Lodi’s best days ahead (thanks to Mark Chandler!)

Mark Chandler

On January 1, 2012 the Lodi Winegrape Commission – representing over 750 Lodi region growers plus over 80 wineries – will embark on a new era with the departure of Mark Chandler, the organization’s first and only Executive Director since its establishment 20 years ago.  Mr. Chandler, who has privately been telling friends simply that “it was time,” has composed a farewell in his succinct yet sincere fashion (a long admired signature!) for our readers on lodiwine.com:

To all my friends and friends of Lodi wine:  what a wondrous change we see when we look at Lodi today compared to 1991 when the Winegrape Commission started! It is something we can all be proud of.  Even with all our success I think Lodi’s best days in the world of wine are still ahead of us.  It has been a terrific journey, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to unfold.  Cheers!  Mark

Mr. Chandler will be missed – because he was the face of Lodi for so many years, to many colleagues within the American wine industry he was Lodi wine – but at the same time, the seeds towards multiple goals originally initiated by the commission as a whole have indeed germinated, and well on their way to full fruition.

  • Raising awareness of the Lodi wine region among influential media:  although certain individuals in the established wine media remain slow to grasp the full extent to which winegrowers have harnessed Lodi’s ideal Mediterranean terroirs – more than doubling plantings of Vitis vinifera, from about 46,000 acres in the mid-nineties to over 100,000 acres today – the groundswell of positive consumer response has slowly but surely led to the point where Lodi is now generally spoken of as a unique, and serious, winegrowing region.
  • Enhancing recognition of the Lodi region through expanded use of the Lodi appellation on wine labels:  thanks especially to Chandler’s unceasing efforts, almost every winery that sources wines primarily from Lodi (federal law requires that at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must be grown in the specified area if an American Viticultural Area, or AVA, is referenced on a wine label) now proudly carries either an Lodi designation, or a Lodi designation along with one of Lodi’s seven official sub-AVAs.  Today, wineries like Woodbridge even boast of Robert Mondavi’s “return” to Lodi in nationally televised advertising!
  • Facilitating communication between growers and vintners concerning characteristics of quality, continuously enhancing the value of Lodi’s grapes and wines.
  • Conducting proactive viticultural research programs to maintain Lodi’s technological leadership in the wine grape industry.
  • Identifying and encouraging implementation of environmentally benign and economically viable pest, weed, disease, and cultural strategies through the district-wide sustainable viticulture program:  now recognized as Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing, widely imitated as California’s first ever third party certification process.

Then, of course, there is the widely acclaimed Lodi Wine & Visitor Center:  the first stop for many a first-time visitor to Lodi wine country.

Iconic Lodi old vine

Added all together, the achievements of the Chandler-led Lodi Winegrape Commission seem almost staggering.  As current Executive Committee Chair Bob Lauchland reminds us, “under Mark’s leadership the Lodi region has prospered… the number of wineries in Lodi has grown tenfold to over 85, and today the Lodi appellation is proudly displayed on some 500 premium wines that are found nationally and internationally.”

Bravo, Mr. Chandler!

The industry-wide search for a new Executive Director will take place with care and deliberation over the first few weeks of 2012.  In the meantime, Mr. Chandler reassures everyone that he will remain in the Lodi region, where he will be starting up his own marketing firm.  His wife, Jan Chandler, is another powerful presence in Lodi, having enjoyed a successful career as President/CEO of San Joaquin Sulphur Co., while also serving as Board President of Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Mark Chandler’s efforts may have transformed Lodi, but is there any doubt that there is much more to come?  Just try and stop us!

4 Responses to “Lodi’s best days ahead (thanks to Mark Chandler!)”

  1. Jon Bjork says:

    Cheers to all of the amazing accomplishments by Mark and his team! Mark was very instrumental in helping me to network and get my start in the Lodi wine industry, and I will always be grateful for that. I wish him great continued success with his new consulting firm.

  2. Debbie Elliott-Fisk says:

    Mark will be very much missed! His vision for the Lodi AVA and support in proposing and seeing through the creation of the seven AVA’s within the Lodi AVA was inspiring. Mark has truly been a force in putting Lodi on the map and in our glasses – thank you! And best wishes for a continued productive future!

  3. This tribute is well deserved and to which I must add my own.
    I first met Mark in 1998 when he received the first of several groups of UK sales people I had brought over on a learning trip around the California vineyards. We were all impressed by the elequent exposee we were given on the history, geography and philosophy of the Lodi region and its people. Since then I have been a regular visitor to taste the wines and and receive updates from him with his trademark quiet authority and enthusiasm. Lodi and its winemakers have been fortunate indeed to have had Mark Chandler as its Executive Director.

  4. Annalisa Sharp Babich says:

    Mark Chandler has accomplished an incredible amount when it comes to bringing awareness to the Lodi Wine region. He spear headed so many events we are now so proud to have held here in Lodi and look forward to every year. When I moved back to my home in Lodi , Mark was one of the first people I met. I admired his vision. He was accessible, welcoming and sincere.- I will personally miss Mark at the Wine Commission. Mark, I wish you health and happiness and success in all of your endeavors!

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