When California dignitaries were looking for a site for a recent news conference on trade, they wanted a farm that aptly represents agriculture’s contributions to the state’s economy. At LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards near Lodi, they found an operation that also represents the future of sustainable farming in the Golden State.
A lush courtyard at the winery provided the backdrop as state Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson, and others urged federal officials to quickly patch up their trade differences with China.
LangeTwins ships case wine and bulk wine to destinations worldwide, including China, said Aaron Lange, company vice president of viticulture operations. As of the April 26 press event, the 15 percent additional tariff on wine entering China had already resulted in one order being canceled and another — a shipment of 700 cases — being put on hold while the two parties negotiated who would pay the tariff, Lange says.
So, the winery was a fitting place to highlight the issue, along with the fact that it’s less than an hour’s drive from the state Capitol and is right off Highway 99. “We’re very happy to host this event, and to work with the California Farm Bureau and other organizations to bring light to a very critical issue,” Lange told Western Farm Press.
But while trade was the topic of the day, the venue also made a statement about the sustainable farming practices that many California operations employ.
Founded in 2006 by twin brothers Bradford and Randall Lange, the winery is equipped with a bi-facial solar array and other technology to reduce the operation’s carbon footprint, and the Langes also lead a project with other Lodi area vintners to do various habitat restoration projects along the South Mokelumne River.
The Lange family has been farming in the Lodi area since the brothers’ great-grandparents, Johann and Maria Lange, settled there in the 1870s and began growing non-irrigated watermelons, according to the winery’s website. The family established its first grape ranch in 1916. The twins continued their family’s long tradition of working in the vineyards, and in 1974 decided to start farming on their own.
Both married — Randall to Charlene, and Brad to Susan — and between the two families they have five kids: Marissa, Aaron, Philip, Kendra, and Joe. All the adult members of the Lange family are involved in the business.
“As the kids grew up on the River Ranch they developed an appreciation for winegrowing by working summers and harvest with us,” the two brothers say. “After college, they each decided to come back to the family farm, so we took the next step and built a winery in 2006.”
For the last three decades, the family has made it a point to practice sustainable winegrowing, which they say is all-encompassing. For their efforts, in 2014 they received the BRIT Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and in 2006 the California Leopold Award from the Sand County Foundation for Environmental Conservation and Dedication.
The family was instrumental in developing the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing, a first-of-its-kind stewardship program. More than 100 sustainability practices are organized into chapters for navigating the overall business, human resources, the ecosystem, soil, water, and pests, according to the Lodi Winegrowers Commission’s website. Similar programs have since been started throughout California.
Ross says such efforts are part of the reason “the California brand stands for quality.” She notes that the brand has helped California become the world’s fourth largest producer of wine. “We’re very proud to be part of a great heritage of Lodi winegrowers, who make some of the best wine that’s made,” Aaron Lange says.