Mark Chandler Starts at WineAmerica
Grapegrower, Lodi leader goes to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.—Mark Chandler, who spent 20 years guiding the Lodi Winegrape Commission from bulk wine oblivion to international limelight, was appointed executive director of WineAmerica on Feb. 1. After arriving at WineAmerica’s Washington headquarters Feb. 18, he was already operating at full steam ahead when he spoke with Wines & Vines last week about his new national platform, ambitions for WineAmerica and upcoming bicoastal lifestyle, which he estimated will anchor him in the District of Columbia about 50% of the time.As the new executive director of WineAmerica, Mark Chandler says he hopes to expand membership to all 50 states.
With stalwarts including counsel Cary Greene filling in, the executive director position had remained empty since long-time leader Bill Nelson retired in 2010, when WineAmerica was undergoing a “period of transition.”
WineAmerica, “The National Association of American Wineries,” is the only organization speaking for wineries across the nation, and it currently has more than 800 members in 48 states. The exceptions— Utah and Mississippi—are on Chandler’s to-do list. Mississippi currently has only one winery; Utah has six, according to WinesVinesDATA.
Perhaps best known for lobbying efforts at the national level, WineAmerica states that its mission “is to encourage the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.” It continues, “This provides formidable grass-roots lobbying strength used to benefit the entire industry.”
Despite its proliferation of powerful voices including Wine Institute, the California Association of Winegrape Growers, Family Winemakers and countless regional groups, even California “is a very active part of our membership, including many old friends,” Chandler said.
Ties to Lodi
Chandler noted that he is still rooted to Lodi, where he shares partnership with his wife and brother-in-law in Mokelumne River Partners, which grows premium winegrapes on 180 acres in the Lodi Appellation.
During the interview process, he told the WineAmerica search team: “These issues are personal to me. They matter to me.
Chandler acknowledged that “Lodi was under-recognized” before he helped thrust it into national prominence. “My charge now is to increase industry awareness of WineAmerica, grow our council and our membership.”
Wine Tourism for All
Perhaps one of Chandler’s most remarkable accomplishments with the Lodi Commission was to transform this unlikely location—far from the beaten path in the Sacramento Delta—into a tourism destination via cooperative events such as the annual Wine & Chocolate Weekend in February and the ZinFest Wine Festival at Lodi Lake in September.
WineAmerica recently partnered with the Wine Tourism Conference created by Zephyr Adventures to sponsor Wine Tourism Day in North America on May 11. “Wineries, associations, wine tour companies and wine-area restaurants and hotels are encouraged to offer special events to the public” for this inaugural event.
“We are helping to promote it by encouraging our members to create events to participate on a national scale,” Chandler said.
Only events tailored specifically for Wine Tourism Day will be promoted. A requirement for inclusion is that events post the WTD logo and link on their websites. “Post as soon as you can,” organizers urged. “Events up there soonest will receive the most publicity.”
Wineries or organizations hosting Wine Tourism Day events are invited also to send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.