Many may associate Concannon with petite sirah, and well they should since third-generation vintner Jim Concannon was the first to varietally bottle one in 1961. However, the more enduring claim to fame for the brand comes from its role in helping propagate the next generation of cabernet sauvignon in the New World.
When Napa Valley needed a disease-free source of cabernet vines back in 1965, Concannon just happened to have the answer. The Mother Vine, descended from the original plantings imported to Livermore from Chateau Margaux in 1893, became the source for the bud wood that would go on to create three clones of cabernet that are now the most widely planted in the U.S. It’s estimated that four out of every five bottles of California cabernet sauvignon come from the so-called Concannon Cabernet Clones 7, 8 and 11.
When it came time to replant what is known as Block 7 of the Concannon estate vineyard, John Concannon tells us that the vines were given a head start at the nursery (Duarte), gaining strength for an entire year, while the land was cleared and laid fallow.
It was an exciting time in the spring of 2016, when those 18,500 Concannon Cabernet Clone 7 vines were planted in the 15-acre Block 7 vineyard, just to the north of the beloved Mother Vine. As it happens, this is where the original cabernet sauvignon vineyard was planted by Jim Concannon back in 1970, when Clone 7 was released by the University of California, Davis. It was a natural to replace the old Clone 7 vines with new ones, explains another fourth-generation vintner, John Concannon.
Because the vines had a head start, they were able to produce a crop the second year, and the 2017 cabernet sauvignon from Block 7 will be released in May to the vineyard’s new Cabernet Club.
This new wine club is dedicated to an Estate Collection of cabernet and cabernet-based blends from the Block 7 Vineyard. Membership in the 1883 Club is not required to join the Cabernet Club.
The new Cabernet Club wines were all made by Concannon winemaker Alyssa Barber, and are meant to express the flavors of various estate vineyards in Livermore, with the core coming from the cabernet sauvignon in the Block 7 vineyard. The 2017 cabernet sauvignon is 100% cabernet, and made with 100% new oak, both French and American, the first time the company has used 100% new oak on a bottling.
The other three blends will be released in the Fall, including a 2017 cabernet blend that includes merlot, malbec and petit verdot, a 2017 cabernet, and a 2017 cabernet-petite sirah blend, which just feels right coming from this petite powerhouse producer. Each of the bottles will sell for $65.
There’s more exciting news from Concannon as well. They’ve reopened the space formerly occupied by the long-shuttered Underdog Wine Bar as a members-only Estate Room.
Decorated with mementos documenting the history of the property, including a photo of a 5-year-old Jim Concannon sitting on a tractor while Captain Joe sits astride his white horse, taken in the heart of the Concannon vineyard. John Concannon calls it “Changing of the Guard,” depicting the shift from farming with horses to farming with tractors. The walls are also covered with murals of the incomparable views from the storied property.