"Spice & Cloves" -- A Lip-Smacking New Blend from Concannon
By Mac McCarthy, SavvyTaste.com
Concannon, one of the winemaking anchor tenants of Livermore, CA, has a new and very tasty red-wine blend in its lineup.
Dubbed "Crimson & Clover," this is a blend that successfully turns the sometimes tannic Petite Syrah grape (or Petite Sirah, as Concannon styles it) into a juicy, fruity, fun wine.
The wine is half Petite Sirah, plus a quarter Cabernet Sauvignon for breadth and complexity, 15% Syrah for rich dark fruit, and 10% Zinfandel for another dose of a different kind of fruit. Alcohol is at 13.7%.
The result is an $15 bottle of wine that will make every level of wine drinker smile, while satisfying the demands of more sophisticated palates for richness and a reasonable degree of complexity. The wine is soft, especially for a Petite, without the tough tannins of some Petites. The blackberry fruit set in a background of a rich middle and a very nice finish make this the kind of wine where you take a taste, then after a moment you just have to take another sip. That makes it both fun and satisfying.
This is surprisingly good for a mass-market wine -- Concannon has made 10,000 cases of the stuff. The list price, at $15, is very fair, and worth it to reach up from the $10 everyday wines some of us favor. At the recent Livermore Harvest Wine Festival, Concannon was offering a two-for-one promotional special. I had received a bottle free for this review, but it was so good I had to buy a couple more bottles. They won't last long.
Concannon, along with Wente, is one of the original wine-grape growers in Livermore, having been established in 1883. They like to brag that they're the first successful Irish-American winery in the U.S. (!), and that they were the first winery to sell Petite Syrah as a varietal, starting in 1961. Obviously, they've learned how to turn this sometimes-tricky grape into a quaffer.
They and Wente are also notable for having helped many new Livermore winemakers establish themselves; as a result, there are now some 40 winemakers in the Livermore Valley, bottling wines mostly from Livermore grapes. This Crimson & Clover, for example, is one of Concannon's "Conservancy Collection," and is made entirely from grapes grown in the Livermore Conservancy, a land trust that protects the most valued winegrowing lands in this San Francisco suburb from development.
Livermore is one of those oft-overlooked major grape-growing and winemaking areas unfamiliar to wine tourists to Northern California, but overdue to be discovered for its many high-quality wines for the vast majority of wine lovers who aren't interested in throwing their money away on cult wines from the more famous venues nearby.