5 Artisanal Wine Producers
Born and raised in Lodi, Mikami’s grandfather came to Lodi from Japan in 1895. He worked as a laborer, a job his father also toiled in, raising his family in a tiny Westside Lodi house with a small 15-acre vineyard.
Two-thirds of the vineyard were originally planted to Tokay—a seeded table grape once the dominant crop here which fetched $100–150 a ton—but there were also four acres of old Zinfandel.
In 2005, Mikami’s father died, passing the baton to Jason, who earned a degree in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley, later adding an MBA from UC Davis.
Mikami replanted the vineyard to Zinfandel exclusively, and before long, produced some wine, about 100 to 150 cases a year.
“When I was growing up, there were a ton of Japanese-American families farming grapes in Lodi, none of them ever did wine,” Mikami says. “It was something I wanted to do for my father and my family. Most of my generation went to college and left. I think I’m one of the few to come back and try to do something here in Lodi.”
He works with winemaker Kian Tavakoli, formerly of Opus One and Clos du Val. They use a small portion of the estate-grown Zinfandel, aiming for lower yields in those blocks than in the rest of the vineyard, which supplies grapes to Gallo.
“I didn’t want to create the bomb, I wanted a little more balance,” Mikami says. “We try not to overwhelm with alcohol.”
Plans are to grow to 2,500 cases over the next five years and perhaps turn his childhood home into a tasting room, where visitors might also wander through the family’s historic vineyard.
“A lot of people into wine think of Lodi as the Napa of say, two decades ago,” Mikami says. “The people who come out for Lodi events like the small, startup aspect of it—it’s not so commercialized. There are a lot of boutique wineries, and people are finding the quality is definitely improving.”