Lolonis Vineyard est. 1945
We’ve been buying fruit from the Lolonis Ranch since 2011, not long after our friend Athan Poulos rescued the foreclosed property from the circling vultures. The historic Home Vineyard was planted in 1945 and claims some of the oldest Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Napa Gamay, and Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in California. The Carignan and Valdiguie were our initial interests here, but in 2015 we added SB and Napa Gamay to the roster. Super stoked! Our team recently spent the afternoon at Lolonis boning up on the vineyard. Here is the transcript of a conversation between Athan and I:
Tell us about the history of Lolonis Vineyard and why it is so special.
It is incredibly special to us, because the property has been in our family for over 100 years. The property is all about the Lolonis family heritage. It is truly a living and growing history for our family, a place where our kids can see, feel, touch and taste a part of their past. Denise's grandfather, Tryfon Lolonis, purchased the property in 1914 because it reminded him of the village in Greece where he was raised. As the young vines grew, so did his family of 12. The entire family worked in the vineyards and contributed to the success of the current vineyards.
We are still harvesting fruit from the vines that our family planted in the late 1930's and early 1940's. It might not be the most economical and efficient use of land, however it's an amalgam of different decades of experimentation, popular farming practices of the day and what was available to our family as stewards of the land.
The Redwood Valley is a hidden gem. Our vineyards are located on the benchland of the valley, and have rich, red rocky soil that drains extremely well. We have been organic since the 1950's, which translates into some really healthy soil.
How did you and Denise come to own the ranch?
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase the property from the family in 2012. It is an incredible learning experience for us; every day we learn something new. Denise has been surrounded by agriculture (on both sides of her family) her entire life, however, it's a completely different experience once you own the land and are responsible for it's stewardship. Each season presents its own complexities, challenges and rewards.
There are some extremely old plantings of Sauvignon Blanc on this ranch. Are there any older SB vines in California?
To the best of our knowledge, (based on family discussions and photos), we believe our Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted in 1942. We believe they are among the oldest SB vines in California.
Tell us about the Napa Gamay planted there.
The 1/2 acre of Napa Gamay was planted in 1942, alongside the 3 blocks of SB. 74 years old! At that time, most of the reds in Redwood Valley were head trained, while the whites were grown on wires. This block is unusual, because there is intermixing of some SB and Napa Gamay within one of the blocks.
What do you feel is distinctive about wines from the Redwood Valley?
Redwood Valley offers a number of distinctions that are unique to the area. Our vineyard is at the 800 foot elevation on rocky red clay soil that has been farmed organically for over 60 years. The fruit that LIOCO sources from us is grown on vines that were planted in the 1940's, dry farmed and number approximately 550 vines per acre. Many of the hot days are cooled by a thick layer of fog rolling in through the gap in the coastal mountain range giving Redwood Valley an extended growing season that contributes to the balance our fruit achieves.
What is your vision for the Lolonis Vineyard?
To preserve the heritage vineyards and continue the organic practices and sustainability of the land. We strive to continually increase the quality of our fruit and explore eco sensitive ways to do so. We want to continue our partnerships with exceptional wineries and winemakers that generously share their expertise, passion and love of the craft to expand our knowledge and help us become better farmers.