Historic Concannon Vineyard Celebrates 125th Birthday with $30 Million Makeover

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For four generations, the Concannon family has been deeply involved in the Livermore Valley, a region that put California on the world wine map.

Jim and John Concannon, the 3rd and 4th generation

I have my heart in this business and am confident that The Wine Group is also here for the long haul. Their plan is quality all the way. The Concannon brand is now well positioned for the next 125 years.

The 159th annual Blessing of the Grapes in Livermore Valley was held this morning at Concannon Vineyard in conjunction with their 125th consecutive harvest celebration. Third and fourth generation family members Jim and John Concannon cut a grapevine to officially inaugurate the new Concannon winemaking facility.

As part of a $30 million renovation, Concannon Vineyard recently purchased a new 21st century European-built basket press. Ironically, it works the same way as the winery's original 19th century European-built basket press. After abandoning the original, for more "modern" methods several decades ago, Concannon is returning to its celebrated past. As it turns 125 years old, Concannon Vineyard is reclaiming its heritage as one of California's earliest and longest continuously operating wineries while it invests for the next 125 years and continues the Concannon family's involvement.

According to Livermore Vice mayor, John Marchand ""The Concannons have always had a strong sense of family, and the community has always been part of that family. The community has benefited from Concannon's generosity and commitment for generations." Chris Chandler, executive director, Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association continued, "The Concannon family has been involved with wine grape growers as partners to promote the continued growth of Livermore Valley for four generations.

"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 versus a winery of the future," said David Kent, CEO of The Wine Group LLC, Concannon's parent company. "It's extraordinary that an international company like The Wine Group recognizes Livermore's potential which is having a ripple effect in stimulating our community to do even more," said Dale Eldridge Kaye, President and CEO, Livermore Chamber of Commerce.

Nowhere is the connection between past and the present more evident than in the Cask Room. Here 16 giant French oak casks, each holding the equivalent of fifteen thousand bottles of wine, have been painstakingly restored so that Concannon's famed Petite Sirah - America's first - can be crafted just like it was when the wine made its debut in 1964 (with a 1961 vintage).

Other renovations at Concannon that preserve and enhance its historic legacy include:

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. These prized soils at Concannon are among the last few acres of their kind in the Bay Area that have not been paved over. In the process of replanting, blocks of old, time-tested Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon were retained and the grapevine clones that Concannon pioneered in California were perpetuated.

A return to traditional methods of farming and crafting of grapes for Concannon's flagship wine- the Concannon Vineyard Heritage Petite Sirah. Other varieties planted in this way are Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cinsaut, Mourvedre, Zinfandel, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Semillon. 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 vast 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. Once completed, the house will be rededicated in honor of James Concannon's wife, Ellen Rowe. The final phase of the estate's redevelopment, a complete renovation of the tasting room and hospitality center, will begin early next year.

Kent explained, "When we purchased Concannon Vineyard in 2002, we knew we were acquiring an important piece of California wine history. All of us at The Wine Group enthusiastically embrace our mission to be good stewards of the Concannon brand and its vital legacy."

Founder James Concannon's grandson and namesake, Jim Concannon, has worked on the property for over 50 years but his dedication has never waned. "I believe in each bottle of Concannon. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here," Concannon states. "I have my heart in this business and am confident that The Wine Group is also here for the long haul. Their plan is quality all the way. The Concannon brand is now well positioned for the next 125 years."

A founding California wine family, Concannon is celebrating its 125 year history as a leader of the wine industry. For four generations, the family has been deeply involved in the Livermore Valley, a region that put California on the world wine map. Concannon stayed open during Prohibition, introduced America's first varietally labeled Petite Sirah in the 1960's, and led with the introduction of Cabernet Sauvignon clones 7 & 8 in Napa. Concannon is committed to sustainable practices throughout its vineyard and winery operations to protect the environmental quality of the region. For more information, please visit http://www.concannonvineyard.com.

For more information, contact:
Lesley Larson


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