This is another in my series about my recent trip to Lodi, California on a media trip sponsored by the Lodi Winegrape Commission with four other bloggers (Amy of Another Wine Blog, Frank of Drink What YOU Like, Gabe of Gabe’s View, and Julia of Wine Julia) and Mark and Claudia from Snooth.com. For most of the trip we were also joined by Jenny Heitman and Camron King of the Wine Grape Commission. In last week’s piece, we visited several of the region’s historic vineyards. This week, that theme continues with an afternoon trip to the Soucie Vineyard.
Pretty much since we arrived in Lodi, we were told that we were going to meet a lot of growers, many winemakers, and several other people who would give us a good idea of Lodi’s essence. Several times over the first two days, we were told that we should brace ourselves for when we met one certain winemaker. Most people we met mentioned that said producer was quite the character and rarely (if ever) was shy to voice his unique and, at times, controversial opinions.
The winemaker in question?
Layne Montgomery of M2 Vineyards.
I was certainly excited to meet Layne as I am a sucker for witty word play and clever repartée. Or perhaps more precisely, I love a provocative quote. I would be sure to have my iPhone ready to jot down the dozens of witticisms and scores of jabs being flung about like a rag doll in a hurricane.
As we headed to the Soucie Vineyard, we were prepped once again for what we were about to encounter—the whirlwind that is Layne Montgomery. Both Camron King and Jenny Heitman, our intrepid Lodi liaisons, attempted to prepare us for the oncoming storm, which served to underscore my anticipation.
We pulled into the Soucie Vineyard, which was first planted in 1916, and we were met by Kevin Soucie (the fifth generation farmer of his namesake vineyard) and Layne Montgomery.
Let the fireworks begin!
We soon found out that there was a bit of rain on our parade. Moments after being introduced by Camron, Layne informed us that he was not feeling all that well, as he had been under the weather for the better part of a week.
So much for the rag doll.
Kevin, however, stepped into the void and provided some information about the vineyard. The nearly 100-year-old vines are own rooted (i.e., never affected by phylloxera) and drip irrigated underground. Walking around the vineyard, the soil was fascinating–an extremely fine silt that more closely resembled baby powder than “dirt.”
As Kevin continued to provide information about farming in general and the Soucie Vineyard in particular, I noticed Layne standing by himself with an open bottle of his opulent 2012 M2 Select Block Zinfandel ($59).
So, as the others gathered around Kevin, I sauntered over to Layne to get a little more of his Select Block (I am usually not a big fruit, huge wine fan, but the M2 Select Block was incredible). As I stood there next to one of the few people in Lodi that can make me feel short (or at least of average height–by my guess Layne is 6’5 or 6’6), the one liners started to flow. The language was certainly colorful and more in line with what we were told to expect. Here were a few that I was able to enter into my iPhone while trying not to appear as if I were texting:
- “I get criticized for too high alcohol but who cares?”
- “Do you know the difference between a sommelier and the guy with the pepper grinder? The guy with the pepper grinder knows his job is a f&%#ing joke.”
- “You go into a tasting room and they hand you a wine and they say ‘try this, it’s a great food wine.’ That means it tastes like shit unless you have a ton of ketchup.”
- “Wine does not have to pair well with food. Sometimes you just want to drink a bottle of wine and f&%#.”
That was more like it….
Standing there, in a hundred year old vineyard, planted in ground that you would hope to find at the beach, drinking a truly decadent wine, and listening to one of the region’s genuine characters, I was struck by how special Lodi really is. While most wine regions might have several of those components, I doubt that they all come together in such a seamless fashion.