Crookston native and UMC alum Jason Altepeter tying the knot June 16, with a ‘La La Land’ themed ceremony

    Imagine meeting your soulmate when you least expect it – right in the midst of pursuing your dreams.

    This scenario may sound familiar, as it’s the plot of the 2016 romantic, musical comedy, “La La Land.” However, for Crookston native and Golden Eagle, Jason Altepeter, and Eaton, Ohio native, Heather Petersen, it’s less of a movie storyline and more like the beginning chapters of one of the greatest love stories the Midwest has ever produced – theirs.

    Believe it or not, the very first chapter involves what Altepeter once-believed was a seven-foot pizza.

    “How big was that pizza, anyway?” Altepeter asks Petersen with a smile.

    “48 inches,” Petersen replies, mid-laugh.

    The enormous pizza in question came into play nine years ago when the couple first met at a pool party in Burbank, California – an L.A. suburb roughly 95 miles away from the community they now call home.

    “I was there with my friends, and she was with hers,” Altepeter recounts. “We had mutual friends but I didn’t really know much about her.”

    Enter Petersen with the Italian pie that would change their lives forever.

    “I knew immediately there was something special about this girl.”

    He was right. At the time of their meeting, Petersen had just successfully expanded what would become the financial services powerhouse now known as National Merchants Association (NMA) – a top company and employer in Southern California.

    With Altepeter in Nevada and Petersen in California, the budding relationship began across state lines. They kept in touch and met up with mutual friends occasionally; discovering more and more commonalities they shared each time. This continued for a few years, until one serendipitous day.

    “I was in a Franklin Covey seminar where I was asked to list the three most influential people in my life,” Petersen says. “I immediately wrote Jason’s name down. After that, I remember wondering why he had so much influence over me.”

    She didn’t have to wonder for long. Later that day, in a game-changing text message – more coincidental than the two of them both having ‘Peter’ in their last names – Altepeter contacted Petersen.

    “To be thinking of each other at the same time and connect in that almost-telepathic way was very real for us,” Altepeter says.

    “We knew we had to figure things out,” Petersen says.

    And figure it out, they did. The couple began spending significant amounts of quality time together, and began to lay two beautiful foundations – one for their relationship, and another for their collective dreams.

    Soon after, they got engaged and got to work.

    Throughout the course of a few years, the couple purchased Sweet Oaks Ranch and numerous other real estate properties. They also purchased Sol de Luz Vineyards. This particular flagship property is the foundation for potentially their largest  endeavor – establishing De Luz, California as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) – meaning that wines made with grapes from their vineyards can be labeled with the De Luz name, rather than being grouped generically. The ambitious goal is in the infancy application stage but the dream is no less large.

    “It’s been one of our dreams to create more world-class experiences for tourists and locals like us right here in our backyard,” Petersen says.

    This particular dream of Petersen and Altepeter’s will soon be realized.

    On June 16, 2018, the couple will marry in the most romantic way at Sweet Oaks Ranch – the 28-acre winery, equestrian center and wedding destination they co-own. There will be personal touches like longtime friend, Butch Hildebrand, officiating the wedding, and professional flare courtesy of award-winning wedding planner and Temecula local, Michelle Garibay.

    Although tight-lipped about the details, Petersen and Altepeter are excited to wow guests with their “La La Land”-themed wedding, in what many might call an ode to serendipity.

    “We’ve waited our entire lives for this true-love moment,” Petersen says.

    “We’re excited to share it with our closest friends and family, while giving the public a romantic glimpse of this beautiful ranch and its incredible capabilities.”

     With wedding details in the final planning stage, the couple is excited for what the future holds, and continuing their journey of one of the greatest love stories Temecula has ever seen.