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Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.
by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML
Back from the Brink | Lodi Wine – The Wine Abides
Part 2 of 2 part series.
“The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.” – The Stranger, The Big Lebowski
I’m not a stoner. But I use to babysit for one. Not just a stoner, but the biggest dealer in our sleepy, prosperous town prone to clandestine recreational drug use.
As the daughter of the neighborhood’s ne’er-do-well, I relied on that babysitting money to fund my style addiction. So the night said dealer offered to pay me in ‘product’ remains a vivid memory. Then eight years into my twelve-year Catholic school indoctrination, moral indignation thwarted any potential entrepreneurial instincts. Unable to recognize the ‘invisible hand’ of market value, I opted instead for cold, hard cash.
Luckily, not just literal, but literary by nature – I also grasped the invaluable glint of a good story.
The Dude Abides
Nothing about Layne Montgomery’s middle-American, tea-totaling Southern-Baptist upbringing presaged his present life as a wine maker in Lodi, California.
Like any struggling, self-proclaimed ‘uni-generational ‘ winemaker, Layne Montgomery arrived in ‘old-growth’ Lodi in 2004 with a lot to prove, mostly to himself. At 6′ 5″, Hawaiian-shirted, flip-flopped and shorts-wearing, he’s a little hard to ignore. the m2 Wine tagline sums his modus operandi best: “intelligent. accessible. slightly outspoken.”
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for Lodi natives to welcome him into their multi-generational fold. Fast-forward to 2012, when Randy Caparoso of LoCA challenged a group of Lodi wine makers, Montgomery among them, to form Lodi Native, a scion of The Lodi Rules™ for Sustainable Growing. Lodi Rules™, launched in 2005, claims fame as California’s first third-party sustainable wine growing certification program.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Layne Montgomery suits up, shows up, and plays on the Lodi Native playing field with gusto.
Lodi Native, a collaboration between six Lodi wine growers, spotlights Lodi’s heritage old vines, Zinfandel in particular.
Membership requires adherence to stringent winemaking protocols.These protocols include the use of 100% ‘old-vine’ (~35-100 years old) Zinfandel sourced from one single contiguous vineyard within the Lodi AVA, with a preference for Lodi Rules™ certified sustainable vineyards. Exceptions may occur for certain old vine plantings with long-established field mixes, or younger, distinctive plantings.
Production protocols require the use of native yeast fermentations only, and restricts the use of inoculation for malolactic fermentation. Additional prohibitions include no oak chips, dust or similar amendments, no new oak or inner-staves aging, and no tannin additions, as well as no acidification or de-acidification, use of Mega-Purple or other concentrate products, and no must concentration, Flash Détente or similar extraction measures. Finally, wines may not be filtered or fined.
Moreover, after élevage, each producer must submit proposed cuvées for sensory evaluation and subsequent approval by the entire group.
Above all, Lodi Native focuses on dirt. Maximum self-expression of the dirt, mostly from the Mokelumne River sub-AVA. The list of old-growth vineyards boggle the mind: Marian’s Vineyard (Growers: Jerry & Bruce Fry of Mohr-Fry Ranches | Winemaker: Stuart Spencer of St. Amant Winery), Schmiedt Ranch (Growers: Schmiedt Family | Winemaker: Tim Holdener of Macchia Wines), Stampede Vineyard (Growers: Jeff and John Perlogos Winemaker: Ryan Sherman of Fields Family Wines), TruLux Vineyard (Grower: Keith Watts | Winemaker: Michael McCay of McCay Cellars), Wegat Vineyard (Grower, Todd Maley | Winemaker: Chad Joseph of Maley Brothers), and Soucie Vineyard, owned by grower Kevin Soucie and produced by Layne Montgomery of m2 Wines.
The Wine Abides
Montgomery affectionately refers to his block of Soucie Vineyard as ‘bonsai vines.’ Planted in 1916 by Kevin Soucie’s grandfather, these hundred-hear old head-trained, self-rooted Zinfandel shrubs splay out like gnarly, battle-hardened warriors under the Lodi sun. Tapped into Devries sandy loam, the vines invariably chew Layne Montgomery up and spit him out every vintage. But that tough love beats out a beautiful elixir, as we taste vineyard-side. The m2 2014 Select Block Zinfandel exhibits a glorious rouge hue, complex structure, and unexpected elegance.
Montgomery collects our glasses, and we decamp down the road to Wegat Vineyard, where fellow Lodi Native and grower Todd Maley proffers his own old-vine version, an age-worthy contrapunto to the clarion call of Soucie Vineyard.
Finally, appetites whetted, we slosh our way back to m2 Wine’s ultra-chic tasting room, where we belly up to the bar pre-prandial before devouring our luscious, locally-catered meal.
As the early evening sunlight filters through the floor-to-ceiling windows, Kevin Soucie breaks out a bottle of 1945 wine bequeathed to him by his grandfather. In hushed appreciation, we marvel at the lively liquid, still viable. Now a deep walnut hue, it offers up an ambered finesse not unlike a time-tuned madeira. The wine abides.
The Dude: Layne Montgomery & Team m2
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