Maureen Lolonis spoke with students at the Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus on May 1st, discussing Lolonis vineyards and winery and tasting eight of their signature wines. The 2006 Chardonnay was my favorite. Maureen is an avid storyteller, and was quick to tell the history behind her family’s winery.
In 1914, Tryfon Lolonis, an immigrant from Velherna, Greece, saw California’s Redwood Valley for the first time. He was immediately entranced by the stunning beauty and its striking similarities to his home in the Mediterranean. Tryfon did not hesitate to purchase a plot of land to build a home for his wife and future family. For the next ten years, Lolonis and his wife, Eugenia, slaved over the land, rearing the grapevines that they had planted in hopes of producing a great-quality wine. Their hard labor was rewarded with their first vintage in the 1920s.
Three decades later, their son Nick Lolonis, having completed studies of viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis, convinced his father to consider organic farming, relinquishing the use of artificial chemicals. A massive amount of ladybugs were unleashed throughout the vineyard, in an effort to keep pests at bay. This became a Lolonis tradition and the future symbol for the winery.
The original vines planted by Tryfon Lolonis were safeguarded, and the vineyards passed down to each generation of the family, ending with the current owner, Petros Lolonis, grandson of Tryfon and Eugenia. It was in the 1980s that Petros, along with his brother, Ulysses, decided to establish the Lolonis Winery to label their product with the family name, finally pushing their wines into the limelight and earning them great recognition; since October of 2000, seven Lolonis wines have so far been awarded 90 points or higher by the Wine Spectator.
Despite the fact that none of the Lolonis labels state they are “organic,” the vineyards were the first in the state of California to be certified organically grown. As many people lean towards a healthier lifestyle, the term “organic” is in danger of being misused by marketers with suspect motives and methods. “Organic” should have a specific meaning and should not be thrown about loosely or taken advantage of the way that it has been over the past decade. Thankfully, there are producers like Lolonis that strive to provide high-quality organic products.
Mary Borden is a student at the Culinary Institute of America.