When Tomohiro Kisaichi told his friends and family he wanted to abandon his cozy life in Japan and move abroad to become a winemaker, they thought he was crazy.

“They were all opposed to the idea,” he said. But the young romantic had already concluded he “did not want to waste his life selling wine.”

He wanted to make it.

After working for several years selling beer, wine and spirits at a shop owned by his parents in Osaka, Kisaichi moved his wife and 4-year-old daughter to France, where he could apprentice as a winemaker.

Nearly two decades later, “Tom,” as he is known by his wine industry acquaintances, and his wife, Rebecca, own and operate a successful winery and vineyard in Sonoma County in the heart of California wine country.

He will soon be coming to Japan to show that his dream, once derided as “maboroshi,” meaning a frivolous hallucination, has become reality.

Organized by his importer in Japan, Kisaichi’s tour will take him through Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo to promote the prizewinning Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made and bottled under his label, Maboroshi Wine Estates.

The wine-promotion tour is the culmination of a personal journey for the husband-and-wife team that has been anything but easy.

They met in Osaka while she was on a student exchange from the United States. They married shortly after she graduated and lived in Japan until 1991, when he decided he wanted to become a vintner.

“I was very impressed by wine,” Kisaichi said. “And I knew I didn’t want to waste my life selling it.”

So in 1991 the family picked up and moved to Burgundy, France, where he all but went knocking door-to-door to find work. He was eventually taken in by Charles Rousseau, proprietor of Gevrey-Chambertin’s Domaine Armand Rousseau.

It was under Rousseau’s tutelage that Kisaichi learned the winemaking skills — from pruning the vines to topping the bottles — of an Old World master.

“It was a nice experience,” Kisaichi said, but he complains that as a foreigner the French did not treat him very well and the weather was “too cold.”

After France, the couple set their sights on sunnier prospects in the wine country of Sonoma County.

They enrolled together in viticulture and enology classes at the University of California, Davis in 1992. Graduating one year later with a formal degree, he was hired by Michel-Schlumberger Winery in Healdsburg, Calif.

Meanwhile, his wife had developed a passion for viticulture, and to this day she is responsible for the care of the Maboroshi Wine Estate vines. Additionally, she consults with SL Cellars in Sonoma as a winemaker.

“Some winemakers say that making wine is like raising a child,” Kisaichi says. “By the time we go to bottle our wine, it is like seeing a child graduate from college.”

But life as a winemaker is not always as smooth as the wine itself.

For Kisaichi, difficulties with the English language and the unpredictable weather in a region known for extreme heat in the summer and sometimes too much rain in the fall and winter have given him some hardship over the years.

Making wine also forces the couple to negotiate their individual tastes for the sake of producing a good product.

“I’ve worked with my husband for many years and it’s always been a challenge because we have completely different winemaking styles,” Rebecca Kisaichi said. “But, overall we agree on general tastes.”

After nearly two decades of hard work, the label is doing well and the Kisaichis have no plans to abandon their maboroshi dream. Their two children, now 19 and 11, help with the many daily tasks it takes to keep the production running.

“Sometimes it would seem easier to just go back to Japan,” Rebecca said. “But Tom is so happy in California. I don’t think he’ll ever want to leave.”

Maboroshi Wine Estates ( www.maboroshiwine.com ) attracts about 50 visitors a year from Japan, where Kisaichi sells more than half of his wine.

Kisaichi will be in Japan promoting his wine from late this month.

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