Tonya Renee Banks is one of the women featured in LifeTime’s reality series “Little Women: LA” (Wednesdays at 9/8c) which follows a close-knit group of friends with big hearts and even larger personalities, who have a physical trait in common: They are little people.
In the series, the “ladies” travel around Los Angeles while dealing with relationships, parenting, and careers. Being in front of a camera isn’t new for the effervescent Banks. She has worked as an actress in TV and film for over 30 years and also made world history as the first female little person, (lead) in “The Internship Games.” But in “Little Women: LA”, this is her first time that Bank’s is allowing the world to look at her life as a little person. Her goals are fixed and the path is clearing, Banks wants to be the first Black female little person to win an Academy Award.
In the meantime, Banks will sit back and drink in her life with a glass of red wine from her own company L’Tonya Renee’, a blend that’s perfect for sweet and dry red wine lovers.
Here is what Banks had to say about why she’s moving into the wine industry with her first wine L’Tonya Renee’ Red Blend.
Los Angeles Sentinel (LAS): Miss Tonya Renee Banks, my first question is simple, why wines?
Tonya Renee Banks (TRB): (laughing) Why wines? Why red wines? That’s a great question. I started drinking wine in 2011 which was inspired because my mom — who passed away in 2000 — was a red wine drinker. I use to make comments to her, like — ‘ma, you drink red wine all the time’ and she would respond that it’s ‘good for the soul’. In 2011 I got introduced to a red wine and moved to Mascota [wine], and other red and white wines. And so, I introduced all the girls [on “Little Women: LA”] to red wine. Then I decided that I was tired of buying everyone else’ wine and decided it was time for me, to create a wine that I like and that everybody will like.
LAS: How did you choose the name of the wine?
TRB: It was named after my mother L’Tonya Renee, who loved red wine.
LAS: Do you prefer sweet wines or dry wines?
TRB: I started out drinking sweet wines and a lot of restaurants don’t carry sweet wines. I have a lot of friends that drink dry wines they don’t like sweet wines. So, I decided to create a blend that sweet drinkers and dry drinkers will like it. So, that’s how I came up with L’Tonya Renee’ Red Blend, that’s the red blend.
LAS: Do you choose the vineyard or do you choose the type of grape, first and then find a vineyard? How does that work?
TRB: Kind of both, actually. You kind of pick what you want. You pick the vineyard and if they are willing to work with you when you pick the grapes. They will let you know which type of grapes they harvest. Then you tell them what you want and they proceed to make that blend.
LAS: So, shall I assume that there is a lot of tasting to make L’Tonya Renee’ Red Blend, perfect.
TRB: Yes. You are correct. I have to taste the wine blends, first and I work with them to get the taste perfect. You know? A little of this, less of that until it’s perfect.
LAS: How long did the process take you, to get it right?
TRB: It took six months to get the right flavor.
LAS: Wow! That’s fast. I was not expecting that short amount of time. That’s exciting!
TRB: Yes, it is exciting because the grapes were already tanned and blended, it was how to blend to make the perfect taste. I was with him [vineyard owner] for about one-year as I was designing the brands’ label, coming up with the name, and the blend and getting it approved by the federal government. The federal approval was a six-month process.
LAS: Where can people outside of Los Angeles find your L’Tonya Renee’ Red Blend?
TRB: I’m working on securing a national distributor [because] I want my wines to be all over the world. All of that [mass distribution] has to do with licensing. I have to get my license and each state that you ship to, you have to get a license for that state.
LAS: So you need 50 licenses?
TRB: Yes (laughing). Exactly! So, I am looking into a bigger distribution [deal]. Right now, in Los Angeles, they can go directly to my website https://www.tonyareneebanks.com/ click on the wine app and you can order.
LAS: In Los Angeles, if you had a favorite wine store could a person request your wine to be stocked in that location?
TRB: Yes! I am working on that right now with Bevmo! and Total Wines! Great question. Right now the wine is shipped to California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Washington DC, New Mexico, Alaska ( Airship only), and Minnesota.
LAS: Describe the taste of L’Tonya Renee’ Red Blend?
TRB: (laughing) It’s not really sweet but it’s sweet, enough. It has a high alcoholic content to it, 16.8 alcohol volume. It is a red blend combing 48 percent Merlot, 32 percent Syrah, and a 23 percent Zinfandel. I’d describe it as a matrimony of flavors, vibrant, elegant, complex, plush with a refreshing finish.
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