Training Hikosuke Isonaga (changed to Kanaye Nagasawa was born in Kagoshima, Satsuma, Japan. Son of a Samurai, his martial arts training began at 10 years, and he was a skilled warrior by 13. He was a brilliant student with a phenomenal memory.
February 13, 1865 Ordered to England Fifteen students, including Hikosuke, were ordered to go to England by the Daimyo of Satsuma to study Western ways and technology. This was in anticipation of the opening of Japan to westerners when such knowledge would be vital.
February 15, 1865 Awaiting Their Ship The student group went into hiding in Hashima Village. They were fugitives as they were planning to violate the Shogun’s prohibition against going overseas. All assumed new names and anxiously waited two months for their ship.
April 17, 1865 Voyage The ship arrived, and their 65 day voyage began. All arrangements were made by Thomas Berry Glover, a Scot, who was a successful merchant in Nagasaki.
June 21, 1865 Arrival Early in the morning their ship docked at Southampton. In the afternoon they went to London by train and were amazed at the splendid sights.
August 19, 1865 Sent to Scotland At thirteen, Nagasawa was too young to enter the University with the other students. He was sent to Aberdeen, Scotland, to live with the parents of Thomas Glover. There he entered secondary school, and records show that he was a top student.
Summer 1867 Funds Decreased In anticipation of the overthrow of the Shogunate, Satsuma increased its armament expenditures. Funds for the students decreased, and their economic situation was tenuous. All but six returned to Kagoshima.
August 1867 Thomas Lake Harris The students met Thomas Lake Harris, leader of the Brotherhood of the New Life cult in the USA. He offered them continued education in exchange for labor in his New York colony. Nagasawa and his fellow students accepted and crossed the Atlantic with Harris.
October 14, 1867 Meiji Restoration Secret orders were given by the Emperor to the Daimyo of Satsuma and Choshu to overthrow the Shogunate. The Meiji Restoration began. Emperor Meiji ascended the throne in 1868 and ruled until his death in 1912.
1867 – 1875 Brockton, New York Harris took the students to the Brotherhood’s colony in Brocton. The vineyards were a classroom for young Nagasawa, and he learned viticulture from an expert. In 1868 all but Nagasawa returned to Kagoshima for patriotic reasons.
July 1875 Fountaingrove Harris, Nagasawa and three others arrived in Santa Rosa seeking a new site for the colony. Four hundred acres north of Santa Rosa were purchased for $50 an acre. Construction began immediately on the Fountaingrove Ranch buildings. Later more acreage was added.
1878 Plantings Planting was completed. Wine grapes were planted on 375 acres and table grapes on 25 acres. Fifty acres were in pasture for cows, horses and pigs. Hay and grain filled 175 acres, and 200 were planted in olive and fruit trees.
1882 Fountaingrove Winery A massive stone winery with a capacity of 600,000 gallons was completed. It burned ten years later, but was rebuilt in six months.
1890 Nagasawa in Charge Harris left Fountaingrove to live in New York City. Nagasawa was now master of the ranch and winery. He was an excellent vinter, and his knowledge of viticulture was prodigious. Fountaingrove became one of the ten largest wineries in California under his leadership. Most of the wines were shipped to New York for international distribution. The first California wines introduced into Great Britain were from Fountaingrove.
1896 – 1927 Joined by Relatives Nagasawa never married. In 1896, his nephew, Tomoki Ijichi, came to Fountaingrove. He married Hiro Umeda in 1917. Their son, Kosuke, was born in 1919, and a daughter, Amy, in 1927. Two other nephews joined Nagasawa—Eikichi Sasaki in 1902 and Kiichi Isonaga in 1916.
Assisted Countrymen A pioneer in the Japanese immigration movement, Nagasawa worked with the Consul in San Francisco to gain entrance for his countrymen. Many were directed to the Sacramento Valley, and some were employed at Fountaingrove. From 1890 to 1910, the Japanese population in California increased from just over 1,000 to over 40,000. Over half were farmers. By 1920, one eighth of all California farmland was owned or leased by Japanese, and thirty-five percent of the grape crop came from them. The most prominent Japanese grower and winemaker was Nagasawa.
1899 Roundbarn Of the many Fountaingrove buildings, the ruins of the winery remain, as well as the Round Barn, which was built to house sixty horses.
1897, 1910, 1917, 1923 Visits to Kagoshima Nagasawa made four trips to Kagoshima. There he was hailed as the “Grape King” of California. The Santa Rosa Community referred to him as “Baron” or “Prince.” The term “Samurai,” the elite warrior class of Japan, was misunderstood as royalty.
1900 Fountaingrove Sold to Members Harris arranged to give control of his worldly holdings to the few active members of his cult. Fountaingrove Ranch and Winery were sold to Nagasawa and four other members for $40,000. Thomas Lake Harris died in 1906.
1908 Phylloxera Phylloxera invaded the Fountaingrove vineyards, which were replanted with a resistant root stock from the U.C. Experimental Station. While waiting for the vines to mature, grapes were purchased and winemaking continued. By 1911, 400 acres were bearing again.
1915 Chosen For Jury of Awards – Panama-Pacific International Exposition Nagasawa was asked to serve on the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition Jury of Awards by the Commissioner-General of Japan. He was chosen for his expert knowledge of wines and the good impression he made upon Americans, personifying the industry, ability, and cordiality of Japanese people.
January 1920 Prohibition Manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors was prohibited by the 18th Amendment. Nagasawa produced grapejuice, cooking sherry, and a tonic of beef extract with a port wine base. He continued to entertain guests from all over the world and served fine wines from his private stock.
1907, 1913, 1923 Anti-Alien Laws Laws prohibited aliens from owning land or having guardianship over a minor. Nagasawa was a land owner prior to their passage and was not affected economically, but he could not leave Fountaingrove to his chosen heir, Kosuke Ijichi.
February 11, 1924 Medals Emperor Taisho of Japan conferred on Nagasawa the decoration of the Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of his work at the Exposition. In 1928, the Japanese Government conferred on him the Commemorative Medal of the Grand Ceremony of Accession of Emperor Hirohito. The Fifth Order of the Sacred Treasure was awarded to him posthumously by the Emperor.
1933 Repeal The 18th Amendment was repealed. Nagasawa set up a branch office in Los Angeles, and his agent there was responsible for distribution of Fountaingrove wines.
March 1, 1934 Death Kanaye Nagasawa died of arteriosclerosis. The night before, his family gathered and he whispered, “The transition is near now …and it shall be beautiful.” He had admired Harris and tried to understand his doctrine, but the impressions of his Japanese heriage and the broad philosophical concepts of Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism were stronger. He had remained a Samurai, esoteric and theosophical. His ashes were placed in the family grave in Kagoshima.
1935 – 1937 Fountaingrove Sold Wallace Ware, his trusted attorney, was instructed to liquidate the estate and distribute the proceeds among the heirs. The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce purchased 85 acres in 1935. In December 1936, Errol MacBoyle purchased the remaining 1768 acres and all that Nagasawa had owned. Unexpectedly in early 1937 the Ijichi family was forced to leave immediately. They took what they could carry and stayed with Santa Rosa friends.
Distribution of Estate Sales of the Estate totaled $118,050. Various claims, attorney fees, and funeral expenses totaled $66,160. The will gave Ware $25,000 along with attorney fees. The Probate Court also awarded him a large additional sum despite the Ijichi Family’s claim that he had not earned it. This left only $3,500.12 to be divided among five heirs.
1979 Development of Fountaingrove In 1979, 1270 acres were sold for $15.4 million. Portions have been sold to developers for office buildings and homes. To honor the memory of Kanaye Nagasawa, Teachers Management and Investment Corporation reconstructed the Round Barn and built the Japanese-style Country Club.
1983 Friendship Associations Formed In order to renew Nagasawa’s efforts to tighten the cultural bonds between his homeland and his adopted land, citizens in Santa Rosa formed the Friends of Kagoshima Association. At the same time, the Friends of Santa Rosa Association was formed in Kagoshima. The historical exhibit of Kanaye Nagasawa and Fountaingrove at Paradise Ridge Winery aims at keeping this important piece of history alive.
Historical information of Kanaye Nagasawa’s life and Fountaingrove Ranch gleaned from Kanaye Nagasawa—A Biography of a Satsuma Student by Paul Akira Kadota and Terry Earl Jones, published by Kagoshima Prefectural Junior College, Kagoshima, Japan, 1990. Compiled by Fern Harger, 1997.
(timeline provided by the Friend of Kagoshima Association)
Kanaye Nagasawa Exhibit is located at Paradise Ridge Winery 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Dr. Santa Rosa, CA 95403 (707) 528-9463
- Profile of Nagasawa, with photographs, by Paradise Ridge winery owners Marijke and Walter Byck.
- "From Samurai to Grape King - A Japanese Pioneer in California" (Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco)
- "The First Asians in Ithaca" (Ithaca Asian American Association)
- Describes how Nagasawa (born Hikosuke Isonaga) left Japan in 1865, traveling through Scotland to Ithaca, New York, where he became associated with utopian religious leader Thomas Lake Harris. When Harris relocated his Brotherhood of the New Life to Santa Rosa, California, Nagasawa was assigned the task of cultivating grapes and sustaining the new colony.
- "The Brotherhood and the Baron" In: Sonoma Confidential: Stories from the Archives. Museums and Schools Program Educator Guide, Kindergarten-Grade 12. Sonoma County Museum, 2005. (PDF)
- Lynda Lin, "74 Years Later, an Honor for California's First Japanese American Winemaker". Pacific Citizen (August 3, 2007).
- "In his lifetime, Kanaye Nagasawa brought international recognition to California wine and gained nicknames like the "Grape King" and the "Baron of Fountaingrove." Seventy-four years after he died shrouded in disappointment over racist land laws, the California city he loved toasted their famous vintner once again by honoring his name."
- "Nagasawa Community Park Grand Opening Celebrated". Nichi Bei Times (August 9, 2007).
- Excerpt: "The opening ceremony of the Nagasawa Community Park was held July 28. The 33-acre park is dedicated to the memory of Kanaye Nagasawa, a samurai of Satsuma (Kagoshima) Japan and a prominent Sonoma County viticulturist-enologist and pioneer of U.S-Japan relationships."
- "Park to Be Named After Kanaye Nagasawa". Hokubei News (July 27, 2007).
- Mildred Howie, "A Suitable Memorial". Wine Words (July 10, 1996).
- Describes efforts by winemaker Walter Byck and his family, owners of Paradise Ridge Winery, to commemorate Nagasawa by naming one of their vineyards after him.
- "North Bay Digital Collections" (Sonoma State University)
- Includes digital images of materials from the collection of Gaye LeBaron, an author who wrote several articles and one small book about Nagasawa.