Letters from Lodi

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Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
January 17, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

LODI RULES launches fourth edition of its industry leading guidelines for certified sustainable winegrowing

Lodi Winegrape Commission LODI RULES Chair, winegrower Phil Abba, during his 2022 Abba Vineyard Syrah harvest.

This past December 26, 2022, Lodi Winegrape Commission's sustainable winegrowing director Dr. Stephanie Bolton announced the launch of the newly accredited Fourth Edition of LODI RULES Sustainable Winegrowing Certification Standards.

According to Dr. Bolton: "We have pored over the LODI RULES sustainability certification program based on new knowledge that’s been gained over the last decade. By improving the program over time, the certification continues to be relevant and progressive and stays at the forefront of sustainability innovation."

The LODI RULES "Certified Green" seal, is displayed on vineyard signs as well as on bottles made from sustainable grapes certified by a third party (Protected Harvest).


She adds, "The goal of the Fourth Edition is to improve the LODI RULES sustainability certification program based on new knowledge that’s been gained over the last decade. By improving the program over time, the certification continues to be relevant and progressive and stays at the forefront of sustainability innovation."

LODI RULES sets an extremely high bar in a number of ways. It consists of over 125 sustainable "Standards" that need to be monitored and certified by a nonconflicted third-party organization (Protected Harvest) in order for a grower to attain a "Certified Green" seal, which can also be displayed on wine bottles made from these certified grapes.

For all of the program's demanding details, Dr. Bolton boils down LODI RULES to two main components: "Farming practice standards and a pesticide risk model."

Dr. Stephanie Bolton, Lodi Winegrape Commission, in Lodi's oldest vineyard (Bechthold Vineyard Cinsaut, planted in 1886)

Bolton recounts the history of LODI RULES: "The original First Edition of LODI RULES Standards was collaboratively developed by a team of Lodi winegrowers and viticulture professionals, and accredited by Protected Harvest in 2005.  The Standards were revised in 2013 (Second Edition), and revised further for clarity and consistency in 2017 (Third Edition). They are continuously reviewed to ensure they meet the needs of today's farming families."

While, Bolton says, "Too many changes too often can be confusing to growers and the community, we are adding new standards and revising existing ones as we transition to a new pesticide risk model.

One new practice, with a detailed training guide, singled out by Bolton is LR Standard 1.19 covering “The Carbon Cycle.” Bolton says, "LR 1.19 empowers growers to make climate-friendly decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their farms. Just this past week I have cataloged over 70 LODI RULES farming practices that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions."

Sheep in Lodi's Borden Ranch Viticultural Area.

There is a total of 35 new Standards added in the Fourth Edition of LODI RULES. A few more key components cited by Dr. Bolton:

• Teaching employees about the carbon cycle.
• Further conservation of soil by reducing compaction and erosion risks.
• Requiring a water management plan and an irrigation distribution uniformity test.
• Adding more types of risk (natural disasters, etc) to the risk management plan to better prepare our farmers for the uncertain.
• Encouraging the communication of sustainability to others, both in the farming operation and outside it.
• Including sustainability marketing practices that help growers sell their grapes.
• Further increasing efficiency through automation.
• Offering safety and comfort enhancements for employees.
• Having a social responsibility policy to ensure employees are best protected.
• Adding integrated pest management for mealybugs and grapevine viruses.
• Further enhancement of beneficial species on the farm.
• Training on invasive species such as the spotted lanternfly.
• Encouraging neighbor-to-neighbor communication.

For further details, please see the following version of the Fourth Edition of LODI RULES with changes highlighted.

Dr. Bolton adds: "It is widely accepted that the LODI RULES Standards are the most thoroughly and rigorously vetted sustainability practices in California's viticulture history. Each Standard has been peer-reviewed by a true third party of scientists, members of the academic community, and environmental organizations." 

As Bolton constantly emphasizes, the Standards of LODI RULES are based upon "science, not trends... We are able to continue this rigor because of the daily involvement of our wine-growing community. We are always trying to do better—always."

The dramatic growth of acreage certified by LODI RULES sustainable Standards inside and outside of Lodi since 2005.

To give you an idea of the measure of respect LODI RULES has garnered not just in California but also around the world, the program has seen dramatic growth: From about 1,500 certified acres owned by six Lodi growers when it began in 2005, to hundreds of growers and nearly 70,000 acres today—not just in Lodi, but also throughout California, Washington, and Israel. There are now, in fact, more wine grapes certified by LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing outside the Lodi wine region (37,563 acres) than in Lodi (32,285 acres).

As highly detailed a guideline LODI RULES may be, says Bolton, "It is growers, not scientists, who know their vineyards best." The growers are in the position to make "smart environmental decisions," to determine the most effective "inputs and outputs," and ultimately, "the best way to grow quality wine."

A 2023 update of LODI RULES facts and figures:




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