Maloy O'Neill Vineyards
California: Paso Robles
What We Say
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SUPERIOR WINE ALERT: Today’s wine is a fantastic red blend from a great winery! Yesterday we wold out, so please be sure to pick up today’s wine – before its too late!
Mission Codename: The Spy’s Lexicon
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Maloy O’Neill Vineyards in Paso Robles, uncover their best red wine, secure an amply supply for our blend-thirsty Operatives around the U.S.A.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Maloy O’Neill Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2004 Lexicon
Winemakers: Shannon O’Neill
Backgrounder: Paso Robles has long been established as a wine producing region that give other California regions a run for their money. With a climate and soils that make for perfect growing conditions for grapes, it is no wonder. Winemakers in Paso are a somewhat unique breed, often declaring themselves to be the renegades of Cali wine. A meeting with Shannon O’Neill, winemaker and owner of Maloy O’Neill affirms this sentiment. A warm, excited and deeply passionate man, Shannon makes wines that reflect his personality. Join Agent Red as he visits Shannon, tastes his fantastic 2004 Lexicon, and returns with a cache of the wine for our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark garnet red, to burgundy-pinkish at the edges with a tight, fast-settling surface and fat, tightly-packed slow-moving legs that take a while to emerge
Smell – Deep ripe plum, perfumed blackberry, blueberry, cocoa, tart cherry, cranberry, raspberry and pine tar with a delightful hint of grape (Bazooka) bubblegum
Feel – Round, initially, then then grippy, mouthcoating and slightly drying as supple tannins take hold
Taste – Concentrated dark fruit with big sweet & dusky tart flavors of dark cherry, smoky plum, plus subtle coffee, herbs and mild oak
Finish – A big finish that starts dry, goes wet and then finally finishes dry, with sweet flavors and medium tannins fall off at a medium pace
Conclusion – Passionate wine producers usually produce passionate and exciting wines. Shannon O’Neill’s delicious Lexicon is a fantastic and fun wine to drink, with perfectly balanced bigness and bright fruit. This is a wine that is great to enjoy on its own, but has the brightness, acidity and flavor profile to hold it own when paired with most meals. The Lexicon is a fast-seller for Maloy O’Neill and we were only to get our hands on a limited number of cases. With only 326 cases of this wine produced, the winery expects it to sell out very soon. Maybe we can make it even sooner!
Just a few days ago, I was fortunate to spend time with Shannon O’Neill, one of the founding father’s of the Paso wine scene.
Shannon purchased his first vineyard land back in 1980 and was one of the first dozen vintners planting in the appellation. Today, there are more than 120 Paso wineries and Shannon’s Maloy O’Neill is considered an original – and one of the finest.
The day I met Shannon, the weather was mercifully moderate. The last time I visited the region in the summertime, the weather soared to 106 degrees. That was a year ago, and I was loath to experience another sweltering day. Thank Bacchus for a cooler day.
Shannon told me that the weather this summer had been somewhat unusual, with temperatures bouncing all around. “It’s been an unusual summer to be sure,” Shannon told me. “Day to day, temps have been fluctuating far more than usual.”
When I asked Shannon to tell me how the grapes were doing with these temperature swings, he told me:
“The swings make me a little nervous, particularly when temps soar to 116 as we saw recently. When temps get that high, vines can shut down, putting the grapes in danger. Fortunately, our grapes are all doing great.”
“This is the time of year when we visit the vineyards several times a day to see when they start to get their color. When the first hints of purple appear on the grapes, we know that harvest is right around the corner. Right now, I am ordering all of my harvest supplies and getting my team ready to pick, sort and rush the grapes to the winery.”
As we walked through the vineyards, Shannon pointed out the wide assortment of his grapes. Here, he grows and tends to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, and Malvasia Bianca, these latter two being more obscure but very interesting grape varietals. We discussed the grapes, picking and tasting as we walked and talked.
I asked Shannon to characterize the differences between wines made in Paso Robles and those from Napa and Sonoma.
“Well, that’s a big question, but I’ll boil it down in simple terms: Because of the hotter temperatures, Paso wines tend to be more deeply extracted and big. The higher temps lead to higher sugars which, in turn, lead to higher alcohol. When making my wines, I strive to deliver big and bold flavors, but also wines that hold up when paired with food. Some of my wines are meant to solo imbibing to be sure, but the Lexicon that you are enjoying is a great food wine. Bright acidity and deep fruit don’t overpower and are perfect with lighter foods or even hearty entrees.”
Shannon then told me how Lexicon was born:
“After a particularly grueling season, I was left with a handful of barrels of various varietals. For fun, I experimented with blending these wines and found – by accident, I suppose – a fantastic blend. Now when each season is over, I create an all-new and always original blend. This year, the wine is bright and darkly delicious. I call it a Bordeaux meets the Rhone style wine, with dark intense fruit and complex flavors. I’m glad you love it!”
My afternoon with the winemaker over, I headed back to Central Command, the trunk of my hybrid Spy SUV stuffed with Lexicon. And those were just the wines for my cellar! You’ll have to get your own today, dear Operative, before we run out!
A hearty thank you to Shannon for the great tour!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Maloy O’Neil vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Maloy O’Neill’s most popular wine year after year is almost sold out! Wine club members will have the opportunity to snatch this wine up at an extra discount before it is all gone. What started out as the last five barrels in the winery back in 2001 has now become one of our top sellers. When I finally burned out at the end of the season, there were five barrels left in the winery of all different varietals. Instead of separating them all as I normally do, I just blended them all together and Lexicon was born. The first year sold out in less than 60 days and the wine has been very popular within the Maloy O’Neill lineup. I call this my All-American blend because it always consists of the the entire spectrum of varieties from barrels left at the end of the year, like the American melting pot. The blend is different every year but always comes out great. This year’s blend is where Bordeaux meets the Rhone in a beautiful marriage of flavors. Dark intense fruit with complex flavors make this a versatile wine. It can be served with appetizers or hold up to your heartiest entrées. With 326 cases produced , this wine has lasted a little longer than some of my other smaller lots, but don’t wait too long to get what you want from this unique blend.
About The Winery:
Maloy O’Neill Vineyards is dedicated to making the highest quality wines in limited quantities while maintaining superior one-to-one client relationships. Through this dedication, the family belives in and aspires to providing a legacy for future generations of the Maloy O’Neill Clan. Maloy O’Neill is a family owned and operated vineyard and winery located in California’s beautiful Central Coast region.
We are dedicated to producing estate-bottled varietals and site-specific wines from our vineyards and other selected vineyards in the Paso Robles area. These vineyards have consistently produced high quality, intensely fruity vintages. Premium wine handcrafted in small lots is our main focus in delivering a unique product to our consumers. Cabernet Sauvignon is our flagship variety, but other premium varietals include Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, and Malvasia Bianca.
Making Premium wines has long been the passion of winemaker, Shannon O’Neill. Years of education and experimentation have culminated in the MOV wine collection now available. Shannon is able to focus on small lot artistry utilizing modern wine technology to maximize the potential of the vineyards.The winemaker’s hard work and craftsmanship has been noticed. MOV has been quickly recognized for red wines. We have won multiple Gold and Silver medals for each of vintages from prestigious North American wine competitions.
O’Neill Vineyards has been producing high quality grapes in the Paso Robles area since 1982. We have been a local supplier of grapes for many wineries in the area, as well as wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake County. What started out as a 20 acre experiment in 1982, has now grown into 150 acres planted with nine varieties. O’Neill Vineyards has always been family owned and operated, dedicated to producing only the highest quality fruit for our wines and those who buy our fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon is why O’Neill Vineyards has become so well known, but we also currently grow Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, and Malvasia Bianca.
The vineyard site consists of over 180 acres, with vines spread across several different soil types and microclimates. Although it has taken years of fine-tuning, many improvements have been made in the vineyard to maximize these different conditions. In 1997 we switched to a vertical shoot position trellis system, and employed canopy management techniques such as leaf, shoot, and cluster thinning to reduce yields and open up the canopy. Soil and water management has also become a top priority. Paso Robles area soils commonly need annual amendments and pH adjustments in order to maintain proper nutrient uptake and overall vine health. The result has been a dramatic increase in quality reflected in the wines from these grapes. There is also a five-acre experimental vineyard on the property, dedicated to varietal, rootstalk, and clonal experimentation. The grapes from these vines are used for small-scale winemaking experiments as well.
Blend: 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, Merlot, 14% Petite Sirah, 12% Syrah
Production: 320 Cases