MONDAY, JULY 25, 2022. BY STEPHANIE BOLTON, PhD.
The Lodi Winegrape Commission’s LODI RULES Sustainable Winegrowing Certification Program is broadly recognized as a leading certification that has helped to pave the way for multiple other programs across the globe. Last week, I was invited to Brock University in Ontario, Canada, to give a LODI RULES Masterclass at the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium. Never having attended this symposium, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m not sure why, but we don’t get asked to speak at cool climate viticulture meetings very often.
The crowd’s reception was incredible. I couldn’t stop smiling. It was a packed room full of enthusiastic listeners from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere. The audience had so many questions at the end of the hour presentation that I was shooed off the stage so we didn’t take more time away from the next presenter. Several later talks mentioned Lodi and LODI RULES in a positive light. It felt wonderful to experience the response of viticulturists and wine professionals worldwide who celebrate the hard work and dedication of the LODI RULES founders and community.
If you are one of the hundreds of folks who lent your wisdom to LODI RULES at any point along the way or if you are one of the current outstanding growers or wineries participating in LODI RULES, you can be very proud of where we are today!
Below I share a few of the highlights from the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium LODI RULES Masterclass presentation:
Last we counted there were at least 125 different grape varieties being grown commercially in Lodi. The Lodi Winegrape Commission, who I work for, is a state Department of Food and Agriculture organization where the 750 local growers vote every five years on whether or not to continue a tax self-assessment on the sale of their winegrapes, which provides funding for research, education, and promotion – including LODI RULES.
Our growers have learned through experience that instead of trying to face agricultural and business challenges and communicate with grape buyers individually, they can find immense value in coming together as a Commission. Plus, farming is more fun this way!
The LODI RULES sustainable winegrowing certification program originally started out in the early 1990’s as a grassroots integrated pest management program. Pictured in the center of the photo above with the original Lodi Winegrowers Workbook are Dr. Cliff Ohmart and Steve Matthiasson, who now has a very popular and delicious wine label called Matthiasson – maybe you’ve tried it. After extensive grower and scientist input, the program grew to cover business, human resources, soil, water, ecosystem, and pest management.
The LODI RULES program, through the third party nonprofit Protected Harvest, certifies vineyards on an annual basis each fall, so the actual grapes and vintage are certified sustainable. The graph above shows certified acres over time, with acres on the y axis and the years on the x axis.
Our formal certification program started out with just six growers and 1,555 acres in Lodi in 2005 and has grown to 64,834 certified sustainable acres across California, in Washington state, and in Israel. We have over 70,000 acres enrolled for this certification year. This level of participation is beyond what anyone thought would happen!
We strongly believe that one of the main reasons why our sustainability program has had high levels of participation by growers is because it is a ground-up program. We tap into the knowledge of our local farming community to ensure that the program is simple, practical, feasible, and affordable to implement. By staying deeply connected on a daily basis to our farmers we are able to get real-time feedback on all pieces of the program.
We love that our program helps farmers communicate to winegrape buyers their commitment to responsibly caring for the land and the people. In turn, wineries appreciate the messaging they can share with their consumers. By creating and selling sustainably produced grapes and wine, we are giving people a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves and participate in real, science-based sustainable agriculture that is certified and audited.
To learn more about LODI RULES, you can also check out this other Masterclass online hosted by Elaine Chukan Brown, available on YouTube HERE.
Thanks for your interest in and dedication to sustainable winegrowing!
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For more information on the LODI RULES Sustainable Winegrowing Program, visit lodigrowers.com/standards or lodirules.org.