Concannon may be familiar to you from supermarket shelves. I know that I was beguiled by them for years whenever I browsed my local Safeway. Strangely, I’d never considered trying to visit until our good friend, Kristen B, suggested a day-trip to Livermore Valley. She was pulling together a group and had a friend, Jennifer, who works in the tasting room, but who is also a successful realtor in Oakdale, CA. Land and wine do fit hand-in-glove, don’t you think?
The Concannon story is pretty awesome. Apparently great-grandfather James Concannon immigrated to California from Ireland, where he founded the winery in 1883. That’s old, especially for a California winery. Today Concannon is well known for Petite Sirah, of which they claim to be the first producers in the U.S. At more than fifty years, it is worth tasting on any visit. Here’s a link to a great video of James Concannon (not the Irish guy, but a descendent) talking about the first petite sirah vintage and the Livermore terroir.
This place was buzzing when we arrived the Sunday of Presidents Day weekend. Fortunately the weather was excellent after about a week of cold rain. We met Kristen, her friends, including Jennifer and Susan behind the counter, and the lovely Joann and Roger P. (Good luck on your upcoming operation, Joann! We’re rooting for you.)
The tasting room is housed in a large complex of buildings, all surrounded by vineyards. Amazingly, there was snow on some of the distant peaks, a rare sight indeed for this part of the State. The sky was full of sun and gorgeous clouds, there was a gentle cool breeze and everything felt right in the universe.
We didn’t take a tour (I didn’t even find out if that was a possibility.) Instead we went right to work with wine tasting. After that, our large group all gathered in the back for a late lunch and more wine in Concannon’s modern restaurant/lounge, Underdog Wine Bar. It was so much fun catching up, meeting new people and enjoying a bottle of the 2000 Heritage Petite Sirah. Ah…
Afterward, Whit and I went browsing through their wine library. They had some older vintages and an exciting array of large format bottles. I always go for the “big bottle” when I can, so you’ll understand that I was dismayed to learn that the one guy that had the key to the cellar was off buying cheese for the party the next day. They wouldn’t sell without him. Too bad! Though it is probably just as well. How often is a Nebuchadnezzar really called for?
2009 Viognier Reserve, Livermore Valley: This wine was so pale that it appeared colorless. It had a lovely floral nose with notes of pear, apricot and mineral. We liked it.
2009 Chardonnay Reserve, Livermore Valley: This was an extremely pale yellow. It had notes of coffee, tobacco and salami. This one spent about six months in oak though it wasn’t buttery at all. Rather it was creamy and rich full of tropical fruit and some toasted oak notes with medium heft.
2008 Pinot Noir Reserve, San Luis Obispo County, Haimes Valley: This was a transparent cherry red with red fruit and hints of horse pooh. Light to medium bodied with pepper, cranberry and blueberry flavors.
2007 Syrah Reserve, Livermore Valley: This has 8% petite sirah added. It was an opaque purple with enticing aromas of tobacco and coffee with red and purple fruit and a minerally finish.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Livermore Valley: This has 6% petite sirah and 2% petite verdot. It was a translucent red to purple color with a nose of cedar and forest floor. It had supple tannin with pleasing hints of blueberry, blackberry, and vanilla. This had a good finish.
2006 Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah, Reserve, Livermore Valley: This was dark, opaque purple. We detected mouthwatering spice box, forest floor, camphor with lots of black pepper, red fruit, blueberry and ample tannin.
2006 Petite Sirah, Reserve, Livermore Valley: This, too, was opaque purple. It had an unusual aroma: rotten veggies and “fart.” This was tannin-rich, more round and full than the Captain Joe’s. We detected loads of blue- and blackberries. It was really good.
Petite Sirah Port: This was dark black. It smelled like dark molasses and caramel. The taste was sweet without being overbearing, loaded with red fruit and pepper.
2000 Petite Sirah Heritage: This is the Concannon flagship wine. It was an opaque black with full body and rich brooding dark fruit with a long finish. It was very good.