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LIVERMORE
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September 2001 Vol. XXX No. 12

CALENDAR
Sunday & Monday, September 2 & 3, 11-5 p.m.
Harvest Festival, Concannon Winery 4590 Tesla Rd., Livermore. Livermore Art Association members display watercolors, oils and other media. Free
 
Thursday, September 13 @ 7:00 p.m.
LHG Meeting, Carnegie Bldg.
 
Saturday, September 29, noon - 2 p.m.
Annual General Meeting, Lincoln-Highway Garage
Catered luncheon by Gimanelli's Delicatessen: $17/person, need RSVP & payment by 9/10.
Speaker: Maj. JR. Schlechter, retired Army and retired Highway Patrol, will be presenting a program on the Lincoln Highway. He is very knowledgable about the Highway in the Western part of the State.
 
Saturday, September 29, 3-7 p.m.
Open House at the Lincoln Highway Garage at L St. & Portola Ave. Live music by Magic Moments playing 50s music, docents to answer questions about the Garage and its history, 50s classic cars presented by the Altamont Cruisers, food vendors, T-shirts for sale, raffles. Memberships to the LHG will be available
 
HERITAGE GU1LD HAPPENINGS
REMINDER: It's that time again! Annual dues are due for everyone who is not a life member. Please fill out the enclosed membership form and include your dues.
Excerpted from Herald & News October 2, 1967
Valley Wine Producers Ready For Big Season
Livermore - It's harvest time for Livermore Valley vineyards and local wineries are in full swing into the job of turning grape juice into what Benjamin Franklin said is "proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy."
 
The picking season started late this year. Weather was cooler during the exceptionally wet spring and the vines never caught up. But now the grapes are at peak condition, and teams of workers are sweeping across the fields neatly severing the tightly-packed bunches of fruit from gnarled vines.
 
The giant among Livermore Valley producers is Wente Brothers Winery, which owns about 800 acres of vines. The firm recently planted another 300 acres in Monterey County near Greenfield.
 
President Ernest Wente predicts, "we should have a beautiful harvest" this year if the weather is right -- which means not too hot and no rain.
 
Wente Brothers crushes 3,000 tons of grapes a year to produce some 540,000 gallons of wine. Wente says his winery offers 20 varieties, mostly of white wines. Because of the exceptional climate, ideal soil and interest taken by growers over the years the area produces the best white wine in the United States, and possibly the world, said Wente.
 
About 100 workers, many of them transient, are now employed at Wente Brothers. By next week the harvest will be going full blast and will continue through the month.
 
The harvest has been on at the Cresta Blanca Wine Co. for two weeks and should continue another three. Don Rudloph, manager, said the quality of this year's crop is above average. Some 30 pickers now are working Cresta Blanca's 200 acres.

Page 2

Nine varieties of white wine are produced at Cresta Blanca. The wine is fermented and aged there but now is sent to Fresno for bottling.

The other of the Valley's Big Three wineries, Concannon Vineyard, last week began its harvest, which is expected to yield 85,000 gallons.

If the tastes of politicians are any guideline, the quality of Concannon's product can be attested to by recent orders placed by the White House and the office of Gov. Ronald Reagan.

The product has improved since a Persian farmer let his cup of grape squeezings sit too long in the desert sun and returned to find the first wine.

When wine making is mentioned, images of peasant women stomping grapes and feted vats gurgling with fermenting juice may come to mind but more modern methods now are employed.

Field testing is the first step in the process of turning Concannon grapes into a bottle of White Riesling, Petite Sirah or one of the vineyard's 15 other varieties. Bunches of grapes are picked from several spots in each field and taken to a laboratory equipped with rows of beakers, jars and instruments.

Joseph Concannon explains that it is vital to pick the grapes at just the right time. A couple of days error in either direction could be enough to affect the quality. Because not all the approximately 250 acres of vines can be stripped of ripe fiuit at once, the vineyrard purposely is planted in early, medium and late arriving varieties to allow harvesting in sequence.

The purpose of field testing is to determine the exact level of acid and sugar in the grapes. As the fruit ripens the amount of sugar increases and the acid content drops.

When the grapes have reached the proper stage, it is time for the pickers to go to work. Progressing steadily down the long rows, they expertly slice the bunches from the vine with short curved knives and drop them into boxes.

The boxes are stacked at the end of rows and picked up by a truck, which then takes the sweet, juicy grapes to the crusher. This machine shatters the grapes and rejects the stem. The remaining mixture of juice, skins and seeds is called "must".

Concannon, a grandson of James Concannon who founded the operation in 1883, emphasized that the process differs at every vineyard. Many larger wine companies such as Wente Brothers, are more mechanized, for instance.

At the Concannon Vineyard the "must" is pumped into tanks, where most of the juice is separated. The remaining material is sent by conveyor to presses, where the rest of the liquid is extracted.

For white wine the yeast to start fermentation is added the same day. The yeast consumes the sugar, about 22 percent of the liquid to start and converts it to carbon dioxide and alcohol. About one percent of the sugar is converted every day.

Redwine grapes are handled differently. Since most of the color is in the skin, the yeast is added directly to the must and the juice is not drawn off until the sugar content is down to about five percent.

To develop sweet wines it is necessary to leave in more of the sugar, usually about three percent. The finished product is stored in interim vats for further filtration: then pumped to the cellar where it ages for anywhere from five months to five years.

The Concannon Vineyard recently took steps to ensure that future harvests will be at least as productive as now, or more so. Last winter, 2,000 feet of six inch pipeline carrying water from the nearby South Bay Aqueduct were extended under South Livermore Avenue to supply most of the vines in the Concannon fields. Assisting in the planning of the project was the Livermore office of the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture's Sod Conservation Service. For two years before a small part of the Concannon Vineyard located west of S. Livermore Ave. was irrigated with water brought through a 2,400 foot pipe from the aqueduct. Concannon said the extra water is needed to replace dwindling supplies available from the firm's vineyard well. In 1950, the well level was about 140 feet and produced 1,100 gallons a minute. It now is 320 feet deep and supplies only 120 gallons a minute.

The population explosion in the Valley and dam construction in the foothills are two of the major reasons for the' dropping water table, said Concannon. Before about 1940, no irrigation at all was necessary. The water table was so high that roots extending downwards about 15 feet were continuously irrigated. Concannon hopes to bring the vigor of his vines back to their original condition with the increased water. He also said they are establishing new vineyards, section by section, which requires about twice the normal amount of water.

It is necessary to irrigate frequently in this area because the "Livermore gravelly loam" soil which the vines are planted in is very low in moisture retention. He said a grower can apply several inches of water and in 30-40 days the roots are getting dry again.

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November 4, 2001