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If you’ve ever driven on Highway 101 through the fertile Salinas Valley, you’ve undoubtedly noticed giant cut-out art near the roadside. Perhaps you’ve even driven northbound past the San Lucas exit and thought, “Hey, I wonder who those guys are?” as you sped by a certain larger-than-life threesome. Those giant 18-foot high figures looming above our San Lucas Vineyard just happen to represent three very important people in the Scheid Vineyards’ story.
First, there is Alfred G. Scheid, known to all as ‘Al’, the founder of Scheid Vineyards in 1972. At that time, grape growing in Monterey County was in its infancy. Agriculture has never been for the faint of heart, but Al knew a little something about overcoming adversity and following your hunches. His belief that Monterey County would one day be recognized as an ultra-premium growing region and his courage to back that up with cold, hard cash is what makes Al a pioneer and one of the founding fathers of wine grape growing on our beloved Central Coast.
Next, there is Rodolfo Trujillo Sr. Thousands of workers over the years have had a hand in planting, nurturing and harvesting the 4,500 acres of Scheid Vineyards. One of the members of our workforce, Rodolfo Sr., in particular exemplifies the character of Scheid Vineyards. Rodolfo is the quintessential tractor man, a Tractor Whisperer, if you will, and we think of him as the original vineyard cowboy. Machine harvesters are tough pieces of equipment to handle but Rodolfo had a true talent for guiding the behemoths through the vineyard under any conditions. He also specialized in harvester repairs and maintenance and if something was kaput or making an unusual sound, as mechanical equipment is wont to do, Rodolfo was the go-to guy. Rodolfo Sr. spent the majority of his farming career at Scheid Vineyards, 30 years to be exact, retiring in 2008 as one of our senior statesmen.
The story behind the crafting of this giant art-piece is that it was conceived, in secret, as a tribute to Al. The plan was to erect it on our San Lucas Vineyard and somehow surprise Al with a big “TA DA!” moment. It just so happened that the statue was completed in late January 2002, just a few weeks before Al was turning 70. How great would it be to spring it on him in front of all of his friends and loved ones at the occasion of his 70th birthday? There was one small hitch: the statue was in San Lucas and the birthday party was in Pacific Palisades. Hmmm, there has to be a way….
Kurt Gollnick, COO of Scheid Vineyards, was given the honor of transporting the top half of our fearless leader, measuring about 10’ x 5’, some 240 miles on a trailer hitched to his vehicle. Al’s bottom half was already anchored in concrete and thus was not able to make the trip. Funny story: Kurt was at the intersection of PCH and Sunset Boulevard, almost to the birthday party destination, with the statue of smilin’ Al nestled in the trailer behind him, when a guy pulled up next to him, just cracking up. “HEY!”, he yelled. “IS THAT THE TOP HALF TO THE BOTTOM HALF THAT’S IN THE MIDDLE OF SOME VINEYARD ON 101??” Small world.
And so it was that the grand finale of Al’s 70th was hatched. His upper extremities were unveiled after much wine, music and laughter. Al was touched, or should we say, he didn’t go too ballistic when he learned that his likeness was planted in a vineyard from now ‘til eternity without obtaining his consent. One of our favorite Al-isms is “it is better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” and that philosophy came in handy.
Much more wine, music and laughter ensued and all in attendance agreed that it was an amazing likeness of Al, if somewhat generous in its depiction of baby-smooth skin with nary a wrinkle in sight and Grecian-formula perfect hair color, which brings to mind another Al-ism….I don’t get gray hairs, I give ‘em. Ah, you gotta love the guy.
The artistic rendering was designed, built and painted by two local-area artists, John Cerney of Salinas, who was responsible for the sketching, cutting and installation, and Dong Sun Kim of Marina, who did the painting. Mr. Cerney has been creating giant people for over 29 years and estimates that he has painted over 100 murals. Mr. Kim began painting at 12 years of age in his homeland of Korea and came to the U.S. about 26 years ago. Their work of creating larger-than-life art brings pleasure to countless folks driving through the Salinas Valley.
And what of the third figure? Standing beside Al and Rodolfo Sr. is an unnamed vineyard worker, holding a small bin of just-picked grapes atop her head. As you drive along Highway 101, she seems to be rising up out of the vineyard, her figure emerging from the vines. This depiction pays tribute to the many valued employees who have contributed to our efforts throughout our 40+ year history. We salute them.
So next time you’re on your way up Highway 101, take a brief detour at the San Lucas exit to pay a visit to Al, Rodolfo and friend.