Because we all love a good story, right?
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting John Concannon, fourth generation owner of Concannon Vineyards, over dinner with a few other fabulous NYC wine bloggers. It was one of those amazing NYC evenings in Soho where the energy was apparent the moment I stepped into the Crosby Hotel. I knew I was going to taste some pretty great wines, but I had no idea they were going to come with such special history attached.
John’s great grandfather, James Concannon (originally from Ireland), had a deep love and passion for wine. He would make frequent trips to Bordeaux to taste and learn about the great wines of France along with studying at the University of California-Berkley. He noticed so many similarities between The Médoc and California's climate & terroir, that in 1883 he took everything he learned (as well as some vines from Château Margaux) and applied them to his land in The Livermore Valley. It was only 6 years later that The Livermore Valley stunned the wine world winning prestigious Gold Medal Awards including Grand Prix.
Now, if you thought all that was cool, get ready for what I’m about to tell you next. When prohibition struck in the early 1930s, Concannon Vineyard was 1 of 5 vineyards allowed to still operate as they produced alter wine for the church. Because of this, Concannon is considered the oldest, ongoing winery in the country.
Fast-forward to 1965 when John’s father, Jim, partnered up with UC Davis to perform heat treatment on selected imported cuttings from the vineyard. These cuttings went on to produce high yields, quality fruit, and would eventually be called Concannon Clones 7, 8 and 11. In the 1970s these virus-resistant clones overcame the deadly spread of phylloxera and therefore were mass planted across the region. For this reason, you could say Concannon was a key figure in bringing California wine country back to its thriving state.
Onto the wines...
Wine #1: 2016 Chardonnay
Spending 9 months in French oak, the 2016 Chardonnay from Monterrey, CA boasted of pineapple, dried banana, vanilla and a hint of golden apple. The palate had a big mouth-feel (think custard), but the apparent acidity due to those cool nights really balanced out the buttery notes from the malolactic fermentation. It was the perfect Chard with my grilled octopus!
Wine #2: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
This velvety Cab from the Paso Robles AVA was a dark ruby in color and gave off notes of nutmeg, blackberry and cigar box. Spending 10 months in French oak, this Cab was a treat for the palate not making things too complicated. This would be a great wine to put on your dinner table when entertaining guests. It was a great warm-up for what we were about to experience next!
Wine #3: 2014 Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine was IT for me. One of those wines where you stop conversation and just absorb all of the nuances you're experiencing in the current moment. This Chalk Hill Cab spent 22 months in French & American oak and was extremely dark ruby in color. Almost inky. The bottles are made with a deep punt, thick glass, TCA-free corks, and are each hand dipped for an optimal luxury feel. On the nose I immediately found notes of blackberry, black plum, cocoa and cedar while the body was full with high tannin and high acid. This wine was heaven on Earth paired with my Gorgonzola-crusted fillet.
Wine #4: 2016 Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine hasn't even been released yet, so to say I felt pretty special is an understatement! This wine will be released by the end of the year going into the new year, so make sure to keep a lookout on their website. Clone 8 from the Napa Valley is big, bold, and not apologizing for anything! Although still very young (would recommend waiting 6-8 years at least), I could still find my blackcurrant, blackberry, cedar, vanilla, and leather notes. The body was HUGE and the tannins were definitely gripping. Allow another year or two for them to to start integrating, but when they do, you're going to want to save this for an extra special occasion.
OK wine world, I'm about to leave you with my last note which may actually blow your mind:
It is estimated that 80% of all California Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Concannon clones! I'll just let that sink in while you go seek out these wines...