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Lodi-area grape growers meet during annual dinner

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Posted: Friday, February 3, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:02 am, Fri Feb 3, 2012.

The best and brightest of Lodi-area winegrape growers turned up for the 59th annual meeting of the Lodi District Grape Growers Association on Thursday.

More than 300 people came out for what executive director Amy Blagg said was the best attended annual meeting in recent memory.

“This is really big,” she said. “It’s going well.”

The meeting business was casually conducted over a three-course dinner, with motions seconded and passed with a wave of one hand while the other raised a glass of generously donated wine.

Jennifer Spaletta was selected as a director, with Tracy Holmes and Tobbie Wells as directors-at-large.

Thirteen Lodi wineries provided refreshments for the dinner and winetasting social. These included Borra Vineyards, Constellation Wines U.S., Delicato Vineyards, E&J Gallo, Harney Lane Winery, Heritage Oak, Lange Twins, Lucas WInery, Mettler Family Vineyards, Peltier Station, St. Amant, the Dancing Fox and Vicarmont.

During dinner, college students worked their way around the tables selling raffle tickets to benefit the Jim Kissler Memorial Scholarship program. Proceeds from the dinner also benefit the scholarship program.

As delicious as the vino may be, the real stars of the night were the six scholarship recipients. Each is a local young man or woman whose studies are focused on agriculture or related subjects.

“These are students with the aptitude to continue in their education and give back to the industry,” said Spaletta, who also serves as chair of he scholarship committee.

Matthew Machado, a scholarship recipient, is attendng University of California, Davis, and studying managerial and agricultural economics.

“Your generosity has been tremendous in helping me reach my goals,” said Machado as he thanked the association.

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, was on hand to present a keynote speech, or, as she called it, a casual conversation with her family.

Ross sees American agriculture as a bright spot in an otherwise dim economy. California growers are in a prime position to benefit from the growing national trend toward local, fresh food sources, she said.

“If an American has a salad, there’s about a 50 percent chance that all of it came from California,” she said.

She touted Lodi wines as winners on the California hospitality stage.

“No one does it better, with better leadership, and better stewardship, than Lodi,” she said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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