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The Merlot for Monarchs campaign launched in late July. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Laura Klahre lights up when she talks about the power of pollinators. The Southold beekeeper and owner of Blossom Meadow Farm is a leader on the subject and even hosted a TED Talk on increasing food production by using native pollinators, which has been viewed more than 2,000 times on YouTube.

She often shares her insights with vineyard goers at her Cutchogue tasting room, Coffee Pot Cellars, which she co-owns with husband and award-wining winemaker Adam Suprenant. Time after time, Klahre notes that, “So many people care when they are informed. It is heartwarming.”

Klahre, an artisanal honey product producer, often talks about the importance of native bees, such as mason bees, but there is another pollinator on the decline that deserves some recognition: the monarch butterfly.

To help increase the population of these butterflies and raise awareness, Coffee Pot Cellars has introduced its Merlot for Monarchs Campaign. Blossom Meadow Farm will grow a butterfly milkweed plant for each bottle of merlot sold at the winery.

Milkweed is native to Long Island and, in addition to being drought and deer-resistant, plays a key role in the monarch life cycle. They are the only plants that serve as food for newly hatched caterpillars, Klahre said.

In the past two decades, the monarch population has declined by roughly 80 percent and it is estimated that more than 1.3 billion stems of milkweed need to be restored for the species to bounce back, according to a recent study.

“The monarch butterfly population has majorly declined because of land-use changes and habitat loss,” she said. “We need to increase the population and it’s easy by planting this milkweed. It is an immediate response.”

Monarch butterfly caterpillars gather on the milkweed planted outside Coffee Pot Cellars’ tasting room.

In an effort to reconnect people with nature, monarch caterpillars are currently munching away on milkweed and chrysalises of monarchs waiting to emerge as butterflies are prominently displayed in the Coffee Pot Cellars tasting room. The first person to buy a bottle of merlot each day gets to release any newly emerged butterflies.

“They flutter off your finger into the wind,” said Klahre, adding that they chose merlot for the campaign, not only for the alliteration, but because it pairs well with a variety of foods like barbecue and burgers throughout the year.

“Merlot is a great wine and this is a great cause,” she said.

Some of the milkweed grown at Klahre’s two-acre Southold farm will be given to Girl Scouts earning their Silver and Gold Awards to plant and restore monarch butterfly habitat throughout Long Island each June.

“I want them to learn about conservation,” Klahre said.

Pick up a bottle at Coffee Pot Cellars located at 31855 Main Road in Cutchogue.