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A visit to Concannon for the Gatekeeper’s Guild fall release

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October 21, 2012 by Paul Lanning

Fall has to be a wine lover’s favorite time of year. Harvest, fall crush, and the fall releases accompany the changing of the seasons and the turning of leaves from greens to oranges and reds. So many wineries do great fall members-only events…and they’re a big part of what makes winery memberships worthwhile.

Concannon Tasting Room

The Concannon Tasting Room is adorned with a beautiful tin ceiling that adds to the rustic, vintage feel throughout the winery.

One such event is the Gatekeeper’s Guild open house and fall release at Concannon Vineyard in Livermore. Concannon has been making wines since the 1880s, and Concannon is credited with bottling America’s first Petite Sirah, so there’s a whole lot of history to take in when you visit the winery (much of which can also be viewed online). A beautiful display of old photos, correspondence (including letters from John Pershing and from The Vatican), and unopened bottles dating back decades adorns one wall inside the winery, and the rest of the interior space is just as appealing.

The fall club event, however, is held outside on the expansive lawn adjacent to the tasting room. Usually a picnic area, for these two weekends in October it becomes a private tent party stocked full of great food (Italian sausages with green and red peppers, pulled pork sliders with cole slaw, cheeses, roasted peppers, crackers, brownies, and more). Also under the tent: tastings of the entire run of fall releases, which this year includes an array of Petite Syrahs as well as a Syrah, a Zinfandel, and two crisp whites, a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2011 Assemblage Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend. Finally, a red blend known as Crimson & Clover was being poured.

Concannon Lawn

The tented Gatekeeper’s Guild event was perfectly timed on a beautiful weekend of cloudless skies.

There’s no limit to food or tasting at the event, and additional tastings from the regular tasting room menu are being poured inside, so there’s quite a selection from which to choose. Finally, in what is normally the Darcie Kent tasting room two older Petite Syrahs were being poured, one from 2004 and one from 2000. All in all this made for quite a bargain for the $10 ticket price for Gatekeeper’s Guild members and their guests.

One fun element was the chance to taste three consecutive years of Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah. Named for Joseph Concannon, who was a Captain in the U.S. Army in the early 1900s, these three Petiite Sirahs were all offered for sale at the event, and a bottle was included in the members’ allotment as well. Tasting three consecutive years of the same wine is always an interesting experience…you see (taste) very clearly how different just one year can be from the very next. My favorite of the three was the 2009 vintage, very silky and smooth with a hint of vanilla. Remarkable how different this one is from its predecessors in ’07 and ’08.

Concannon Crimson & Clover

Concannon Conservancy 2010 Crimson & Clover…my favorite of the Fall 2012 releases.

My favorite of the new releases – by far – was the Concannon Conservancy 2010 Crimson & Clover Red Wine. It’s said that red blends are the winemaker’s chance to get creative and artistic, rather than being constrained by specific varietals, and this is an example of one that really works. This bottle’s back label contains a personal message from John Concannon, 4th generation winemaker in the family, telling the story of how Crimson & Clover came to be as a tribute to his father James, who still makes wines alongside his son today.

The 2010 Crimson & Clover is described as having “deep flavors of blackberries and rich chocolate balanced by a long, silky finish.” For a red table wine, this is a fine choice and well worth trying!

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