OUR WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY
Since 1883, the Concannon family’s Bordeaux-inspired, winemaking philosophy has driven each generation’s commitment to excellence in crafting beautiful, balanced, food-friendly wines with a silky, lingering finish and vibrant sense of place.
Even today, we believe the most important aspect about the wine is balance ― the enduring harmony from vintage to vintage expressed in the elegant balance of fruit, tannins, acidity and alcohol. Believing that all great wines begin in the vineyards and that balanced wines are born from balanced vines, we are committed to sustainable winegrowing and advanced viticultural practices for bringing out the best expressions of fruit and terroir in the wines.
It All Begins in the VineyardBeautiful, balanced wines are born from balanced vines and grapes. This requires expertise and diligence in matching the right grape, clone and rootstock to the best soil, climate, site and microclimate, row orientation, canopy management, trellis system, pruning regimen and sustainable farming practices.
Intuitive WinegrowingDetermining when grapes are ready for harvest is one of the most critical decisions made towards the quality of an entire vintage of wines. It requires astute field observation from our winegrowing team along with our winemakers frequently walking the vineyards, block by block, to taste and evaluate the grapes for flavor and berry development, seed maturity and levels of sugar and acidity. Both the intuition and experience of gifted winegrowers are irreplaceable for knowing the precise moment to harvest the grapes ― a blending of nature, science, skill and art.
Night HarvestFor over 130 harvests, we have picked our grapes throughout the night ― incredibly beautiful under moon and stars. Everyone loves the cooler conditions, including the grapes! The colder temperatures preserve ideal sugar levels, fresh flavor, intense aromatics and crisp acidity so that when the grapes arrive at the winery, they are ready to commence fermentation. Harvest is an exciting time, and picking at precisely the right moment always results in better wine.
To see our harvest from sunset to sunrise, please see our harvest blog.
Artisanal WinemakingSince the time of our founding, we are always combining the best traditions of those who came before us with the best of modern technology and state-of-the-art techniques to create new standards in flavor and bouquet in wine. At our small lot winery, grapes are either carefully hand-sorted or separated for optical sorting which elevates the purity of the fruit before going into the fermenting tanks. Important artistic and technical decisions are made regarding fermenting and barreling for bringing out the best in the fruit and enhancing the flavor, complexity and character in the wines. There are no short cuts. Just as it was in the 1880s, in 2017 it requires great passion, skill and hard work from many people working together to craft beautiful, well-balanced wines with a sense of place.
REFRESHING WHITE WINES
Richly Complex and ElegantOnce our white grapes arrive at the winery, they continue chilling for a couple of hours in our 52-degree barrel room. From there, each whole cluster of grapes is carefully placed into our inflatable bladder press where we initiate a gentle press. The highest quality free-run juice is then set apart for the handcrafting of our Reserve wines.
With the addition of pure, cultured yeast, the juice then enters primary fermentation via oak barrels or small stainless steel tanks. We lower the temperature to ferment our grapes at a slower pace, important for retaining the most pleasing aromas and fruity intensity for creating beautifully-balanced flavors in our finished wines.
Our Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Sémillon and other fruitier white wines undergo cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 30 days to preserve the natural freshness, flavors and crisp acidity of the grapes. Most of our barrel-fermented white wines, such as Chardonnay, also undergo a secondary process called malolactic fermentation, a natural fermentation which converts malic acid to lactic acid. This conversion softens acidity while adding to the aroma and complexity of the wine.
BEAUTIFUL, BALANCED RED WINES
Approachable and Age-worthyAs soon as our red grapes arrive at the winery, they are stored in our 52-degree barrel room prior to sorting. Our small lot winery gives us the opportunity to either gently hand-sort or optically-sort the grapes, a decision based upon variety and vintage. If hand-sorted, our estate wines go through 3 separate stages of sorting to ensure that only the best-of-the-best grapes end up in your glass of Reserve wine.
After the grapes are gently crushed, they are taken to the winery’s small lot, 4-ton and 8-ton, open-top, stainless steel fermentation tanks where we select the best yeast strains for each vineyard block’s flavor profile. Here the crushed grapes, including skins and seeds, will ferment for 7-14 days. The temperature is warmer for reds in order to obtain rich flavors and deep color.
During fermentation, cap management is employed to increase the level of skin contact. This optimizes color and phenolic compound extraction. We release these phenolics with a pneumatic punch-down which gently breaks apart the skins that rise to the top and form a thick cap. With great care, we manually punch down the cap into the fermenting wine to provide more color pigments and flavor compounds with balanced tannin levels. The wine is then sent to our modern basket press where innovation is infused with old-world tradition. Our high-tech basket press gently releases the wine from the skins during a 180-minute, automated cycle.
The wine is then transferred into small French and American oak barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation for enhancing complexity, richer and creamier textures and rounder, fuller mouthfeel to the developing wine. Oak barrels are known as the winemaker’s spice rack for introducing flavors and aromas such as vanilla, coffee and mocha which also add to the structure of the wines. The key is always balance so that the oak refines the wine while never overwhelming it. Some of our red wines are also aged in “neutral” oak barrels that soften the wines without adding any additional flavor.
With time in the barrels, the wine’s fruit, tannins and acidity harmonize with increasing complexity. Silky tannins and a myriad of rich, layered flavors and aromas evolve, adding to the finesse, texture, character and inherent beauty of the softening wine. Our red wines are aged between 12-24 months prior to any further blending. They are then bottle-aged for a minimum of 3 months before release.
Rotary, French Oak FermentersWhile most of our wines are aged in 59-gallon and 132-gallon French and American oak barrels, we also use rotary, French oak fermenters for aging. These 237-gallon barrels are quite unique and permit us to whole-berry ferment some of our best lots allowing the grapes to ferment as they gradually crush upon themselves. This intricate process slows down fermentation, thereby increasing the beautiful complexity of the fresh fruit aromas. It also generates the delicate extraction of flavors as well as the elegant transformation of bitter and astringent tannins into velvety and silky tannins. After fermentation is complete, the wine is lightly pressed in our basket press and returned to the same barrel for aging up to 24 months.
16 Upright, Handcraft, French Oak BarrelsExtremely rare to find in California, these magnificent, upright, French oak 4,000 gallon barrels were imported from Bordeaux 57 years ago for aging the estate Cabernet and Petite Sirah. These remarkable barrels were used to impart a special house character to these wines often called, “The Concannon Effect.” The extreme value of this wood is that it’s very porous, so it micro-oxygenated the wine to help smooth out the tannins and soften the mid-palate, making the wine more elegant and approachable.