In the wake of the George Floyd killing and the wave of protests that followed, Rodney and Susan Tipton asked themselves what they could do to help improve race relations.
It was a discussion likely occurring in homes across the country, but the Tiptons were well placed to take concrete steps toward rectifying what they saw as a national shortcoming.
They focused on their backyard, Lodi, where they are engaged members of the wine trade as the owners of Acquiesce Winery, a small family-run facility specializing in white wines inspired by the grapes and traditions of France’s Rhone Valley.
In short order, their reflection led to the development of the Lodi Appellation Inclusion Collective (LAIC, or “lacey”), a program to recruit and mentor members of minority groups they see as under-represented in the nation’s wine trade – people of color, the indigenous, LGBTQ.
The intent of the program, which also includes the Lodi wineries Michael David, Klinker Brick, Bokisch and Lucas, among others, is twofold: To increase diversity in the wine trade, and to raise the standing of Lodi not only as a source of grapes and wine but as an all-embracing enclave for the industry.
The backbone of the outreach is periodic week-long sessions in which a half dozen or so aspiring wine professionals are invited to Lodi to meet with grape growers and winemakers who introduce them to topics ranging from pruning practices to blending decisions, all alternating with meals and wine tastings.
“I wanted to join this trip to make practical the things I was reading. I wanted to feel what sandy loam soil felt like. I wanted to see the sun exposure on the vineyard. I wanted to taste a grape right off the vine. I wanted to touch a wine barrel,” says Kenda Waugh of New Orleans, one of six LAIC scholars to join the group’s most recent immersion in October. “You can read how to prune a vine, but it’s nothing like touching it and evaluating it to figure out which branches should be cut and which way. I couldn’t have gotten any of that from anywhere else.”
Waugh is a native of New Orleans, where she works as a kidney dialysis technician with a yearning to join the wine trade. Five years from now, she hopes to own “a beautiful wine shop specializing in small-production and biodynamic wines.” . . .