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Lodi Winegrape Commission names new executive director

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Camron King

Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012 10:52 am | Updated: 6:35 am, Tue May 15, 2012.

Camron King has a ingrained passion for winegrapes. But he didn’t grow up on a vineyard or learn the art of winemaking from generations of vintners.

King grew infatuated with wine while drinking it.

“I just started as a consumer. In college, a group of us loved going out and tasting wines. It became the fun thing to do,” said King.

King will now put his experienced palate to work marketing and managing the more than 60 varietals grown in the Lodi Appellation.

The Lodi Winegrape Commission announced Monday that King, a California wine industry veteran, has been named the commission’s new executive director. King was formerly a vice president of state government relations at the California Association of Winegrape Growers for eight years.

Bob Lauchland, chair of the commission’s board of directors, headed a nationwide search that culled over 80 applicants. But the one who caught his eye was a man who grew up near another of California’s notable wine regions and has settled within Lodi’s own Crush District 11.

Camron stood out because of his enthusiasm and his history of working closely with growers in Crush District 11, otherwise known as the Lodi District Grape Growers Association. The district is one of 16 in California.

King spent eight years working as second-in-command for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, where he was responsible for putting on a number of events, including the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento.

That was the kind of experience the commission was looking for.

“He saw this job as a calling, not as just another job,” said Lauchland.

King has worked with innumerable growers, and says he holds those in Lodi in high regard. He outlined a few goals for his first year on the job.

He wants to create a tool kit for growers to keep tabs on the innovations going on in other vineyards, with the commission serving as a conduit.

“So many times the best teaching, the best mode of sharing takes place on a peer-to-peer basis,” said King.

From a marketing viewpoint, King wants to establish Lodi as the peaceful backyard to San Francisco and Sacramento, and a natural place to stop by on a trip to either city. He also wants to plan a sustainable path for Lodi to meet increased demands for grapes without going wild with new planting.

His first task is simply to get to know all the growers.

“I work for every single grower — big, small or medium — so I  want to ensure I have a good, strong relationship and maintain open communication,” he said.

But what about drinking wine, instead of marketing it?

King is what he calls a seasonal drinker, sticking to heavy reds in the winter and cool whites in the heat of summer, though it’s not set in stone.

“I love wine in general. I love experimenting with new, emerging varietals as well as new styles in old traditions,” he said.

King lives in Elk Grove with his wife and two children, but grew up in Santa Rosa. Some of his ancestors grew grapes, along with raising cattle and growing walnuts and limes.

He studied environmental horticulture at California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, then moved on to graduate studies in public policy and administration at California State University, Sacramento.

In addition to his work at the California Association of Winegrape Growers, King has worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Western Labor Coalition. He has served on a number of wine industry boards and committees including the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the National Grape and Wine Initiative and the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment.

Working on the Lodi Commission, King sees a blend of his enjoyment of wine with his fascination for governmental affairs.

King replaces Mark Chandler, who was the executive director from the creation of the commission in 1991 until he resigned in late 2011.

“With Camron, I hope we can get close to what Mark did for us,” said Lauchland.

King will begin working at the Commission on May 29.

“It sounds cheesy, but I am so darn excited about this,” he said. “I’ve got a learning curve, but there’s a phenomenal staff to help me.”

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

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