Jungle Love Vineyard, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley
When Dan Johnson worked as a young lawyer he met Richard Arrowood, the founding winemaker at Chateau St. Jean, and began dreaming of retiring in wine country with a vineyard of his own. Years later he and his wife Kim bought a Napa walnut orchard estate and immediately planted vines. By third leaf (2009), they were curious about the vineyard’s quality, and a neighboring grower and winemaker offered to make a barrel of wine in exchange for a barrel that he could use in his own blends. The wine was an immediate success and soon Dan and Kim were making plans to launch their own label.
Dan and Kim’s first vintage was in 2010 and they named their winery after the okapi, an endangered animal that lives in the tropical rainforest of central Africa. They explain, “Like our wine, it comes from only one small spot on the planet. We also like to note that okapis have long, purple tongues just like Cabernet drinkers! Since naming the wine, we have become ardent supporters of okapi conservation in Africa, and we give a portion of our sales to support that cause.”
The Johnsons count Blackbird, Lewis, Cunat, Corley, Fortunati, Biale, and Trefethen as their neighbors and in addition to their estate Cabernet Sauvignon they make Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé of Cabernet, three Cabernet blends, and Pinot Noir. Their wines are sold to consumers, restaurants, and retailers directly from the winery, except where distributors are required by law, but they are quick to point out that first priority goes to their club members.
When asked to comment on the wine previously sent to 672 Club members they stated “This is a special release from our library and this vintage is not available online or at the winery, except by special arrangement with the owners. It is representative of our vineyard, but because we don’t use a bunch of additives to make the wine consistent from year to year, each vintage is a pure expression of the vineyard and that growing season. We hope it will spark interest to try more of our wines.”
Dan and Kim continued, “We are small, and we like it that way. Over the years, we have built a devoted following, and new people discover us everyday thanks to Napa’s luxury tour guides and upscale restaurants that feature Okapi on the wine list. We have also made lifelong friends through events like Atlanta’s High Museum Wine Auction, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and small, intimate gatherings hosted by our club members in a handful of cities.”
Visitors can make an appointment to taste Okapi wine at The Caves at Soda Canyon with Dan and Kim personally by visiting their website www.okapiwines.com.