As a young lawyer Dan met Dick Arrowood, then the winemaker for Chateau St. Jean, while handling a legal matter. After the trial, Dick invited Dan to visit the winery, and that fateful introduction to wine and wine country living led to a desire to - eventually - make Napa Valley his home. Dan found a kindred spirit in Kim. She was first drawn to the wine business as a college student, and then again when a hotel industry job brought her to Napa Valley to learn about dining trends from wine country chefs.
Together they transformed an overgrown walnut orchard into a vineyard in 2006. With the help of neighbors and new friends, they learned about technical essentials like rootstocks, clones and trellising as they went along. Each season and vintage that followed challenged them to keep learning. For people who are used to making things happen in the corporate and legal worlds, allowing nature to take control has been a profound lesson in patience and adaptability - one worthy of lengthy exploration over a glass of fine wine.
With the expert guidance of vineyard manager Mike Nuñez, vintners Dan and Kim Johnson planted their vineyard on a small piece of rich, fertile land in 2006, and launched their label seven years later with the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. They met winemaker Ted Osborne through friends whose Chardonnay they admired, and found he shared their interest in responsible stewardship of the land and a low-intervention approach to winemaking. He soon earned responsibility for all Okapi wine production.
Dan’s passion and palate drive the whole enterprise. He works closely with the winemakers on everything from fermentation strategy, to choosing the right strains of yeast, to selecting barrels for reserve designation, to blending the Cabernet with other varietals to achieve a different kind of magic.
Kim manages the business side of things by welcoming visitors, nurturing club members, and engaging with restaurants, retailers and other organizations to get the micro-boutique brand noticed in a world of corporate conglomerates.
TED OSBORNE & JON JONES
Rising star winemaker and Santa Barbara surfing legend Ted Osborne oversees production of Okapi in a state of the art winery near our vineyard. Collaborating with the great Jon Jones, Ted’s international resumé informs every aspect of the science and art of making Okapi.
From the very beginning, Mike has brought his expertise to the cultivation of Jungle Love Vineyard. Managing thousands of acres in wine country, he always has time to spend on our tiny two, and he shares our dedication to sustainability in everything we do.
Jungle Love Vineyard is just 1.7 acres of creative trellising (“divided bilateral”) and smart design by Mike Nuñez to allow close planting and optimal sun exposure. This allows us to hand-cultivate 2000 vines of three different clones in a small space. We belong to the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, known as the “sweet spot” of the valley between cool Carneros and the intense heat upvalley. Our sometimes-foggy mornings give way to bright sunny days and bright, big flavors in our wines.
The well-drained soil is warm and rich: an ancient alluvial fan that is gravelly in places, but mostly loamy clay. We owe the superb quality of Okapi to this unique location. Okapi wines reach a balanced ripeness with bright acidity, great texture, fruit-forward aromas and elegant flavors, because of long hang time and fewer temperature extremes.
This combination of characteristics gives our wines a strong sense of place – they come from just one small speck on the surface of the planet. We’re like the okapi in that way.
Mysterious okapis, relatives of the giraffe, live in the mountain rainforest of central Africa. Their zebra-like stripes and solitary ways make them nearly impossible to find in the jungle. They inspired the name of our wine because they represent nature’s unlimited imagination, and elegant flair for the rare, exotic and unique.
Like giraffes and Cabernet tasters, okapis have long purple tongues. These are useful for stripping delicious leaves off of trees and vines, and come in handy for cleaning ears, too. Adults are about six feet tall, with lovely faces and gorgeous velvet coats of dark chestnut or mahogany. Their fur is so thick and oily (to repel rain), that it will hold your handprint for a few moments after you touch it.
The stripes on the okapi’s forelegs and hindquarters are thought to camouflage it in the forest, and may also help a calf follow its mother through dense foliage. Historically, the okapi was known to the people with whom it shared the forest, but was undiscovered by scientists until 1900. European explorers were looking for this creature rumored to be a horned horse – maybe even a unicorn!
It is unclear how many okapis survive in the wild today. Most estimates say around 15,000.
We support the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, which was established in 1992 to help protect the habitat of the okapi and its incredible biodiversity, as well as local indigenous people, the Mbuti pygmies. The Reserve encompasses 13,700 square kilometers of the Ituri Forest in the northeastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the very heart of Africa. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 1996, the Reserve represents a global effort to preserve rare plant and animal life and a significant human culture. By donating a portion of our proceeds to okapi conservation efforts, we are also helping to defend this region from the destructive forces of deforestation, illegal mining, poaching and civil unrest that plague this country.