Tale of a grape picker in Lodi, CA

2015 is truly a shining year for Lodi, California. Lodi has always had a rich history of viticulture and this year earned the prestigious title of Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine. While this honor helped Lodi achieve more awareness and recognition, the regions name takes my family all the way back to the year 1954.

My grandmother, or Nana as I call her, is the living example of Winston Churchills famous slogan, If youre going through hell, keep going. Born on December 21, 1926 she was raised in an upper echelon family in the village of Villiasis, Pangasinan, in the Philippines. Unfortunately, her family's charmed life took a turn for the worse.  By the winter of 1942, just around my Nana’s sixteenth birthday, both of her parents passed away. Struggle, hardship, and on some nights, empty stomachs quickly ignited a fire in my grandmother that in order for she and her siblings to survive they were going to need to pursue the American Dream.

Taken four years ago, how time flies! 

Taken four years ago, how time flies! 

            While my Nana was a highly respected educator in the Philippines, the transition to work in the U.S. as it is for all professionals of many degrees, did not permit her to simply pick up where she left off. In April 1954, she and my grandfather found themselves with many other Philippine immigrants in Lodi looking for work. At that time Lodi was in great need of grape pickers to keep up with the high demand of wine production and my grandparents were in desperate need of housing.         

            “It was fun, although it was difficult. We slept on dusty mattresses on the floor, but we got free housing and that was enough for us, my grandmother said.

     My grandmother said as back breaking as the work was it was a true lifelong education.  Her back ached from bending down and her hands were calloused and tender from tending vines but she enjoyed the process because it was something new. My handsome grandfather right by her side making her laugh was also a plus!

            If there is one lesson I will always cherish from my grandmother is that whatever you are doing, big or small, it is a gift to learn and learning is something that can never be taken away from you. I may not be working in the vineyards of Lodi, but due to the efforts of my grandparents I am lucky to be able to help promote the region with the great team at Charles Communications Associates.  I am both humbled and honored to be working here and thank my Nana for being right by my side cheering me on.

-Andee McKenzie

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