Concannon Vineyard, California


It was my Aunt Eps’ birthday and we decided to take her out to a wine tasting event. The event was located almost an hour from where we live and if you go from San Jose to Livermore, you would take the 680 and then the 84 ramp.

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Victorian style Concannon House

The problem we didn’t know was that there was always traffic from the Mission boulevard exit up to 84 to Livermore!  Due to traffic, it took us more than an hour and half to get to our destination. There were two main historical vineyards in Livermore: the bigger Wente and the Concannon. We didn’t have enough time to attend both events so I chose the latter. From 84, we turned right to Vallecitos Road, then right to Concannon Boulevard and then right again to Livermore Avenue/ Tesla Road.

From there, the winery would be to your left, into the gated vineyard. It was 30 minutes before closing and so the parking lot and the area were quite bare. We parked and went immediately to the Concannon Estate Tasting Room where there was a woman in the counter refilling drinks to the other visitors. We joined in and she was nice enough to explain each drink and how old each wine was.

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Wine Tasting

Being new to this, we didn’t know much about wine since we were not really wine tasters. We don’t go out during the weekends to visit wineries and try their drinks and figure out which is the best one. We just wanted something new for a change and thought of wine tasting. My Aunt Eps had more experience on the matter so knows which drink is too sweet, or not enough flavor in it or excellent. I just came to explore and learn about the history of the place. Here’s where the Concannon Winery all started:

Selfie while wine tasting

The founder James Concannon, was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1847. In 1865 when James, an 18-year-old boy with only one golden guinea in his pocket, a heart full of adventure and “honor as his guiding star,” courageously set sail from the rocky coast of Ireland’s Aran Islands to seek opportunity in America.

James recognized that the terroir of California’s Livermore Valley was strikingly similar to the premier vineyards of Bordeaux. So, he established Concannon Vineyard, which not only became the first successful winery founded by an Irish immigrant, but it also established Concannon as a founding family of the California wine industry.

James Concannon and the Livermore Valley

After intensely studying winegrowing while in Bordeaux as well as at University of California – Berkeley, James was one of the first to craft Bordeaux-style wines in California. He became well-known for his meticulous selection of only the highest quality vines, including from renowned Château Margaux and Château d’Yquem.

During Prohibition

Captain Joe Concannon (son of James) kept Concannon Vineyard continuously operating throughout Prohibition by making and selling sacramental wine. Remarkably, this prevented the destruction of their 1893 Château Margaux Cabernet Sauvignon, other historic Bordeaux vines and the vines propagated from them — and kept their promise alive. The Prohibition wines continued being bottled under the family label, and three of those bottles have were welcomed into the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian collection.”

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Wine Menu

In such a very short time, I learned plenty of history about wine. After tasting the samples, I started to feel lightheaded and ecstatic. Here is the list of the wines we’ve tasted:

  • 2013 Reserve Chardonnay
  • 2010 Reserve Assemblage Red
  • 2010 Reserve Merlot
  • 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2010 Reserve Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah

My verdict is that they pretty much taste the same too me, being ignorant about anything that has to do with wine. My aunt bought a wine and then we went out to explore the surroundings. We looked at the Victorian House of the family, then walked along the vineyards and admired the rows of grapes and the surrounding areas. We took pictures and sat at the bistros outside to relax for a little bit. Here is the continuation of the family legacy and history:

“Captain Joe help relaunch California winery after prohibition and  became a founding member of The Wine Institute. In the early 1930s, he also became one of the first in the world to bottle Cabernet as a single varietal wine. Andre Tchelistcheff, the “Dean of American Winemakers,” used Joe’s description of how to find the perfect scent for Pinot Noir in setting the benchmark for California Pinot Noir. Also, Captain Joe hired one of the first technically trained, female winemakers, Katherine Vajda, to serve as Concannon’s lead winemaker during the 1950s.

James Concannon

Jim Concannon, grandson of James, became lead winemaker in 1960 and immediately made one of his most significant contributions: introducing “America’s First Petite Sirah” in 1964 from his 1961 vintage.  He was the first in America to release Petite Sirah as a varietal wine. To this day, he is affectionately known as “The Father of Petite Sirah.

Concannon Vineyard became home of the renowned Concannon Cabernet Clones 7, 8 and 11. These vines resulted from a highly successful collaboration between Jim Concannon and University of California – Davis in 1965.  The Concannon Clones played a key role in helping California Cabernet flourish and achieve international recognition. Currently, an estimated 80% of California Cabernet Sauvignon is planted to the Concannon Clones.

In 2008, John Concannon took over the leadership from his father as 4th generation vintner. In 2009, Concannon Vineyard was one of the first in California to become Certified Sustainable. During this time the estate winery also completed a 10-year revitalization project which includes a cutting-edge, solar-powered, small lot winery and the restoration of the original, historic winery.”

This is a long history about generations of family that strive to become successful in the wine industry. It is admirable that they managed to keep the business intact within their immediate families and they are always thinking of ways to innovate. After relaxing, we headed down to the Underdog Wine Bar where there was a couple of people sitting and eating. We were supposed to grab a meal there but they were at their last servings. Also, because it was almost 6pm, the other wineries were going to close as well.

We decided to drive to downtown Livermore and had dinner at the First Street Alehouse. Their giant burgers and garlic fries were amazing and juicy. There were plenty of flavors in it and their vegetables were fresh.

Garlic Fries

We had a really nice dinner eating outside, enjoying the ambiance of the town with people walking on the street with their families or pets. Since the restaurant was created in 2000, there was not a lot of history to cover it. Eating this delicious meal was the perfect way to end this wine tasting adventure.


For More information here are the links to the sites:

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Say Cheez!


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