The Lodi Winegrape Commission celebrated their 30th anniversary this year, and last week they passed their most important referendum ever, giving a majority of Lodi residents the ability to vote on a ban on new wineries.

With the Lodi Winegrape Commission’s 30th anniversary coming up this year, the board of commissioners expressed concern about the future of their beloved grapevine, but on Tuesday, the commission received a letter from the Lodi Unified School District, stating that it would continue growing grapes on its 12 properties.

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Its success is due to the support and funding of forward-thinking winemakers.

LODY, CA, 1. June 2021. – Last week, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced that the referendum on the Lodi Vineyard Commission was successful, with 85% of growers in the region voting in favor of retaining the commission. The news was announced on the occasion of the organization’s 30th anniversary.

Founded in 1991 as the grower organization behind the American Lodi Wine Area (AVA), this California organization represents 750 growers who manage more than 100,000 acres of vineyards. Over the years, the Commission has provided significant support to the region through programmes in the areas of marketing, education, research and sustainable viticulture, strengthening Lodi’s leadership role in viticulture and promoting its reputation as a premier wine region. In order to ensure that its objectives are met, the Commission collects an annual estimate of the gross value of the grape harvest. Every five years, local farmers vote on the continuation of the organization and its programs.

Over the past 30 years, it has successfully achieved its objectives, including raising awareness among key buyers and consumers, as well as trade and media representatives, and increasing the visibility of the region. The proof that the organization has been active for decades is the region itself. Since 1991, the size of the vineyards in Lodi has more than doubled, from 39,000 acres to over 100,000 acres. The value of the harvest has grown from $80 million to over $500 million, and the number of wineries has increased exponentially from six to 85. Wine tourism continues to generate billions of dollars in economic benefits to society each year. More importantly, the famous Lodi appellation has become a seal of approval for the label’s wines, which have grown from a modest handful in the early 1990s to thousands today.

Current Lodi Grape Commission Chair Kendra Altnow looks back on the success of the commission: A lot has changed since 1991, including our cultivation methods, but one fact remains the same: We continue to work together as a community of producers; our collaboration benefits both our appellation and ourselves. Altnow’s father, Brad Lange of LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards, was the committee’s first chairman 30 years ago.

One of the Lodi Grape Commission’s major achievements over the past 30 years in terms of increased visibility and awareness is its regional marketing programs. In 2012, a highly visible and successful national marketing and consumer branding campaign was conducted for LoCA – Wines of Lodi, California. This campaign positively positioned the region as one full of authentic, affordable winemakers who are passionate about producing quality grapes and wines. The campaign’s efforts paid off in 2015, when magazine named Lodi Wine Country of the Year.

As the region grew, so did the marketing. In January 2020, the committee showed the increased identity of the Lodi Wine brand for the region, as well as the producers and the organization. The accompanying marketing campaign – There’s Something Happening Here – encourages the public to learn more about Lodi’s winemakers and farmers, as well as its unique soil, microclimate and grape diversity, through stories, illustrations and traditional imagery.

In October 2020, the Commission launched Save the Old Vines, a marketing campaign specifically aimed at preserving historic vineyards. The campaign was a huge success, generating 2.7 million ad views and nearly 10,000 website visits, as well as $20,000 in revenue from Old Vine wine and merchandise sales.  In addition to national attention, the campaign has attracted the attention of British wine critic and writer Jancis Robinson, as well as educators and winemaking experts involved in the case. In March, the Commission was one of the few leaders invited to speak at the first World Conference on Old Vines, a movement to ensure the valuable and sustainable place of vineyards in the commercial reality of the global wine industry.

Lodi has always had everything it needs to become a phenomenal wine region, says Stuart Spencer, executive director of the Lodi Winegrowing Commission. We have the right soil and the right microclimate, but most importantly we have the right people. I’ve been in the industry since I was a kid and I’ve seen a lot. What I haven’t seen anywhere else is a community of farmers and producers who are willing to put the region before individual farms. Lodi’s greatest success lies in its selfless cooperation. Spencer has worked at the Commission since 1999.

Another major achievement of the Commission is the introduction in 2005 of the LODI RULES programme for sustainable viticulture. Launched in 1992 as an educational program, LODI RULES is widely recognized as the most comprehensive and rigorous certification of sustainable vineyards in the world and continues to serve as an inspiration and foundation for many other programs. What started with a handful of certified vineyards in 2005 has grown to nearly 1,300 certified vineyards and 55,380 certified acres in 16 counties in California, Washington and Israel. Revenue from producers using the certification program outside of Lodi brought the commission nearly $55,000 in 2020.

LODI RULES has received much recognition over the years, including the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) in 2006 and again in 2014. This progressive program, which is regularly evaluated by academics, scientists and winemakers, continues to lead the way in innovation in sustainability. The program has recently undergone an extensive review and 20 new standards will be added in 2022 to the current list of over 100 standards. In 2020, the LODI rules were also translated into Spanish, increasing the educational impact and value of the program.

In addition to marketing and sustainable viticulture programmes, the Commission continues to promote innovation in technology, viticulture and modern thinking among producers and the sector as a whole through its leading role in research and education. In August 2020, the Commission released an eight-minute video entitled Biocontrol of Meal Beetles in California Vineyards, which detailed the year-long project by Dr. Kent Dane and the Lodi Horticulture Team to demonstrate insect release and mating disruption using pheromones for biocontrol of meal beetles in California vineyards. The project was part of a $50,000 Western SARE Professional + Producer grant awarded in 2019. In December 2020, this grant project was incorporated into a larger project, a $1 million Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) grant, awarded to Dr. Kent Daan to study biocontrol of mealybugs in Lodi and the Central Coast.

A 138-page book entitled What Every Winegrower Should Know was published in early 2020 thanks to the cooperation and funding of the Commission, the American Vineyard Foundation, and the CDFA PD/GWSS Council: Viruses. A comprehensive guide developed by members of the Lodi Grapevine Virus Research Working Group, led by Dr. Stephanie Bolton of the Lodi Viticulture Commission, and experts covers grapevine virus basics, mealybugs, virus detection and spread, sudden vine collapse, and other topics. More than 700 copies have been distributed in California, several states and abroad.

In the near future, the Commission will further extend its leadership and influence in the field of wine research by adding a specialist in wine research to its small staff. This post will enable the Commission to carry out tests in vineyards for the benefit of its producers and the sector as a whole.

Altnow asked: What does the next 30 years look like for the Lodi Wine Commission? As in the past three decades, only time will tell, but I believe we are on the right track. Guided by a strategic plan, we aim to take innovative approaches to marketing and develop practical research, education and outreach.

Other notable achievements of the Commission over the past 30 years include:

  • In 1998, the Lodi Vineyard Commission, in cooperation with the City of Lodi, established the Lodi Convention and Visitors Bureau.
  • In 2000, the Lodi Wine Commission established the Lodi Wine Visitor Center, one of the first regional centers for wine education and tasting.
  • In 2006, the Lodi Viticulture Commission created seven unique districts, or AVAs, nestled within the greater Lodi AVA: Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clements Hills, Cosumnes River, Jahant, Mokelumne River and Sloughhouse.
  • In 2020, the Lodi Grape Commission will launch Modern Farmer, a series of hands-on training courses for farmers to improve profitability and marketing.

About the Lodi wine committee

Established in 1991, the Lodi Grape Commission represents the common interests of Lodi grape growers through marketing, education, research and sustainable viticulture programs.  The Commission collectively and effectively promotes Lodi’s vibrant, intergenerational farming community and California’s most dynamic wine region. The board of directors, made up of nine commissioners and nine alternates, provides leadership and participation on behalf of the region’s 750 winemakers. For more information about the Lodi Viticulture Commission, visit lodigrowers.com.

About the American winegrowing region Lodi (AVA)

A historic wine region since the 1850s, Lodi is conveniently located 40 miles south of Sacramento and 90 miles east of San Francisco. Lodi’s Mediterranean climate and excellent soil allow growers to grow 125 grape varieties, making Lodi the most diverse wine region in the United States. The region also has 85 wineries specialising in the production of artisanal small-scale wines that have won important prizes in national and international competitions.

Lodi, of course, is a leader in sustainable viticulture. Developed by California farmers and approved by world-renowned scientists, LODI RULES is America’s first sustainable viticulture program. The program meets high standards of scientific rigor and excellence and emphasizes environmentally and socially responsible practices while maintaining economic viability for long-term commercial success. Today, more than 55,000 acres are certified in California, Washington and Israel. For more information on the Lodi AVA or LODI RULES, visit lodiwine.com and lodirules.org.

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