China's Consul General Gao Zhansheng made a trip to Lodi on Wednesday, visiting the Wine and Visitors Center and two local wineries.
Zhansheng toured with members of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco to learn more about the local wine industry, and build relationships to help facilitate trade between Lodi-area companies and China on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.
Costa Rica Consul General Manuel Escoto also visited Lodi as part of the trade visit.
The tariff on wine imports to China was recently reduced to zero percent, providing wineries with a chance to expand their international distribution.
Frank Gayaldo, an international wine broker based in Lodi, worked with other local business partners to bring Zhansheng to the area prior to the Hong Kong International Wine Fair on Aug. 14. Eight Lodi wineries will be attending the tasting fair, two of which were visited during Zhansheng's stop, which lasted for a brief two hours.
After arriving at the Lodi Wine and Visitors Center, the consul general and his staff visited Abundance Vineyards. Once there, Zhansheng learned first-hand how the grapes would be harvested in about one month.
Owner Dino Mencarini spoke with Zhansheng about the process of the harvest, crush and bottling of the wines. He also spoke about climate conditions in Lodi.
Mark Chandler, the executive director of the Lodi Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, said that Zhansheng'a visit was a unique opportunity to expand Lodi's presence on the worldwide market.
"This brings an awareness among the Chinese that they can look to Lodi as their taste for Western life grows," Chandler said. "The critical element to the success in China is establishing these relationships early on."
Escoto joined the tour because his nation has just recently established a line of trade with China. Several local wineries have already enjoyed success in opening the Costa Rica market for fine wine.
"It's always nice to come to this part of California. When we have visitors, they are brought to Lodi, not Napa," Escoto said. He pointed out that Lodi growers and winemakers will take dignitaries into the vineyards and give them a hands-on experience. He added Napa vineyards are generally off-limits to visitors.
Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, will be leading a group of area businesses to Costa Rica in January. In addition to Lodi wines, Holz Rubber products and a line of pipes have been exported to Costa Rica.
Having been on an initial trip to China last year, Patrick found the potential for a relationship with China exciting.
"We've got the biggest wine-producing region and they have the future's biggest wine-drinking region. We need to get together," Patrick said.
After a stop at Van Ruiten Family Winery for a quick tour and wine tasting, the group returned to the Wine and Visitors Center for a luncheon and the chance to socialize before concluding the trip.
Hong Kong Wine Fair attendeesLodi wineries attending the Hong Kong International Wine Fair on Aug. 14:
Irish Vineyards (Calaveras County)
Van Ruiten Family Winery
Lodi officials including Lodi City Council members Phil Katzakian, Bob Johnson and Larry Hansen, along with the eight vintners attending the Hong Kong fair, were able to become acquainted with Zhansheng and the various members of his group.
Doris Cheung, the director for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco, pointed out that Lodi's wineries would be joining wineries from all over the world at the fair. She stated that there would be more than 230 distributors also in attendance, giving vintners a chance to pick up their services. Cheung was optimistic about the future friendship between China and Lodi.
"We are trying to promote trade between Hong Kong and Lodi," Cheung said. "I see a lot of opportunities for business here."