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Lodi grape-growers offered cash incentive for Lodi Rules certification

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Posted: Saturday, July 3, 2010 12:00 am

Going green is giving Lodi grape-growers the chance to make some extra green.

The Michael-David Winery and Bogle Winery are offering cash incentives to winegrape-growers who obtain a certification under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.

Michael-David gives certified farmers an extra $50 per ton to keep up the good work.

Lodi Rules requires farmers to keep detailed records of their practices, encouraging them to grow more sustainably. Not only is it a more eco-friendly lifestyle, said Emiliano Castanon, the vineyard manager at Michael-David Winery, but such methods may produce a higher quality grape.

“Everyone should farm as sustainably as possible, (and) our growers are lucky enough to grow for a winery that offers an incentive,” Castanon added.

But convincing farmers to switch over to the new method is the trick. About half of the growers contracted with Michael-David Winery have become certified, and Castanon said the company will require all their sellers to adhere to the Lodi Rules by next year.

Dave Devine has contracted with Michael-David for four years and said the certification process isn’t so much of a fiscal drain as it is a headache.

For Devine, the money required to get certified — $2,300 the first year — wasn’t the main deterrent. The sheer number of forms and amount of research initially required seemed daunting. But he said he was confident that he would meet the winery’s deadline.

“What (Michael-David Winery is) paying us as a bonus will cover any expenses that we have to incur … ” Devine said. “He’s not asking us to do it on our own, because it’s benefiting him as well as us — it’s kind of a team deal.”

A team deal for winery, grower and environment.

The environmental benefits of the certification vary from conserving water to reducing carbon emissions.

“(The) mantra is doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons, and that’s really what the rules are all about,” said Mike Wanless, the sustainable winegrowing director for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. “The rules are a continuously improving process that try to minimize environmental harm while maintaining growers’ economic liability.”

Kevin Phillips, VP of operations for Michael-David Winery, said the growing demand for sustainably grown wines was a main factor in requiring the certification. But a burgeoning market is not the only reason wineries are encouraging farmers to get certified.

“(The certification) helps put Lodi on the map, too,” Phillips said. “It’s to help market not just our product but Lodi, the Lodi Appellation.

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