On December 5, 1933 Prohibition was finally repealed. Although the constitutional ban on alcohol had been in force across America since 1920, some wine production was still taking place. In fact, a California winery was the first to ship wines to Seattle at repeal. That winery, still in existence today, is America’s oldest, continuously operating winery under the same family label and stewardship. What winery is that you ask? Concannon Vineyard based in beautiful Livermore Valley Wine Country.
I learned about this interesting history during a visit to Concannon Vineyard following the Wine Bloggers Conference. John Concannon, fourth generation and Managing Director, led our group’s tour beginning with the family’s historical timeline. We heard how founder James Concannon immigrated to the United States and, upon finding the terroir of the Livermore Valley similar to the premier vineyards of the Médoc in Bordeaux, chose the California region to establish Concannon Vineyard in 1883. He planted high quality vines that he imported directly from France’s famed Bordeaux region. James’ son, Joe, prevented the destruction of the historical vines from Chateau Margaux, Lafite, and d’Yquem during Prohibition by producing sacramental wine.
The picture in the timeline that caught my eye reads:
First in Seattle since Prohibition
Carload of Fine Wines
From Livermore, Cal.
U.S. Govt. Bonded Warehouse – Seattle
F.M. Fairbanks Winery Agent
As the story goes, “At Repeal, Captain Joe was the first in shipping fine wines to Seattle and cities coast-to-coast. During Prohibition, most growers made low-quality wines, but Captain Joe still insisted upon only the finest quality. A staunch defender of freedom, he was prepared and ready to reintroduce high-quality wine to the American table.”
The tour proceeds and we walk by the club members’ swanky tasting room. Next, on to the vineyard to see the “Mother Vine” from which cuttings were taken to propagate Concannon Cabernet Clones, the most widely planted Cabernet clones in California. We take a picture in front of a captivating historical structure on the property. Then we dine in the barrel room. This little slice of Livermore Valley Wine Country is magnificent and the region strikes me as an ideal destination for wine lovers.
During dinner we taste some of the wonderful wines produced by this estate including Chardonnay, the special Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Petite Sirah. How lucky Seattle was to have Concannon wines delivered all those years ago!
Concannon Vineyard is a lovely place to visit and to celebrate Seattle’s historical ties to the California wine industry. Meanwhile, may you have a Happy Repeal Day with something special in your glass to commemorate the occasion!
In the interest of full disclosure, I paid a modest fee to the organizers of the Wine Bloggers Conference to attend the Livermore Valley Wine Country excursion. The winery hosted us on the evening of our visit. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!