Historic CA winery gets back to its roots

Concannon Vineyards in Livermore, CA, marked its 125th anniversary over the weekend by unveiling its new winemaking facility, part of a $30 million renovation project.

Showing that everything old is new again, Concannon recently purchased a new European-built basket press that works the same way as the winery's original 19th century European-built basket press. It walked away from the original press several decades ago, but now has brought its successor on line.

Concannon is owned by The Wine Group LLC, which purchased it in 2002 and is getting the company back to its roots.

"Although the Concannon Estate is one of the most advanced solar-powered, organically farmed operations in the world, we view it as a rediscovery of the past vs. a winery of the future," said David Kent, CEO of The Wine Group LLC.

In addition to the basket press, the cask room has been restored so Concannon's Petite Sirah, America's first, can be crafted the same as when the 1961 vintage wine made its debut in 1964. The room is home to 16 giant French oak casks, each holding the equivalent of 15,000 bottles of wine.

Concannon is located in the Livermore Valley east of the San Francisco Bay Area. Its winemaker is Adam Richardson (above), a Rhône-style specialist with winemaking experience in both Australia and Australia. The former Royal Australian Navy officer previously worked at the Rancho Zabaco and MacMurray Ranch wineries in California. Prior to moving to the U.S. in 1998, he worked for d’Arenberg, Oakridge Estate, Normans, and Miranda wineries in Australia.

Other renovations that have been done under The Wine Group:

• Improving the 200 acres of preserved vineyard land surrounding the winery. These vineyards were the first in the Livermore Valley to be placed under a permanent conservation easement, and are among the last few acres of their kind in the Bay Area that have not been paved over.

• A return to traditional methods of farming and crafting of grapes for Concannon's flagship wine, the Concannon Vineyard Heritage Petite Sirah. A demonstration vineyard planted with different varieties will complete the new landscape plan.

• The restoration of the historic 1883 Concannon family home, extensions to the estate's system of stone walls, patios and arbors, and the doubling in size of its park-like setting. Last year the old Victorian house, complete with mature palm trees, was moved from a now-busy traffic intersection to a new location deeper within the estate. The new front lawn has become the summer home for the Livermore Shakespeare Festival.

The final phase of the estate's redevelopment, a complete renovation of the tasting room and hospitality center, will begin early next year.

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