A group of business leaders from a former Soviet state will visit Lodi next week to learn about the area’s wine industry.
Four business leaders will be visiting the United States from Gagauzia, Moldova from Feb. 3 to 21 as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
Local grape grower Frank Gayaldo and Visit Lodi! director Nancy Beckman will help the delegation find its way around Lodi as they visit a number of winemaking and marketing businesses, and likely some wineries and vineyards as well. Gayaldo said one definite stop will be The Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery, at 203 S. School St.
Since 2004, Gayaldo has helped promote many Lodi-area agricultural businesses overseas, particularly in China.
Gayaldo said that over the years, he has developed several lasting relationships with many Americans from former Soviet states in the Lodi and Sacramento areas.
Moldova, a former state of the Soviet Union, gained its independence in 1991. Since that time, the country has grown some of the most popular wines in Europe.
“Since its independence, there’s been a great pull back and forth for Moldova to either join the European Union, or be more closely linked to Russia,” Gayaldo said. “The Moldovan president believes joining the Union is the way to go, which has upset Russia.”
As a result, Gayaldo said, Russian President Vladimir Putin has gone as far as banning Moldovan wines from being imported into his country.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Moldova in Dec. 2013, encouraging winemakers there to export their vintages to Western markets, including the United States.
“This is a personal passion for me,” Gayaldo said of helping Moldovans learn about the Western markets, particularly Lodi. “I’m personally motivated because of my love and respect for that country, as well as my Russian-American friends here in the area.”
The Moldovan leaders will be learning about effective marketing strategies employed in the area’s agritourism and wine industries, best practices for founding and operating agritourism businesses and wineries, securing sources of funding, risks associated with capital investments, and various rules and regulations, among other things.
Gayaldo said Lodi and Moldova are very similar, and the trip will include several opportunities for both parties to exchange advice when it comes to wine growing and marketing.
“Lodi and Moldova are both hidden treasures,” he said. “We recognize Lodi is not always the first name that pops into people’s minds, and it takes a lot of effort to make a regional name for yourselves. Moldova is experiencing the same thing.”
Beckman said that while a detailed agenda of the delegation’s trip has yet to be finalized, it is exciting to have visitors come to Lodi and learn how the region markets its wines.
“In the spirit of international cooperation, we’re happy to share our expertise in the areas of agritourism and marketing,” she said.
Originally founded as the Principality of Moldavia in 1359, it became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire in 1538, joining with the Principality of Wallachia to form the United Romanian Principalities. In 1812, most of what is now Moldova was annexed into the Russian Empire. It gained independence briefly in 1918, but after the Second World War, the country became part of the Soviet Union until 1991.
Since its break from the Soviet Union, Moldova has been one the poorest nations in Europe, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.
Gayaldo said while he typically dedicates his efforts to promoting and exporting U.S. wines, he is happy to try and help Moldova bring its wines overseas.
“I have so much respect for their country, their unique history and the challenges they face as one of the poorest countries in Europe,” he said. “I’m just super excited to be helping them in way possible.”
Local businesses or anyone interested in greeting the delegation on Feb. 12 can email Alexandria Solari at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209-327-0759.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at email@example.com.