Then, you'll be drinking California wine industry history. Concannon Vineyard was the first winery in the state to bottle Petite Sirah as a varietal. That was 54 years ago, in 1961. Until then, the grape was used only in blends.
Another reason is, this wine is so good. I'm talking about the 2013 Petite Sirah that is part of Concannon's new Founders' Tier. It's the wine in front in the photo above, poured during a dinner at Spago Beverly Hills.
Released in March, the Founders' Tier also includes a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The price for each is just $18. They won't be in stores until 2016, but you can order them from Concannon now.
In Los Angeles last week to promote the new line, John Concannon, managing director of Concannon Vineyard Estate, admitted that Petite Sirah is his favorite. "It's a friendly wine, but a big wine," he said. "You have to tame it."
Fermented in stainless steel, the Founders' Tier Petite Sirah went into oak barrels and was finished in neutral French barrels "saturated with 50 vintages of Petite Sirah," Concannon said.
The wine is inky dark from skin contact, which also makes it rich in tannins. "You can enjoy it now or lay it down for 10 to 20 years. That to me is the beauty of Petite Sirah," he said. The AVA is San Francisco Bay, and the fruit came from Livermore, where the winery is located.
Concannon also produces reserve wines that are more complex, come from better vineyards, are aged in better barrels and consequently cost more, he said. Meanwhile, the Founders' Tier wines are just fine.
The 2013 Chardonnay (above), sourced from a vineyard in Monterey County, was aged in separate lots in French and American oak and then blended. Oak is present but not dominant, and the buttery fruity flavors are not overpowering. "People who don't like Chardonnay, they tend to like it," Concannon said.
The Founders' 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is from Paso Robles, "the first time we've ever had a Paso Robles Cabernet," he said. "I wanted to try something new."
The wine is "bright, easy to drink, not overly complex," he said. It has a little residual sugar, on purpose. "I wanted to keep it real food friendly and fruit forward," he explained.
Concannon Vineyard has considerable history with Cabernet Sauvignon. The most widely planted Cabernet clones in the United States, Clones 7, 8 and 11, originated there.
Founded in 1883 by James Concannon, an Irish immigrant, Concannon is the oldest winery in California owned continuously by the same family. Its site in the Livermore Valley, 40 miles east of San Francisco, was found to be similar to Bordeaux in climate and soil, and James Concannon brought over cuttings from such elite Bordeaux wineries as Chateau d'Yquem, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The winery building is a California Historical Landmark.
An environmentalist, John Concannon has placed the estate's land in a conservancy land trust so that it can never be built upon. The winery tried going organic, but that didn't work out. "It was too hard on the vines," he said. Instead, he opted for certified sustainable.
"I think the wines are more alive [as a result of being sustainable]," he said. He's proud of the Founders' Tier label, designed in copper and leather tones. The Concannon motto at the top, "Wisdom Without Compromise," is the translation from Gaelic of the family name.
"I wanted it to look good on the table. Nobody is going to buy a wine that is ugly looking," Concannon said. Of course, it helps if the contents are good too.