“I figured Lodi didn’t need another replica of a Tuscan villa. In fact, I don’t think the world needs another Tuscan villa,” explained Layne Montgomery, as we (a carload of wine bloggers) approached the new tasting room for m2 Wines. I’d heard the new structure resembled an airplane hangar, and I believe that is a perfect description. Nothing could have been further from a Tuscan villa. Modern corrugated metal sliding doors allowed the vineyards and tasting room to merge. In the cool evening air with the warm California light filtering through, it was a stunning experience – and a highlight of my weekend in Lodi at the Wine Bloggers Conference.
Now, lest you think that m2 Wines is only a beautiful winery and tasting room, let me give you some backstory on Layne Montgomery and the award-winning wines of m2. But first, a brief recap of how I ended up at m2 and why.
The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference (this year held in Lodi) organized several different excursions with local wine makers to provide an opportunity to get to know Lodi more intimately. The excursions were given fun names like, Rolling Stone, Three Ring Circus, Gone With the Wine, and The Wine Abides – names that hinted at what the mood of the excursion would be. In the end, I chose The Wine Abides, following the lead of a new wine blogger friend who happened to be a fan of The Big Lebowski. If you’re not familiar with the film, the main character is a stoner known as The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges. The Dude Abides is a line from the film. Hence, The Wine Abides. If you don’t know The Big Lebowski check out this IMDb profile
Layne Montgomery is the wine maker and The Dude at m2 Wines. Tall, with icy blue eyes and a self-effacing sense of humor, his no bullshit approach to wine-making and storytelling had us all laughing and enjoying ourselves.
m2 sources grapes from three different areas: Lodi, Napa, and the Sierra foothills. On that day, we were visiting the 100-plus year old Souci vineyards in Lodi. Layne explained that the soil in these vineyards is the best in the world for zinfandel. “It’s the same soil 80 feet down. It’s the consistency of flour and drains well. This was once part of an alluvial floodplain.”
You can not grow good quality grapes if your vines are not planted in the right type of soil. Different grapes prefer different soil types. The vines in the Souci vineyards have thrived for over 100 years precisely because they are planted in the perfect soil. Of course there are other factors like climate, but the point here is the dirt is good for zin.
m2 is one of a group of six wine makers producing wines for the Lodi Native project, which focuses on old growth vines with strict winemaking protocol. Read more about the Lodi Native project. Also read this very good article Wine Enthusiast.
Montgomery is dedicated to producing artisanal wines that express the terroir and the personality of the winemaker. This is significant because Lodi has historically been known for producing inexpensive zinfandel,often sold to other winemakers. m2, along with a growing list of producers in Lodi, are breaking that stereotype and producing excellent complex wines. These wines are putting Lodi on the map and earned them Wine Enthusiast Magazine‘s Wine Region of the Year 2015.
Back at the tasting room, we were joined by vineyard owner Kevin Souci, who surprised us with a bottle of zinfandel found in his grandfather’s cellar and bottled in 1945. Dude! There was just about an ounce for each of us wine writers, and we savored it like liquid gold. It was a beautiful warm amber color; the aroma was of stewed fruit, honey, and just a hint of tobacco. It had aged beautifully and had a nice silky finish. Divine.
Dinner was a four-course affair preceded by a reception with even more wine. I’ve included the menu for readers who like food and wine pairing ideas and tasting notes below.
I can’t tell you that you will have the same experience we had, but I can tell you if you go to m2 Wines, you’ll likely see Layne there. You may even be offered a barrel tasting. And, you can enjoy m2 wines and the ambiance of the new tasting room. Go in the late afternoon or early evening when it’s cool enough for them to open up those big sliding doors. Sit back and enjoy the sunset over the vineyards with a glass of old vine zinfandel. The wine abides.
If you go
2900 E. Peltier Rd. Acampo, CA 95220
m2 Wines Wine Bloggers Dinner 2016
2015 Viognier with Bucherondn goat’s milk cheese, Loire Valley France
2014 Lodi Native Zinfandel
Barely Buzzed cow’s milk cheese, Uintah, UT
2013 Old Vine Zinfandel Soucie Vineyard
Summer garden salad with a goat cheese medallion
2013 Old vine zinfandel vinaigrette, pistachios and dried cherries
2013 Duality Red Blend
Pepper crusted beef filet with demi-glacé
Creamy parmesan risotto
Grilled summer vegetables
2013 Petite Sirah
Pork tenderloin drizzled with vanilla hoisin sauce
Roasted fingerling potatoes
Sautéed mushrooms and asparagus
2014 Select Block Zinfandel with Dark Chocolate Double Decadent with Point Reyes Blue Cheese
2014 Belle Etoile Blanche with Milk Chocolate Marcona Almond with strawberry
Let me know if you try any of these pairings.
Thanks to the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship fund for assistance with travel to Lodi.