April 16, 2021
By Bruce Neyers
A 54 year-old ‘Shot-Wente’ selection Chardonnay vine at the Yamakawa Vineyard on Watmaugh Road in Sonoma County’s Carneros District.
All of us at Neyers Vineyards were saddened last week to learn of the recent death of Jim Yamakawa. Jim was a long-time grape supplier to Neyers Vineyards, and he passed away on March 24 at age 92. We began to buy grapes from Jim in 2000, and over the past few years he was the single largest supplier of fruit to Neyers Vineyards. His block of old-vine, ‘Shot-Wente’ selection Chardonnay was often 50% or more of our Neyers Vineyards Carneros District Chardonnay bottling. Our arrangement with Yamakawa Vineyards will continue with his son Del, who has spent most of his adult life working with his father in the family business.
Jim was born in Sonoma and has always been a man of the soil, having worked with grapes or other agricultural products since childhood. He seemed to relish his outward appearance of simplicity, but his wisdom was widely known and respected throughout the community. His skill as a grape grower was unmatched, as were his genial nature and devotion to his family. His late wife Mary, a native of Sebastopol, predeceased him by five years. Together they were legendary gardeners, and during our early trips to their vineyard it was difficult to leave without our car being loaded-up with baskets of fruits and vegetables they had grown. In my years of buying grapes in northern California, no one I’ve met had more integrity as a businessman, or a greater sense of fairness in their dealings with others. He was a remarkable individual, and he will be missed.
Del Yamakawa, Jim’s son, between journalist Randy Caparosa (left) and Neyers winemaker Tadeo Borchardt (right).