Sonoma County in California, along with neighboring Napa, has long been acknowledged as one of the best wine-growing regions in the world. However, California might not have achieved such fame in wine production if it weren’t for the little-known story of a Japanese immigrant by the name of Kanaye Nagasawa.

Nagasawa, who was nicknamed “Wine King of California” at the turn of the 20th century, was born into a samurai family, smuggled out of Shogunate Japan as a child, and joined a religious group. He was in charge of one of California’s largest wineries, which produced more than 200,000 gallons of wine each year from the grapes on the 2,000-acre Fountaingrove estate. The vineyard was successful almost immediately, but the commune—which dubbed itself “Eden of the West”—made headlines in San Francisco for its drunken parties that ultimately led to Thomas Lake Harris’ resignation. After Harris left, Nagasawa bought the estate and immediately rose to fame in the state’s developing wine industry. He also made history as the first Japanese national to establish a permanent residence in the US.

Not many people are aware of Nagasawa’s legacy. The greatest and simplest obituary for this exceptional man, however, may be the one placed by his family on the plaque at Nagasawa Park, which summarizes his life in just four words: “Samurai Spirit in California.”