by Fred McMillin
for March 14, 1997

Winery of the Week

From Rubber Stamps to Golden Grapes

Prologue: "James Concannon, born in County Galway, Ireland, brought his bride to San Francisco in 1875. Here he pioneered the rubber stamp business for the whole Pacific Coast, including Mexico.. which by 1883 enabled him to buy a farm in the Livermore Valley and plant vines." —From John Melville's "Guide to California Wines."

The Rest of the Story: Among the vines James planted was the varietal that would be the winery's key to success, Petite Sirah. His descendants
Founder James Concannon
were the first in California to produce it as a varietal wine. Concannon's Petite became known nationwide as not only the first, but as the best. I still have my notes taken when I first tasted it in 1965 at the winery. It was big and bold, but I purchased only two bottles because they were the priciest of the 19 offerings.. .a daunting $1.99.

But on to the 1990's. The most important event at the winery occurred in the spring of 1992; energetic, savvy Tom Lane took over the winemaking. At the time he told me he was making some exciting changes in wine styles. My tasters found the massive Petites were ready to drink younger. His '95 Pinot Blanc is a pleasant suprise, too. It has a LOT of character... a Chardonnay with muscle. Speaking of Chardonnay, none was being sold during my 1965 visit, but Tom turns out some classy models now. My Scott's panel gave high marks to his 1994 Reserve Chardonnay from the Hayes Ranch in the Livermore Valley. Like his other wines, this one has ALL the active ingredients....made for chargrilled salmon. So, you get the picture. There's a dynamic, aggressive winemaking program underway. It certainly would get James Concannon's STAMP of approval!

Just the Facts

Name Concannon Vineyard
Location Livermore Valley, CA
Founded 1883
Founder James Concannon (see 1893 photo). He had plenty of help around the vineyards, since he and Ellen had 10 children.
Winemaker Tom Lane. whatta pedigree... degrees in Biology and in Chemistry.. graduate studies at two universities plus the Master's Enology program at UC-Davis. Capacity—70,000 + cases Livermore Vineyard—Nearly 200 acres. Which grape occupies the most land? You guessed it. Petite Sirah.
Contact Winery at (510) 447-3760 or Rep. Paige Poulos, (800) 497-3376


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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