STOCKTON — David Lucas isn’t sure why the county’s Ag Hall of Fame Selection Committee chose him to be inducted into the 2019 class.
The modest owner and winemaker at Lucas Winery downplayed his role in the Lodi wine industry recently, likening himself to “just a dirt farmer.”
Despite his reservations about being nominated, he will be inducted into the San Joaquin County Ag Hall of Fame next month.
“I’m only successful if people are drinking wine,” Lucas said. “So I really owe this to the Lodi community and those who continue to venture out and support local wines.”
Lucas started the popular winery that bears his name in 1978, and by his own admission on the company’s website, he used to make “terrifying” wines that were high in alcohol yet jammy.
He eventually began working with Robert Mondavi and the Woodbridge Winery and soon found himself traveling to vineyards around the world to research experimentation with new varieties.
He reopened a new Lucas winery in 2000, creating wines which he said reflect and represent the Lodi area.
“I just love making wine,” he said. “It’s such a unique agricultural product. You don’t get the same thing growing something like radishes.”
While agriculture is heavily reliant on Mother Nature and her conditions, Lucas said grapes require a different kind of knowledge, harvest and care than other crops.
At the end of the day though, he said growing and making his wines is a labor of love.
Nominations for the Ag Hall of Fame are given to the Stockton Chamber of Commerce from the entire San Joaquin County community.
The Hall’s selection committee then reviews each nomination based on three factors: success demonstrated in agriculture, contributions to agriculture and non-agricultural contributions to the community.
The committee, which consists of two Hall of Fame members, three members of the agricultural community and three Stockton Chamber board members, then chooses for living inductees and a posthumous inductee for the Hall.
Lucas said other than owning and operating Visit Lodi’s 2018 Winery of the Year, he thinks one of the factors that earned him a nomination was his efforts to allow local wineries to ship out-of-state.
Nearly 15 years ago, Lucas challenged the state of New York over its laws on shipments of out-of-state wines.
Out-of-state visitors to local wineries could not ship wine home if they found a label they liked, nor could wineries ship to private parties in several other states.
Today, Lodi wineries are shipping their products to 44 other states.
In addition, Lucas is known for opening one of the first wineries in the region, and one of the first to put Lodi on his labels.
“I’m really amazed at what’s happened to San Joaquin County and Lodi,” he said. “When I first started years ago, you had to go out to stores and get places to sell your wines. It was tough if you had Lodi on the label. Now I see a lot of people putting Lodi on their labels. You couldn’t do that 40 years ago.”
Lucas will be inducted with Tom Stokes of Lodi’s Stokes Brothers Farms, Everett Rankins of Tracy’s Rankins AG Incorporated, and Christina Schallberger of Stockton’s Sundance Kids Boer Goats.
Stokes could not be reached for comment on his induction.
The Hall’s posthumous award will go to Patrick “Pat” Connelly.
Now in its 35th year, the Ag Hall of Fame will honor the 2019 inductees on Oct. 17 at the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave, in Stockton.
The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are $45. For more information, visit http://stocktonchamber .org/ag-hall-of-fame.