Chandler leaving Lodi winegrape group
LODI - Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission since its founding in 1991 who helped oversee the blossoming of Lodi's wine industry that today boasts more than 85 wineries, said Wednesday that he would leave his post at year's end.
Chandler will remain in the Lodi area, where he plans to establish his own marketing and management firm, and may continue to play a role with the commission.
"I've been there for 20 years, and I'm very proud at what I've accomplished," he said. "I just want to take my career in a little different direction."
Chandler said he's open to having an ongoing role as a spokesman for the commission but in any case remains a staunch advocate of Lodi as a producer of premium winegrapes. "I'm excited to be hanging out my own shingle, and I'm excited to continue to tell the Lodi story," he said.
Commission Chairman Bob Lauchland said Wednesday that Chandler's announcement came as a surprise and that he and other panel members had yet to meet to discuss the issues of succession or retaining Chandler in some role.
"There's a lot to consider," he said. "Fortunately, Mark has agreed to help us through this transition to help us find someone who can carry on his work."
Lauchland praised Chandler's energy and expertise in helping lead the commission through its first two decades,
In that time, he said, "The number of wineries in Lodi has grown 10-fold to over 85, and today the Lodi appellation is proudly displayed on some 500 premium wines that are found nationally and internationally."
In the mid-1990s, the area's vineyard acreage doubled from 46,000 to nearly 100,000 acres. Despite a grape and wine oversupply and falling prices after 2000, the commission's marketing efforts are credited with preventing widespread vineyard removals as occurred in other parts of California.
The period also saw the establishment of the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center, Lodi Rules Sustainable Viticulture Certification program and the wine festivals and events that bring tens of thousands of visitors to the area each year.
"The fruits of Mark's efforts are really beginning to flower right now," Lauchland said. "Everybody is very excited about our future."
David Lucas, owner of The Lucas Winery, credited Chandler with doing the heavy lifting in raising the profile of a winegrape-growing region once widely regarded as fit for producing only low-end jug wines.
"It's just dragging, pushing, pulling and prodding to move the appellation to be recognized for the amazing potential that it has," he said. "Mark's energies have laid out a really nice, solid foundation."
"It's grass-roots work. He traveled throughout the land, taking our wines out," Lucas recalled.
"When he first came to the commission, we were sitting outside and tasting our wines out of mason jars. He was asking if he could get together-enough wines to take out on the road."
"Now, he doesn't have that problem at all. There's over 80 wineries," Lucas said.
Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 email@example.com.