Fourth Generation Vintner
John Concannon is the Fourth Generation Vintner at Concannon Vineyard Estate. Always with an eye on the future, John believes that continuing his family’s legacy of innovation is key to long-term success and definitive of who Concannon is as a family and winery. As a strong advocate of environmental stewardship, John is especially proud that Concannon was one of the first seventeen wineries in California to become Certified Sustainable under the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. Also under his watch, Concannon completed a ten-year, revitalization project which includes a new, high-end, solar-powered, production facility and state-of-the-art, small lot winery along with the restoration of the original, historic winery and barrel room. As a strong advocate of viticultural research and education, John was honored to present, “The Concannon Cabernet Clones 7, 8, 11” as a keynote speaker at the 2014 International Cabernet Symposium. And, from John’s close work with The Smithsonian, three extremely rare, Concannon Prohibition-dated bottles are now at home in the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian collection. These same bottles can now also be viewed along with vintage 19th and 20th century, Concannon and California wine pioneer photos in the Concannon History Gallery that John recently dedicated to his father, Jim, at the family’s 1883 winery.
Some of John’s most energetic endeavors have also been focused upon preserving the landmark estate’s extraordinary sense of place by creating an exceptional winery experience for guests. As a result, Concannon is now recognized by USA Today Travel and other national publications as a top wine country destination. Like those who led before him, John is committed to working towards the overall success of the California wine industry, is a member of the Tri-Valley Conservancy, and past President of the Petite Sirah advocacy group, PS I Love You.
James Foster’s winemaking career did not happen by chance. As a child, he was raised on the family farm, the historic Roseland Plantation in Eufaula, Alabama, where they farmed peanuts, hay and cotton. Although James grew up in Alabama, his father worked in the California wine industry, and James began to follow in his footsteps. He spent many summers as a “cellar rat” in various wineries and received a full vineyard-to-bottle view of winemaking. In time, his interest for cultivating the land grew into a passion for the vine.
Curious about the winemaking process and inspired to learn more, he studied Enology at Fresno State University and then completed the UC Davis wine education program. After graduation in 1998, James went to work for The Wine Group. Throughout his years with the company, James traveled extensively and made numerous varietals and styles of wine, but his affinity for making wines in California has remained.
In 2002, James became Head Winemaker at Concannon Vineyard which also provided the rare opportunity to work in bringing out the full expression of fruit harvested from vineyards originally planted with 19th century vines from the First Growth and Premier Cru vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Always a lover of Bordeaux varieties, he is honored to be working with the original Concannon Margaux heritage clones and first-released, Concannon Cabernet Clones 7, 8 and 11 in continuing Concannon’s legacy in Cabernet Sauvignon.
Working closely with Paul Buwalda (Viticulturist) and Alyssa Barber (Winemaker), James oversees every step of the winemaking process in both the estate-grown and national wine collections. Deeply committed to sustainable farming, James helps ensure that the historic, estate vineyards are protected and flourishing through always pursuing what is best for the land, fruit and wines. For Concannon’s new, national collection of wines, James’ meticulous vineyard selection and high-quality fruit sourcing from California’s finest growing regions reflect his constant commitment to crafting elegant, balanced, approachable, food-friendly wines ― a perfect fit with the Concannon family’s signature style of Bordeaux-inspired winemaking.
Born and raised in Wyoming, Alyssa’s love for science and forensics led to her graduating with a degree in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming. However, after some exposure to wine and winemaking, life took an unexpected turn for Alyssa. She suddenly discovered a new passion: learning the science and art behind making great wines.
Alyssa went on to complete the Certificate of Winemaking from UC Davis and also worked in all aspects of winegrowing. Her love for wine and winemaking continued to grow, and in 2008, she began working for Concannon in the Analytical Laboratory. At that time, she especially appreciated learning about the leading-edge science behind the intensive upgrades taking place in the vineyards and wineries for Concannon’s Sustainable Certification within the pilot program as well as the ongoing re-certification standards that continue improving the quality of the vines and wines.
Alyssa also especially enjoyed the addition of the new, small lot winery for handcrafting the estate’s small lot and single vineyard wines. In 2013, Alyssa became Assistant Winemaker, and in this role, her giftedness in winemaking has led to many award-winning, beautifully balanced and elegant wines.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Paul Buwalda worked side by side with his parents, three brothers and his only sister since he was old enough to hold a shovel at his family’s Dairy Farm. It was there that he discovered his love for agricultural production, growing various crops and learning the land. Paul studied Agricultural Business at Dordt College in Iowa and was married to his wife soon after he graduated. He continued to work on his father’s farm for ten years with his new family before moving to his wife’s home state of California in 2011, and it wasn’t long after that he began working in vineyard management where his love for viticulture continued to grow.
In 2015, Paul joined the Concannon Vineyard winegrowing team. As Viticulturist, Paul leads the estate’s vineyard management, sustainable farming, green practices initiatives and careful preservation of the estate’s historic vineyards and vines. Working closely with John Concannon, Paul also provides specialized attention and tender care to Concannon’s 1883 Cabernet Sauvignon Mother Vine Vineyard and its rare vines propagated from 1893 Châteaux Margaux Cabernet.
Paul also oversees the estate’s experimental vineyard where he continually tests new grape varieties and trellising methods for ongoing innovation in the vineyards. In 2016, Paul was in charge of planting the new Concannon Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard plot which is also being used as an educational site for teaching guests about the importance of sustainability and its overwhelmingly beneficial impact on the environment and the quality of our wines.