Letters from Lodi

An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
April 22, 2024 | Randy Caparoso

LODI RULES is a viticultural celebration of Earth Day all year round

The first Earth Day

Today, April 22, marks Earth Day all around the world. 

Did you know that the first Earth Day was touched off by activists mobilized in California, following an oil spill off of Santa Barbara in January of 1969? President Richard Nixon came to Santa Barbara the following March and spoke to a gathering crowd, saying "... the Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people" (see 

The oil spill, spreading out approximately 880-square miles over the Pacific, served as an impetus for a congressional act declaring April 22, 1970 as the first Earth Day, calling for a national day of environmental education.

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agence (EPA) points out, the first Earth Day took place at a time when "there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act... no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment."

And so, by 1990, Earth Day was celebrated by more than 140 other countries around the world.

LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing

Another one of the vestiges of the growing environmental movement during the 1970s and '80s took place in a California viticultural area called Lodi.

A highly detailed system of sustainable winegrowing was conceived and created by the growers belonging to the Lodi Winegrape Commission, founded in 1991.

The Lodi growers' original impetus was, in fact, purely environmental; specifically, aimed at reducing pesticide use through a method of farming called IPM, or integrated pest management. After over 10 years of research into the science of low input vineyard management, plus contributions from the farmers themselves, Lodi's IPM program morphed into America's first formal system of growing grapes sustainably: LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing, launched officially under that name in 2005.

In the agricultural world, sustainability is defined as a way of farming in a way that is not just environmentally and socially responsible, but also economically viable. In respect to the latter objective, pertinent to the wine industry: Farming grapes in a way that sustains agricultural businesses—especially family owned businesses—over the long haul. Leaving farms and people in better condition for future generations. In a long established, multi-generational wine region such as Lodi, where many families have been farming for over 100 years, long term sustainability means everything.

Third party certification

What also distinguishes LODI RULES from other sustainable organizations is that it is not an "honor system" in which growers say words in support of sustainability. In this system, certification is granted only upon yearly audits of farming practices by an independent third party, Protected Harvest. It takes time and is costly, but wineries favor grapes from LODI RULES vineyards because certification is indicative of extra time spent in vineyards—hence, higher quality grapes.

Today, there are over 72,000 acres of LODI RULES vineyards certified across 14 California crush districts (Lodi included), Washington, and Israel. 

In fact, LODI RULES has such a strong appeal throughout the California wine industry, among growers and wineries alike, that approximately half of the certified acreage in the state of California is located outside the Lodi appellation.

A continuously evolving model for sustainability

LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing has been continuously revised over the past 19 years, since its First Edition in 2005. The standards were revised in 2013 (Second Edition), and revised further for clarity and consistency in 2017 (Third Edition).

In December 2022, Lodi Winegrape Commission's sustainable winegrowing director Dr. Stephanie Bolton announced the launch of a Fourth Edition of LODI RULES Sustainable Winegrowing Certification Standards.

According to Dr. Bolton at the time: "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."

In 2022, a total of 35 new Standards were added in the Fourth Edition of LODI RULES. Among the additional 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.

The Certified Green seal on wine bottles

When you find a "Certified Green" seal for a LODI RULES or CALIFORNIA RULES certified wine, you benefit more than knowing you are drinking wine from certified sustainable grapes. According to Dr. Bolton, when you purchase a bottle bearing a Certified Green seal "you are also supporting a farmer, a vintner, and an entire agricultural community that embraces their responsibility to care for the environment and the people."

A Certified Green seal on a bottle also means:

• The vineyards going into the wine were farmed by growers whose practices had accumulated points through an application of over 100 standards or practices entailing business management, human resources management, ecosystem management, soil management, water management, and pest management. 

• Each standard meets three criteria—first, it is measurable; second, it addresses at least one of the three tenets of sustainability (environmental health, social equity, and economic viability); and third, it is economically feasible to implement. 

In short, a Certified Green farmer continues to celebrate the original spirit of Earth Day, albeit in tangible ways specific to the sustainable goals of grape farmers in Lodi and wherever LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing is practiced.



Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

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