During this month of September, Concannon Vineyard will be celebrating for the entire month, due to their important Cabernet Sauvignon contributions, as it relates to California’s wine history.

It all began in the Livermore Valley, ladies and gentlemen. Cabernet Sauvignon Clones #7 and #8 originated in the United States at Concannon Vineyard…

From the Concannon Vineyard Website:

Over 130 years ago, our founder, James Concannon, began importing extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignon vines directly from the renowned Château Margaux in Bordeaux. Years later, in 1965, his grandson, Jim, collaborated with UC Davis in selecting cuttings from one of those vines for heat treatment. These dynamic, virus-resistant vines later became known as Concannon Cabernet Clones #7, #8 and #11 and played a key role in helping California Cabernet achieve international recognition. Today, we are proud that an estimated 80% of California’s Cabernet Sauvignon is planted with our Concannon Clones.

[This image from Châteaux Margaux comes from their Website ~ Title: 07/17/2016 Magnificent vines]

Pour yourself a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from Concannon, your favorite winery in the Napa Valley, or any other valley in California, and it’s likely you’ll be sipping wine born from Concannon’s Clones #7 and/or #8. It was Concannon Vineyard that offered the wine industry their famous Cabernet Sauvignon #7 and #8 Clones, during the California wine industry’s twentieth-century renaissance, which all began in the 1970s.

Clones #7 and #8 are widely recognized as prolific planting material within the U.S. wine industry. Dr. Harold Olmo, celebrated viticulturist from the University of California, worked with Joseph Concannon to catalogue what would become the most favored Cabernet Sauvignon plant material for viticulturist and winemakers from the early 1970s, Clone #7 and #8.

Dr. Harold Olmo’s efforts to improve California’s grape planting materials began in 1931. He was hired by Albert Winkler to succeed F.T. Bioletti’s ampelographic expertise. Dr. Olmo began his grape breeding program at the University of California at Davis. Most famous worldwide for his grape breeding program and his ampelographic proficiency, he also worked tirelessly to improve several rootstocks, until his retirement in 1979. Many grape species were acquired from not only worldwide sources, but Olmo also collected many species from the United States, including Concannon’s famous Clones #7 and #8.

According M. Andrew Walker “He began his clonal work by selecting variants in vineyards across the State emphasizing good cluster formation, high yields, fruit quality, and disease-free status with varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot noir, Burger, Semillon, and Riesling…”[i]

Noted California Wine Historian Tim Patterson had conducted extensive research on the widely regarded impact of Concannon’s Clones #7 and #8 saying,

“People in the industry are well aware that the ‘Concannon clones’ — Cabernet Sauvignon clones #7 and #8–have been the backbone of the great California Cabernet vineyards for decades. For wine drinkers who assume that Napa was Napa since the beginning of time, this probably comes as a great surprise. For me, it’s a perfect example of the important, often behind-the-scenes role Concannon played in the growth of the industry for more than a century.”

To better determine the performance of California’s most significant clones, UC Davis’s Foundation Plant Materials Service conducted three clonal trials in 1981 in order to understand their performance[ii]. Started in Napa Valley at Beaulieu Vineyards, it included the following:

  • Concannon Clones #7-#8
  • Concannon Clone #11
  • Oakville 11V
  • Jackson, CA G8V10
  • Californian Vineyard 22-23
  • Mendoza, Argentina 04
  • Mendoza, Argentina 05
  • Neustadt, W. Germany 10
  • Chile 12
  • Chile 13-14-15
  • Chile 16-17-18
  • Chile 19
  • Chile 21

From three trials, the rating of FPMS clones was established, and it was concluded that Concannon’s Clones #7, #8, and #11 were the highest producing.

In a search for more information about the use of Concannon’s clones, Jim Concannon personally wrote the following to Dr. James Wolpert, UC Davis’s Department Chair for Viticulture & Enology. “Dear Dr. Wolpert: Many years ago my late brother Joe worked very closely with the viticulture department at Davis. Unfortunately most records on the background of the Cabernet Sauvignon Clones #7 and #8 were not kept at the winery. Since these clones are so widely used and were developed with the help of my brother Joe, I would be interested in obtaining information on them.”

In response, Dr. Wolpert wrote back to Jim, “It is good to hear from someone with the last name of Concannon. That selection of Cabernet Sauvignon is not only one of the most widely planted, but one of the most highly regarded. It comprises most of our plantings at our department’s (UC Davis) Oakville vineyard, where it makes exceptional wines.”[iii]

According to former Senior Writer Lynn Alley, and Deborah A. Golino (Director of the FPMS at Davis), many of the clonal selections Dr. Harold Olmo developed enriched the FPMS collection and are the industry standards today, such as FPMS Chardonnay Selection 04 (Wente Vineyards) and Cabernet Sauvignon Selection 08 (Concannon Vineyard).[iv]

Michael Silacci and his staff conducted most of the research, studying the vines for six years. Beginning in 1991, at Gristina Vineyards in Cuthogue, NY, another six years of data was collected in which all but a few of the Chile clones were again used. The final research was performed by J. Wolpert, A.N. Kasimatis, and P.S. Verdegaal. From these three trials, the rating of FPMS clones was established, and it was concluded that Concannon’s Clones 7, 8, and 11 were the highest producing.

It is with great pride that Concannon Vineyard Clones #7 and #8 have been widely recognized, by these industry leaders, for having set the standard of excellence for Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Power of [Concannon] Clone 7 in Napa Valley Hands

Robert Keenan Winery (Spring Mountain, Napa Valley) – The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is composed primarily of fruit grown on Keenan’s Spring Mountain District Estate. Ninety-five percent of this wine is composed of estate grown [Concannon] Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon. Of the five different estate clones to choose from, we chose [Concannon] Clone 7, feeling it best showcased the “soul” of the 2002 vintage. The [Concannon] Clone 7 shows the most dynamic expression; beautifully described red berry fruit coupled with elegant, understated mountain power.

Excerpt from Robert M. Parker, Jr.’s,
The Wine Advocate,
Issue 157, February 28, 2005
93+ Points

Literature cited:

[i]  Walker, M. Andrew, UC Davis’ Role in Improving California’s Grape Planting Materials, © 2000 by the American Society of Enology and Viticulture
[ii]  Caldwell, John, A Concise Guide to Wine Grape Clones for Professionals, John Caldwell Viticultural Services, Second Edition
[iii] Used with the permission of Dr. James Wolpert and Jim Concannon, August 19, 2004
[iv] Alley, Lynn and Golino, Deborah A., The Originals of the Grape Program at Foundation Plant Materials Service, © 2000 by the American Society of Enology and Viticulture