Jerry Fry is the president and CEO and Bruce Fry is the vice president of operations of the family-run Mohr-Fry Ranches in Lodi. The father and son are two of the most respected growers and leaders in the Lodi winegrape community and are known for their quality winegrapes. They advocate on behalf of winegrape growers and dedicate an enormous amount of time serving the industry and their community. Mohr-Fry Ranches was one of the original six Lodi growers to certify their vineyard under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.
The Leader of the Year award recognizes a grower whose record of exceptional leadership has benefitted California’s wine industry and is an inspiration to others. The recipient has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to issues of significant importance to winegrape growers and has achieved lasting changes to promote and protect the interests of California winegrape growers.
Rich Smith, who passed away in December 2015, was the owner of Paraiso Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands (Soledad). Smith and his family have paved the way for others as pioneers and leaders in the wine industry. Smith left behind a tremendous legacy as one of the founding fathers of the modern Monterey County wine industry. He worked tirelessly at promoting the Monterey County wine region and California wine industry, as well as championing sustainability and research.
“CAWG is proud to honor these deserving and extraordinary individuals and families for their exemplary leadership in the winegrape industry,” said CAWG President John Aguirre. “Jerry, Bruce, Rich and their families have shown a deep commitment to agriculture on a local, state and national level. Their leadership, advocacy, passion and strong work ethic are inspiring.”
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2016 GROWER OF THE YEAR
Jerry and Bruce Fry, Mohr-Fry Ranches
Jerry and Bruce Fry are two of the most respected leaders in the Lodi winegrape community. Their family-run business, Mohr-Fry Ranches, is the perfect example of a successful winegrape grower.
The Mohr family began farming in California in the 1850s near what later became Hayward. Due to urban encroachment, Jerry’s parents expanded the operation into the Terminous area (San Joaquin County) in the 1950s and later added properties in Thornton, Lodi, Woodbridge and Acampo. With more than 160 years of farming in California, their operation has survived the test of time and thrived in an ever-changingwinegrape market.
Jerry and Bruce, fourth and fifth generation farmers, are recognized for their quality grapes. They grow 12 varieties in the Lodi appellation and sell their sought-after grapes to more than 20 wineries in and out of state. Some of the wineries produce Mohr-Fry and Marian’s Vineyard designated wines. The St. Amant zinfandel from Marian’s Vineyard, planted in 1901, was awarded best zinfandel at the 2003 California State Fair. The diversified farming operation also grows, packs and sells dry heirloom beans under the Elegant Beans label.
“Jerry and Bruce are active growers, yet they dedicate an enormous amount of time to serving the winegrape industry and community,” said Amy Blagg, Lodi District Grape Growers Association (LDGGA) executive director. “Their involvement in LDGGA and CAWG have led to increased local grower awareness of statewide issues. Advocacy is of great importance to them and they constantly make an effort to educate fellow growers and encourage participation and engagement.”
A TRUE LEADER
Jerry is a founding director and former chair of CAWG. He has served in leadership positions for LDGGA, California Winegrape Inspection Advisory Board, Knights of the Vine and other winegrape grower associations. Jerry led LDGGA in 1969-1970, when issues included United Farm Worker boycotts, a declining market for the Flame Tokay, and increased regulation for agriculture. Jerry served as a director and president for the Woodbridge Fire Department and a volunteer fireman for 25 years. He has been president and involved with Lodi Rotary Club for more than 50 years, church committees, and World of Wonders Science Museum. Other groups have honored him for his lifelong commitment to industry and local endeavors.
“Jerry is the definition of a true leader,” said San Joaquin County Farm Bureau Executive Director Bruce Blodgett. “His long list of activities have made him well known in the Lodi area as someone who truly cares about the future of agriculture and the future of his community.”
A DEDICATED VOLUNTEER
Bruce has also been an LDGGA leader. As president, he helped hire the first executive director for LDGGA and the organization served as a voice for growers on issues including hang time, the Lodi/Stockton greenbelt, air quality regulations and minimum wage increases. Bruce has served in leadership positions for CAWG, Lodi Winegrape Commission, San Joaquin County Farm Bureau, California Winegrape Inspection Advisory Board, Winegrape Growers of America and Lodi Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee. Bruce is a Lodi Farm Safety Day trainer and coordinator, which educates more than 500 farm workers.
“Bruce has been dedicated to protecting the interests of winegrape growers and the agriculture community as a whole,” Blodgett said. “He has helped our county maintain stable property taxes under the Williamson Act for the past 10 years. He has been actively involved in rewriting and fine tuning our county’s winery ordinance. He has also worked on estate taxes, property taxes and state legislation that would have impacted agriculture.”
Mohr-Fry Ranches was one of the original six Lodi growers to certify their vineyard under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing. The Frys have implemented ecologically-based practices, such as reducing pesticide use, improving soil and water quality, and enhancing wildlife habitat and ecosystem health. Bruce was a founding member of the Lodi Rules Sustainable Winegrowing Committee and was instrumental in the development of Lodi Rules.
“The Fry family is committed to sustainability, family values and California agriculture,” Blagg said. “They have made a tremendous impact on the Lodi and California winegrape industries and will continue to lead us into the future.”
2016 LEADER OF THE YEAR
Richard Smith and Smith Family Wines
Rich Smith and the Smith family have paved the way for others as pioneers and leaders in the wine industry. Rich passed away on Dec. 27, 2015, leaving behind a tremendous legacy as one of the founding fathers of the modern Monterey County wine industry. His son, Jason, and the family are now carrying the torch and continue to be leaders at all levels.
“Rich worked tirelessly at promoting not only the Monterey County wine region, but also the California wine industry both locally and nationally,” said the Ledbetter family (John, Jim, Kimberly, Craig, Marissa and Megan). “Rich was a great friend, mentor and colleague to all who crossed his path. He embraced every challenge and project with energy like no other. Over the years, Rich and the family have demonstrated what it is to be a leader within our industry and community. Their commitments to any cause are taken seriously and have a clear vision, and they shared that vision with others.”
Rich and his wife, Claudia, began growing grapes in Monterey County in the 1970s. He started Valley Farm Management in 1973 and a custom harvesting business in 1977. By 1987 both businesses were thriving and Smith purchased his own 350-acre vineyard. Paraiso Vineyards is located in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The family was among the first to plant pinot noir in the Santa Lucia Highlands. In 1989 their first wines – a pinot noir and a chardonnay – were crushed and bottled under the Paraiso label. In 1991, Rich led the effort that established the Santa Lucia Highlands American Viticultural Area, considered one of the top AVAs for high quality pinot noir and other varietals.
Smith Family Wines grows pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah and other Burgundian and Rhone-style varietals on more than 3,200 acres in Monterey County. Fifteen clones are grown on the 350-acre home estate vineyard: seven pinot noir, five chardonnay and three syrah. Their wine brands are Alexander-Smith, Paraiso and Irie.
VISIONARY LEADER AND LOCAL HERO
Rich was an active community and industry leader with a strong work ethic. He served as chair of the CAWG board from 1989-1991 (his son, Jason, currently serves on the board). He was involved with the Monterey County Farm Bureau, Wine America and UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology executive leadership board. Rich was also a founding member and president of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association (MCVGA).
“Rich was a national leader in the wine industry and a local hero,” said MCVGA Executive Director Kim Stemler. “He was one of the visionary pioneers of the Monterey wine region and continually championed sustainability and research to foster the success we all share. He was always willing to share his time, vast knowledge and energy.”
After his passing, MCVGA created the Rich Smith Memorial Research Fund to honor his life and accomplishments, with contributions supporting local viticulture research through UC Cooperative Extension. The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, of which Rich was a graduate and longtime supporter, created the Richard Smith Memorial Fellowship Fund.
“My dad was lucky to be able to build a business – and a life – that enabled him to work with family every day,” Jason said. “And to Rich Smith, family wasn’t just those of us who shared his name. Every employee, vendor, customer, competitor and consumer were part of his family.”