The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2016

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Page 95 of 148

january-february 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  95 by Jonathan Cristaldi and Bryce Wiatrak / photos by Stephanie Secrest THE GRAND Back in early November, stories from the wine movement in the Livermore Valley were told at a tasting event and panel discussion in the St. Regis in San Francisco. STORIES OF WINE FROM THE LIVERMORE VALLEY PHOTO: STEPHANIE SECREST E ver since Robert Livermore's first planting of vines in the 1840s, the Livermore Valley has proven to be a grand partner in the American wine movement, and the stories of the families who pioneered the region are the stories of American wine. James Concannon, founder of Concannon Vineyard, believed in Livermore Valley as the ideal place to grow grapes, to experiment and ultimately to prove that America can make wines as good as anywhere in the world—he called it "the grand labora- tory." The Wente family established deep roots in the area in 1912 and became the go-to vineyard for Chardonnay. Back in early November, those stories were given center stage at the St. Regis in San Francisco for a tasting event and panel discussion dubbed "Sip & Discover," expertly hosted by interna- tionally-renowned sommelier, wine journalist, judge and consultant Chris Sawyer. "The region is legendary and is undergoing a new renaissance," said Sawyer, eyeing a row of distinguished vintners along with some up-and- comers: Karl Wente, Fifth Generation Winemaker from Wente Vineyards; John Concannon, Concannon Vineyard; Steven Mirrasou, The Steven Kent Winery; Colin Cranor, Vasco Urbano Wine Company; Bob Bossi, Dante Robere Vineyards, a Syrah specialist; Steve Burman, 3 Steves; and John Kinney, Occasio Winery. "One of my favorite guys, Paul Greico," said Sawyer to a packed room of trade and consumers, "was featured in the movie SOMM: Into the Bottle, and he said 'I don't look at myself as a cork-puller, I look at myself as a storyteller.' And I echo that sentiment. We're all storytellers and it's our responsibility to share what we know— and today we are going to tell the story of Livermore Valley through the stories of some of its families." Livermore Valley, granted appel- lation status in 1982, is due east of San Francisco and is home to over 50 wineries. The wineries in the area that weathered Prohibition did so by mak- ing "sacramental wine," which Sawyer emphasized with air quotes as if to say, "Ha, ha, yeah, right." "But it was Charles Wetmore," explained Sawyer, who established Cresta Blanca Winery in 1882 along with a viticultural commission, which "really started the movement. And a year later Concannon and Wente showed up, and really, the rest is truly history." Today, it is estimated that 80 percent of Chardonnay clones in California are some form of Wente Chardonnay, and around 80 percent of Cabernet clones are the Concannon clones 7, 8 and 11. For those newcomers from Livermore, it's an exciting time to be writing new chapters that build upon the established ones that are embedded in the viticul- tural vein that runs through Livermore Valley. —Jonathan Cristaldi Laboratory The tasting event and panel discussion dubbed "Sip & Discover" was expertly hosted by internationally-renowned sommelier, wine journalist, judge and consultant Chris Sawyer.

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