As AAPI month comes to a close I wanted to highlight two Asian owned businesses. Alkali Rye and Mikami Vineyards. Alkali Rye is a beverage shop on Grand Avenue that highlights underrepresented makers. Kori Chen is one of the owners.
What inspired you to open Alkali Rye?
KC: I opened Alkali Rye with my business partner, Jessica Moncada Konte. She and I have worked in the food and beverage industry for many years now.
And we thought about a retail business that highlights a lot of the drinks that we love and also the rhythm of how we kind of drink throughout the day. So we call it a beverage shop. We like to start our day with coffee. We also like to drink a lot of tea during the day, have some wine or a cocktail at night.
How do you decide which beverage makers and producers to support here?
KC: We taste a lot. It’s a tough job. It has to be delicious. But we also have a mission at Alkali Rye, to try to be intentional about working with underrepresented producers or people that are being very intentional and values driven, with how they approach their practice and their businesses.
You are also champions for sustainable agriculture and you carry Mikami Wines. A little background on Mikami Vineyards. Jason Mikami of Oakland is the founder of Mikami wines. His grandfather immigrated to Lodi in 1896. He spent his time farming grapes until 1942 when Jason’s grandfather and father were forced into a Japanese internment camp in Arkansas and had to give up their property.
Jason’s mother was in Hiroshima, Japan and is an atomic bomb survivor but suffered burn injuries. Unfortunately, her brother died. When his Dad and Father eventually returned to Lodi in 1945 they went back to growing grapes, the only work they knew. However, because of various laws they didn’t own the farm anymore and had to rent it. Finally they saved enough to purchase the farm back in the 50’s and in 1963 they expanded as a result of their hard work to 15 acres of land in Lodi. Jason Mikami is the owner and founder of Mikami Wines.
How did Mikami vineyards start?
JM: Yeah, it goes back almost 120 years now. It started with my grandfather, who immigrated from Japan to California in 1896, and eventually that led to a life in grape growing. The grape growing tradition has gone, until carried on by my father before me. And then when my father passed away in 2004, it was my turn to figure out what to do with our family vineyard and that led to a decision to start making wine in 2005. We released our first vintage 2008.
So what is it like being a third generation grower?
JM: Yeah, I think it’s something that I’m really proud of in the sense that if you look at the Japanese-American community and growing up in Lodi, we were one of very few and now there’s even less. So to be able to carry on a tradition of farming all the way from my grandfather to now and hopefully one day potentially passing along to my daughter, it’s something that I’m really proud of.
What motivates you to keep farming?
JM: For me, farming is really a way to honor my father and grandfather. If you think about the immigrant experience, they had to do a lot to be able to get to the point where they own their own vineyard, and can sustain their family. So for me, being able to carry on that tradition that my grandfather started is really important to me.
While you’re honoring your father and your grandfather, you’re also winning a lot of awards. Tell me about that.
JM: Yeah, we’ve been very fortunate to win a number of gold medals from the San Francisco Chronicle. And in addition to that, our Zinfandel and Petite Sirahs have also won 90 point plus awards from Wine Enthusiast as well. So we’re very proud of that. Awards aren’t everything, but it’s something that validates our work.
Who should I interview next for Local with Lisa? If you have a suggestion I’d like to hear it! Or if you’d like to talk about real estate and want to know your home’s current market value, I’m happy to provide you a complimentary assessment. Get in touch!
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