If there is one person most responsible for putting "Lodi" on millions of wine labels, it is Mark Chandler.
His retirement, announced this week, is the end of the beginning of a revolution — the marketing of Lodi as a premium wine district and tourist destination.
That's not to say Mark didn't have help. After all, he was hired by the Lodi Winegrape Commission as executive director.
The grape growers who approved this marketing commission, who paid the winery tax, who volunteered for the commission's board, who shared in the brainstorming, event staffing, meeting time and decision-making — they were the ones ultimately responsible.
But Chandler was a great hire.
Under his stewardship, the commission executed on a solid and productive marketing strategy that put "Lodi" on the lips of wine drinkers around the world. Here's a short (and perhaps incomplete) list of the accomplishments:
- Establishing the Lodi Appellation.
- Opening the Wine & Visitors Center with its wine club and Lodiwine.com website.
- An advertising program in tourism and wine publications across the nation.
- Wine tasting signs on rural roads.
- Lodi Rules for sound viticultural practices.
- A bevy of wine events such as Wine & Chocolate Weekend and ZinFest.
The payoff is all around us. In the past 20 years, Lodi has gone from eight wineries to 80. The reason so many family farmers were able to start wineries and take control of their prosperity by producing their own fine wines was Lodi's reputation as an up-and-coming wine region.
Perhaps incidental, but no less important, was the benefit of creating a tourism economy in Lodi. Wine is a great reason to visit and spend in Lodi's hotels, restaurants, museums, stores and tasting rooms.
We were encouraged to learn that although Chandler is leaving the commission, he will continue as a marketing consultant, delivering value for agriculture clients in this area and elsewhere.
The commission and Chandler will continue to create a better market for Lodi grapes and Lodi itself.
It has been a masterly job.