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Photo Unrealism


From Vine to Wine

Lolonis Wines — a winery with millions of employees: Ladybugs

By 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 the vineyards.

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 Foods.

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.