The Concannon Vineyard is factually a piece of California history, California Historical Landmark No. 641, to be exact. Over 100 years ago James Concannon founded this venerable operation 50 miles east of San Francisco in the Livermore Valley. This area distinguishes itself from other wine regions of California by its striking similarities to the great wine districts of Graves and Sauternes in Bordeaux, France.
“Graves” means “gravelly” in French. Concannon’s planted acreage lies exclusively on soil composed of fine gravel, creek boulders and sandy loam, the remains of an ancient riverbed 60 to 70 feet deep. Such terrain is very rare in California and in the world. While yielding low quantities of crop, it is more than generous with the quality of the grapes it produces. Additionally, unlike the common north-south alignment of most valleys in California, Livermore’s unusual east-west orientation provides a natural corridor for tempering maritime breezes which flow in from San Francisco Bay. The result is an ideal microclimate, a long growing season and grapes which mature gradually, develop fully and yield wines of moderate alcohols and delicate flavors.
As in Bordeaux the best white grapes grown here are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. For this “Reserve” bottling Concannon blended 75% of the former with 25% of the latter after barrel-ageing each in French oak for four months.
In cold climates, the Sauvignon Blanc vine will yield fruit with herbaceous flavors and aromas. In warmer climates, like those of Graves and Livermore Valley, it produces grapes that give a wine of refined, floral character. Semillon is even more sensitive to weather: it will only ripen fully in an ideal microclimate. When blended together these varieties marvelously complement each other. Semillon lends grace to the Sauvignon Blanc while increasing the resultant wine’s longevity.
This wine has a clear yellow gold color. A delicate floral bouquet precedes a smooth, round medium-full body, a nice fruitiness, a firm, balanced acidity and ripe, fig-like flavors. This distinctive fig taste (typical of Semillon) lingers in an uncommonly delicate finish.
Serve chilled with raw oysters, grilled tuna, a well-seasoned pheasant or fresh pasta tossed with a little olive oil, grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
Cellaring Notes: Drink now to 1992.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper