From Vine to Wine
Lolonis Wines — a winery with millions of
Dianne Boate and Robeert Meyer
In 1956, something very important
happened to the Lolonis Vineyards in Redwood Valley, Mendocino
County, California. Millions and millions of live ladybugs were put
out by hand to control any pests in the neighborhood that were
causing damage to the grapes and grapevines. Just shy of 50 years
later, the winery is famous for the cleanest wines in the business.
Why? If you read wine articles
regularly, the French word "terroir" is used over and
over, because it means soil. The nature of the soil has everything
to do with the finished product of wine. We have had personal
experience of drinking wines grown otherwise. Right away you know
it: Big red splotches on your cheeks, like a sudden sunburn. This
can be very alarming.
Being chemically free all these
years because of the ladybugs has produced a bonus. The ladybugs
liked their jobs and decided to stay to raise their families,
meaning that each year less and less ladybugs have to be imported to
Petros Lolonis, president of
Lolonis Wines, told us that his father came to California from
Greece in 1910, and by 1920 had succeeded in planting four acres of
grapes on land he owned. His dream had always been to create a wines
from his own grapes. The ten children in the family all helped in
the vineyards after school every day after a good snack of buttered
French rolls and hot chocolate to see them through. As grape
growers, the family was proud that wines made from their grapes won
many medals and awards. Petros visited Greece for the first time in
the 1950s and was truly amazed that his father had picked out a
place in California that looked like his homeland.
With brother Ulysses Lolonis
tending the vineyards, Petros and his wife, Maureen O’Reilly
Lolonis, made the old dream come true in 1982 by producing their
first vintage of chardonnay. It won a gold medal at the Orange
County competition. Maureen herself designed the label with big gold
letters that first caught everyone’s attention.
When we asked Petros his favorite food and wine combination, he
said, "Grilled lamb chops, with Private Reserve Zinfandel or
Merlot, cooked medium rare, none of this burned stuff!" He
added that oregano and fresh lemon juice should be added at the end
of cooking time.
It is many medals and generations
of ladybugs later. These excellent wines can be found in the Bay
Area at Andronico’s, Beverages and More, Jug Shop, and Whole
Dianne Boate is a San Francisco photojournalist. Her work may be
seen on website gallery: danielakart.com. Robert Meyer is a
consultant to the wine and spirits industry. They have been tasting
wine together for 24 years.