Rosé & White Wine Live Blogging at the Wine Bloggers Conference

10 Rosé and White Wines – These wines from California and Oregon range from $13-$38. While not every one was a winner, there were a very gems in this group. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

10 Rosé and White Wines – These wines from California and Oregon range from $13-$38. While not every one was a winner, there were a very gems in this group. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

One of the signature events at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference is the Live Wine Blogging. For those who haven’t read my previous recaps or haven’t been to the conference, it’s an hour-long speed tasting where winery representatives have 5 minutes at a table of wine bloggers. The winery representatives talk about the wine while bloggers taste, ask questions, act like the paparazzi taking photos of both the bottles and the reps, and Tweet thoughts or tasting notes. After that, the winery representative moves onto the next table.

The live blogging is like speed dating with wine, and just like speed dating, it’s one of those things that people either love or hate.   Admittedly, I used to find the chaos of it stressful, but over the last couple of years, I’ve learned to really love it. The only thing I would change about the Live Wine Blogging sessions would be to have all of the wines come from the region where the conference is being held. Otherwise, I use the experience as a chance to weed out wines I have no interest in tasting again from wines I think have a lot of potential, are a good quality/price ratio, or that just deserve a little more attention. I then try to taste (and sometimes review), those wines at another time.

Here are the wines I tasted during the Rosé and White Wine Live Blogging:

2015 LangeTwins Family Winery Sangiovese Rosé – At $13, this California rosé wine has a great quality/price ration.  It won’t offer you anything unusual, but it’s reliably tasty and very food friendly Rating: 3.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 LangeTwins Family Winery Sangiovese Rosé

2015 LangeTwins Family Winery Sangiovese Rosé (winery, snooth)
Price: $13
Light-to-medium pink color.
Strawberries and grapefruit rinds on the nose.
Light, but creamy strawberry tart and sour cherries in the mouth.
Bright acidity.
3.5 Corks

2015 d’Art Wines White Barbera – At $20, this white wine from California has a light body and would make a nice summer sipping wine.  Rating: 3 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 d’Art Wines White Barbera

2015 d’Art Wines White Barbera (winery)
Price: $20
Pale straw yellow.
Tart green apples and grapefruit on the nose and in the mouth.
Bright acid with a light-to-medium body.
3 Corks

2015 Michael David Winery Sauvignon Blanc – At $16, this white wine from California is sustainably grown and has nice fruit flavors.  It’s a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc at an affordable price. Rating: 3.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 Michael David Winery Sauvignon Blanc

2015 Michael David Winery Sauvignon Blanc (winery, snooth)
Price: $16
Grapes: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Light straw yellow.
Full of grapefruits, tropical fruit, and minerality.
Good acid, although a tough high on the alcohol in the mouth.
This wine is sustainably grown.
3.5 Corks

2015 Trione Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc – At $23, this is a whole lot of California white wine for not too hefty of a price.  Think peach, grass, green pepper, and rose petals.  Every sip will having you thinking “wow” and wishing for oysters. Rating: 4.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 Trione Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc

2015 Trione Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc (winery, snooth)
Price: $23
White peaches, grass, hints of green pepper and rose petals.
Nice minerality. Every sip had me thinking…wow and wishing for a raw bar!
4.5 Corks

2015 Klinker Brick Winery Rosé – At $15, this California rosé wine is a perfect summer porch sipper with a nice quality/price ratio. Rating: 4 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 Klinker Brick Winery Rosé

2015 Klinker Brick Winery Rosé (winery, snooth)
Price: $15
Grapes: Carignane, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache grapes
Bright salmon pink color.
Lots of grapefruit mixed with hints of tart raspberry and flowers.
Nice acidity and light body.
This wine is a perfect summer porch sipper with a nice quality/price ratio.
4 Corks

2015 Oak Ridge Winery Old Soul Chardonnay – At $13, this white wine from California tastes like pineapple, toasted oak, and baked apples mixed with a lot of alcohol. Rating: 3 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 Oak Ridge Winery Old Soul Chardonnay

2015 Oak Ridge Winery Old Soul Chardonnay (winery, snooth)
Price: $13
Pineapple and toasted oak mixed with a hint of baked apple.
Lots of heat.
Lots of other bloggers enjoyed this wine at WBC16, but it was not my thing.
3 Corks

J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé – At $38, this sparkling wine from California is a little pricey, but it’s worth opening on a special occasion or during a holiday like Thanksgiving.  It’s elegant and lingers in the mouth. Rating: 4.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé

J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé (winery, snooth)
Price: $38
Grapes: 69% Pinot Noir, 29% Chardonnay, & 2% Pinot Meunier
Salmon pink color.
Strawberries and cream with hints of rose petals and apples.
Bright acidity with lingering finish.
An elegant sparkling wine.
4.5 Corks

2014 Concannon Vineyard Chardonnay – At $18, this California white wine is very smooth and is a perfect food wine.  Rating: 3.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2014 Concannon Vineyard Chardonnay

2014 Concannon Vineyard Chardonnay (winery, snooth)
Price: $18
Apples, pears, & some chewed on Popsicle stick.
This wine is very smooth. Would be a great food wine.
3.5 Corks

2014 Peirano Estate Winery "The Other" White Blend – At $14, this California white wine has a sexy label, but is not a sexy wine.  It’s soft mouth feel mixed with perfumey taste makes for a flabby wine that’s not worth the price. Rating: 2.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2014 Peirano Estate Winery “The Other” White Blend

2014 Peirano Estate Winery “The Other” White Blend (winery, snooth)
Price: $14
Grapes: 65% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, and 10% Viognier
White flowers & apples.
Soft mouth feel & perfumery with hints of bubble gum.
Love the label, but sadly I don’t the wine.
2.5 Corks

2015 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir – At $24, this white wine from Oregon has a light body, nice acidity, and a lingering finish.  It’s truly a delicious wine.  Rating: 4 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir

2015 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir (winery, snooth)
Price: $24
Full of stone fruit, pineapple, and grapefruit on the nose.
In the mouth, there were stone fruits, Granny Smith Apples, grapefruits, and pineapple with hints of raspberries.
Light body. Nice acid. Lingering finish. Delicious wine!!
4 Corks

Question of the Day:  Have you ever gone wine tasting?  What are you thoughts on trying multiple wines in one sitting?

Bonus Question: If you’ve been to a Wine Bloggers’ Conference, what are you thoughts on the Live Blogging?

WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 5): Last Day in Livermore Valley

Las Positas Vineyard

Las Positas Vineyard

The final vineyard stop on the Livermore Valley pre-wine bloggers’ conference excursion was to Las Positas Vineyard. The gracious hosts not only had space for us to taste their wine, but also the wines from several other wineries in the area. There were also several booths from local businesses. Our schedule up until this point had been crammed full and a little rushed (although I wouldn’t have wanted to cut anything off the schedule!), so it was nice to have a little bit of time to relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – At $68, this California red wine is very non-intrusive. It has medium body, a mix of fruit and spice characteristics, and is definitely meant for food. Rating: 3 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (winery)
Price $68
Dark ruby color
Plums, cherries, and a hint of spice on the nose
Plums, cherries, tobacco, and hints of clove in the mouth
Medium body and tannins, high acid
I know this wine won the Double Gold at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition and the Silver at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, but I was really underwhelmed, particularly at such a high price point.
3 Corks

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company – At $48, this California red wine is the epitome of big, bold, and beautiful. Just give it a little time to breath and the wine will be one to spend an entire evening getting to know. Rating 4.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company (winery)
Price: $48
Grapes: 100% Petit Sirah
Cases produced: 100
Dark inky purple
Blueberry, blackberry, and boysenberry syrup on the nose
Add chocolate to that in the mouth
Big, grippy tannins, full body, and good acid
This wine is the epitome of big, bold, and beautiful once it has a little time to breath. There is a lot going on, but its so well balanced that it’s the type of wine I want to spend an entire evening getting to know.
4.5 Corks

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah – At $38, this California red wine is one that is a food-friendly wine that you should feel comfortable ordering at a restaurant or grabbing in the store. Nothing crazy different, but solidly enjoyable. Rating 3.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah (winery)
Price: $38
Grapes: 100% syrah
Cases produced: 115
Medium-to-dark ruby color
Blackberries, smoke, and cedar on the nose
Blackberries, dark plums, smoke, cedar and baking spices in the mouth.
Medium-to-full body, tannins, and acid.
3.5 Corks

And with that, my final thoughts on Livermore Valley…

Collin Cranor, the winemaker for Vasco Urbano Wine Comapny and Nottingham Cellars

Collin Cranor, the winemaker for Vasco Urbano Wine Comapny and Nottingham Cellars

WOW! There is no doubt, I’ve fallen in love with wine from the area. Admittedly, my favorites were Murrieta’s Well, which I reviewed here, and Vasco Urbano Wine Company, which we didn’t visit, although we tasted their wines at a variety of stops throughout the Livermore Valley trip (my thoughts on their wines are here). Vasco Urbano specializes in Rhone styles (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, and the delicious blends that can be made from those grapes), so it’s not a surprise that I enjoyed their wines as those tend to be the grapes I gravitate towards. That said, their winemaker, Collin Cranor, does amazing things with grapes, as I also really enjoyed the wines we tasted from Nottingham Cellars—Vasco Urbano’s sister winery. Nottingham Cellars wines are all Bordeaux-style red blends made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

All that said, if you aren’t drinking wine from the Livermore Valley, you should be. Whether it’s the larger producers or the smaller producers, the wines are mostly reasonably priced and they are ridiculously good.

Question of the day: When you pick wine for yourself, would you go for the Rhone styles or the Bordeaux styles?

WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 4): Wente Vineyards & The Winemakers Studio

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards – An interactive space at Wente Vineyards in California that allows visitors to take different classes focused on grape-growing, winemaking, and wine tasting activities. The offerings are seasonally inspired and change throughout the year. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards – An interactive space at Wente Vineyards in California that allows visitors to take different classes focused on grape-growing, winemaking, and wine tasting activities. The offerings are seasonally inspired and change throughout the year. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards

After leaving Murrieta’s Well, our group headed to Wente Vineyards proper. The Wente family started their vineyard on this property in 1883 with 47 acres. Since then, they went on to create the first California varietal wine label—a Sauvignon Blanc–and are recognized as the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in California.

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards

In addition to the tasting room and winery tours that most vineyards offer, Wente Vineyards also has The Winemakers Studio, which is an interactive space that allows visitors to take different classes focused on grape-growing, winemaking, and wine tasting activities. The offerings are seasonally inspired, so they do change throughout the year.

Our blogging group didn’t have enough time to do the full version of the current class offerings. Instead, we did mini versions of 4 of the sessions—the Black Glass Blind Tasting, the Wine Aroma Discovery, Size & Shape Matters, and the Wine & Food Pairing.

The Winemakers Studio Double Blind Tasting

The Winemakers Studio Double Blind Tasting

Black Glass Blind Tasting
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $35
This session is a double blind tasting, which means that not only do you not know what the wine is before you taste it, but also you can’t even see what you’re drinking. Instead, you have to use smell and taste to determine what wine is in the glass. While it may seem easy to differentiate between a red and a white wine, what happens if a rosé is thrown into the mix? Or a sweet wine?

The first wine in our double blind tasting had lots of tropical fruit characteristics, particularly guava and mango, mixed with some pineapple and grapefruit. I also thought that I detected a hint of flowers on the nose. It had medium acidity and alcohol with a light-to-medium body. I really liked the wine and was pleasantly surprised because the slightly floral aspects made me think it was a Viognier, and I don’t tend to like Viognier. It turns out, though, that I was completely wrong. The wine was Sauvignon Blanc–2015 1846 Wines Ghielmetti Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $24). Maybe that explains why I liked it so much?

The second wine had dark fruits, chocolate, and olive characteristics. I also thought there was a hint of flowers, maybe violets. The wine had medium acidity, medium-to-full body, and medium-to-strong tannins. The floral notes let me astray again. I guessed that the wine was a Cabernet Franc (as did everyone else in the room except for one person). The wine ended up being a Cabernet Sauvignon–2013 Nottingham Cellars Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $60).

The whole experience was a lot of fun. While there were certain characteristics that we all picked up, there were others that made us each think differently about the wines. That said, we all really liked the wines we tasted, so I think the important take away is that while we each had different tasting notes, we all liked drinking the wine!

The Winemakers Studio Aromas

The Winemakers Studio Wine Aromas Discovery

Wine Aroma Discovery
Duration: 90-120 minutes
Price: $55
This session was fun and very challenging. At the end of the table, there were three vials from a wine tasting aroma kit that we were supposed to identify. To help with that identification, all around the table there were glasses filled with objects that are often used to describe wine characteristics—chalk, coffee, stones, grapefruit, nutmeg, etc.—and we were supposed to sniff the objects to help us isolate those specific aromas.

I was able to identify two of the three vials, but more than anything, what I enjoyed about this session was the ability to really spend time focusing on the characteristics of each object. It reminded me of when I was studying for my wine exams and how I would constantly be sniffing things in our spice rack or buying strange food to really get used to identifying the unique characteristic of each smell and taste. Sticking your nose in a glass full of chalk really gives a sense of what a wine with chalk characteristics would smell like.

My biggest takeaway from the session was that while I did ok with my identifications, it’s time for me to go back to my basics for a refresher.

The Winemakers Studio Size and Shape Matters

The Winemakers Studio Size and Shape Matters

Size & Shape Matters
Duration: 60 minutes
Price $35

I will say upfront that this session made the biggest impression on me. The purpose was to determine if the size, shape, and overall construction of a wine glass really impacts how a wine smells and tastes. There were four glasses on the table in front of us—a generic restaurant-type glass, a Chardonnay glass, a Pinot Noir glass, and a Bordeaux glass.

Let me start by saying that I went into this experiment thinking that while there might be a touch of a difference, it would be minimal. I was under the impression that unless the wine drinker was very sophisticated that the difference in glasses would be negligible. I was very wrong…

There is a caveat, though. I think the differences between the Chardonnay, the Pinot Noir, and the Bordeaux glasses were negligible. Not that there wasn’t a difference. There was. And, I can see how using the glass that is made for the specific wine can be the difference between enjoyment and making the wine sing, but I think that a well made set of Bordeaux glasses can do the job (and I intend to invest in my own set).

The big difference really occurred between the generic restaurant-type glass and the fancy glasses. Holy cow! The generic glass swallowed all of the aromas. It left me with the impression that the wine were tasted had very little to offer and that, honestly, it wasn’t very good. It was a wine that I would give 2.5 or 3 corks. That same wine in the Chardonnay glass was complex and wonderful. It was a wine that I would give 4.5 corks. For a glass to make that much of difference in the same wine floored me. It’s an experiment I think every wine lover should do.

The Winemakers Studio Food and Wine Pairing

The Winemakers Studio Food and Wine Pairing

Wine & Food Pairing
I don’t see this particular session on the website, although there is a 60-90 minute wine & cheese session for $55 and a wine and chocolate pairing session for $15. The food in our session was delicious, and it paired nicely with both the 2014 and 2015 Cuda Ridge Wines Semillon. In fact, as sometimes happens with good pairings, the food significantly improved both of the wines. All that said, I felt like this session was the least interesting of the four. I’d rather do a wine pairing dinner at a nice restaurant and spend the money to do one of the other more unique sessions at the Winemakers Studio.

Question of the Day: What are your thoughts on the impact of wine glasses on how a wine tastes? Do you have fancy wine glasses for different types of wine? If you do, do you use them?

WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 3): Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards – Ranging from $24-$30, these 3 wines from the Livermore Valley in California are all small production and absolutely delicious. There was one rosé wine, one white wine, and one red wines, and none of them should missed. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards – Ranging from $24-$30, these 3 wines from the Livermore Valley in California are all small production and absolutely delicious. There was one rosé wine, one white wine, and one red wines, and none of them should missed. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

The view of Murrieta's Well and the picnic area fro the tasting room balcony

The view of Murrieta’s Well and the picnic area fro the tasting room balcony

The second day of the pre-conference excursion in Livermore Valley Wine Country started off at the Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard. We were greeted by Carolyn Wente, fourth generation winegrower and CEO of the Wente Family Estates, as the vineyard is owned by the family even though it is a separate vineyard and has it’s own winemaker.

Murrieta's Well

Murrieta’s Well

As we stood outside, Ms. Wente explained that the property was pays homage to Joaquin Murrieta (also know as the Robin Hood of El Dorado) who discovered it in the 1800s while he was in California looking for his fortune during the California Gold Rush. Murrieta used to water his horses from a well in the area.  On the current estate, “Murrieta’s Well” taps into a fresh underground spring.

Our breakfast and tasting table setup

Our breakfast and tasting table setup

After learning about the history of the property, we saw the newly renovated wine-club-members-only patio, which is gorgeous with its backdrop of the vineyard and mountains, and the new tasting room, which is sleek and modern while still being warm and inviting. The tasting room also has a balcony overlooking the picnic area and Murrieta’s Well.  Then, we headed to the event space for breakfast and a brief wine tasting. The room was lined with barrels and had sparkling chandeliers. From the moment I walked in, I couldn’t help but think that it would be the perfect site for a wedding reception.

Wine Blogger Breakfast of Champions

Wine Blogger Breakfast of Champions

Then it was time to eat!  Normally, when I think of breakfast and wine, I automatically think sparkling (as I’m sure is the case with most people). So, I have to admit that I was very skeptical about the morning pairings because there wasn’t a sparkling wine to be seen. Instead, we had the 2015 Murrieta’s Well Dry Rosé, 2014 The Whip, and 2013 The Whip…and wow, did I learn that regular wine can be as good (if not better) with breakfast food.

2015 Murrieta's Well Dry Rosé - At $30, this rosé wine from California is a little pricey, but worth the splurge. It’s the type of wine you’ll want to open for night relaxing on the porch or an intimate gather with friends. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2015 Murrieta’s Well Dry Rosé

2015 Murrieta’s Well Dry Rosé
Price: $30
Grapes: 55% Grenache & 45% Counoise
Cases produced: 400
Medium-to-dark pink
Strawberries and stone fruits on the nose
Strawberries, grapefruits, and roses in the mouth
Light-to-medium body with nice acidity
Pairing: Absolutely amazing with the scrambled eggs with chives
Overall, loved this wine, but do think it’s a little pricey for a rosé
4.5 Corks

2014 The Whip– At $24, this white wine blend from California will blow you away. It’s nicely balanced, easy to drink, and is a perfect pairing option for appetizers, dinner, or just talking with friends and family. Rating: 4 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com 2014 The Whip

2014 The Whip

2014 The Whip
Price: $24
Grapes: 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli, and 6% Viognier
Cases produced: 260
Medium straw yellow
Whoa flower blossoms! They mix with limes, stone fruits, and honeydew melon on the nose
Flowers, tropical fruits, and melon mix with tart citrus in the mouth
Medium body with nice acidity and hint of creamy sweetness
Pairing: Delicious with my strawberries and pineapple
Overall, I tend to be skeptical of white blends with this many grapes, but I was completely blown away by this wine. It’s nicely balanced, easy to drink, and definitely a wine I would pick on my own.
4 Corks

2013 The Spur– At $30, this red wine blend from California is worth every penny. Every sip will make you want to sigh and go back for more. Plus, it pairs beautiful with food; think meats of all kinds. Rating: 5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 The Spur

2013 The Spur
Price: $30
Grapes: 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec
Cases produced: 345
Medium-to-deep ruby with flecks of purple
Juicy dark cherries, blueberries, and nutmeg mixed with chocolate dust, pepper, and damp earth both on the nose and in the mouth
Medium-to-full body with good acidy and strong tannins
Pairing: This wine was made to be paired with bacon and sausage. I couldn’t get enough of the pairing…taking a bite of one then sipping my wine and sighing before going back for more.
Overall, this is a not-to-be-missed wine. I wish I had more time to luxuriate over this wine.
5 Corks

murrietas-well-estate-vineyard-instagramMy final thought is that Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard is intimate, beautiful, and welcoming, and the wines were absolutely wonderful. I enjoyed everything so much that I’m actually contemplating joining the 4-bottle wine club. If Hubby and I lived closer, joining wouldn’t even be a question because there would be few things as enjoyable spending our weekends on the patio while noshing and sipping their outstanding wine.

**It seems like Murrieta’s Well wines have been a big hit with other bloggers too. To read some other thoughts, check out:

Question of the Day: What are your thoughts about wine and breakfast/brunch? Do you tend to gravitate towards sparkling or do you order still wines?

WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 2): Concannon Vineyards & Wente Vineyards

Pictures and details of my visit to Concannon Vineyards in the Livermore Valley Country in California.

Pictures and details of my visit to Concannon Vineyards in the Livermore Valley Country in California.

Wine bloggers mingling and sipping on the Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

Wine bloggers mingling and sipping on the Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

The first evening of the Wine Bloggers’ Conference excursion to the Livermore Valley Wine Country was spent at Concannon Vineyards, where we started off the evening with a glass of wine and appetizers while mingling near the vineyards. After about 15 minutes of settling into the evening, we were privileged enough to spend some quality time with John Concannon and Karl Wente–the current winemakers for their respective wineries. Before dinner, both Mr. Concannon and Mr. Wente each talked to the group about their vineyards, giving us an overview of the history of both families and the influence they had on California winemaking, in general, and the Livermore Valley wine region, in particular.

Both Concannon Vineyards and Wente Vineyards were founded over 130 years ago and have been continuously family-operated wineries since then.   Both wineries are now sustainably farmed, ultimately mixing both traditional and innovative farming and winemaking practices. In particular, California’s drought and how both wineries are looking at different techniques to deal with issue remained a constant undercurrent as the winemakers talked about their vineyards.

John Concannon in front of the "Mother Vine"

John Concannon in front of the “Mother Vine”

John Concannon is the fourth generation vintner of Concannon Vineyard. He was raised on the winery estate in the house his great-grandfather built. I actually had the opportunity to sit next to Mr. Concannon during dinner, where we talked a lot about how to create and attract the next generation of wine lover. The opening of the Underdog Wine Bar, which overlooks the vineyards, is one of the latest changes Concannon Vineyard has made to try and do just that. Mr. Concannon also talked about his daughter, who is currently in college, and how he’s excited and proud that Concannon Vineyards will eventually be spearheaded by a woman vintner.

John Concannon and Karl Wente talking to the group

John Concannon and Karl Wente talking to the group

Karl Wente is the fifth generation winegrower and winemaker at Wente Vineyards. While Karl grew up working at the winery, he actually chose to gain experiences at a couple of other wineries—one in Sonoma and one in Australia—before permanently joining Wente Vineyards in 2002. Mr. Wente and I only had a chance to chat briefly over dessert, but I learned two important things: first, that while the main winery is a larger-scale production, his personal interest is really for the more artisanal small lot wines made at the winery; and second, that his passion for music is a close second to his passion for wine, so he performs regularly in a band.

After getting a background of both vineyards and families, we walked to the historic Concannon Margaux Heritage Vineyard. The vineyard is the site of the “Mother Vine,” the unaltered Cabernet Sauvignon vine that James Concannon brought from the renowned Château Margaux in Bordeaux over 130 years ago and serves as the base for more than estimated 80% of California’s Cabernet Sauvignon clones.

…and then it was dinner time.

Our dinner and the Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

Our dinner and the 2014 Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

Unfortunately, I don’t have bottle pictures of most of the wines that we tasted, but they were the:

2014 Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc (SRP $24)
2015 Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay (SRP $15)
2013 Concannon Vineyard Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon (I think this is only available to wine club members, and I’m not sure about the price)
2014 Wente Vineyards Nth Degree Chardonnay (SRP $68)
2013 Concannon Vineyard Late Harvest Semillion-Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $25)

We finished the evening with a barrel tasting of a limited wine that Mr. Concannon is making in honor of his father, Jim Concannon.

Special Concannon Vineyard barrel tasting

Concannon Vineyard barrel tasting

I didn’t end up taking tasting notes during dinner because I was too caught up in the conversation with Mr. Concannon. Both Concannon Vineyards Mother Vine Cabernet and the Wente Vineyards Nth Degree Chardonnay made a particularly strong impression on me. I went back for seconds of both wines at the time.

All in all, I really enjoyed spending time with both winemakers, and I thought that Concannon Vineyard was gorgeous. I was a fan of the wine we tasted and will make sure to revisit the vineyard when I get a chance to go back to Livermore Valley (sipping wine and snacking at the Underdog would be the perfect way to spend an afternoon!). And, if I’m being honest, I’m surprised at myself for never having had a Concannon wine before. I would like to pick-up my own bottles of everything that was poured during dinner, so I can revisit and really taste them.

Sunset over Concannon Vineyards

Sunset over Concannon Vineyard

Many thanks to the folks at Livermore Valley Wine Country, Concannon Vineyard, and Wente Vineyards for a spectacular evening. I learned a lot, soaked in the beautiful view, and loved all of the wines. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more intimate evening with my fellow bloggers and the winemakers.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had a Concannon Vineyards or Wente Vineyards wine?  What did you think?  Do you have a favorite?