Maloy O'Neill Vineyards
California: Paso Robles
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s unique red blend is a delicious and ultra-interesting wine that stretches the boundaries of it’s component parts.
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Mission Codename: The Spy’s Lexicon – Redux
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Maloy O’Neill Vineyards in Paso Robles, and secure an ample allocation of their stunning 2005 Lexicon, their best red blend
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Maloy O’Neill Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2005 Lexicon
Winemakers: Shannon O’Neill
Backgrounder: Our Operatives went loco for Shannon O’Neil’s fantastic 2004 Lexicon, so when we received intelligence reports that his 2005 was even better, we dispatched Agent Red to secure a healthy-sized allocation. 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 2005 Lexicon, and returns with a cache of the wine for our Operatives.
Don’t think of this wine as a Cabernet Sauvignon/Pinot Noir blend. To do so would be to pigeonhole this divine blend, which is absolutely delicious and unique. Not one of the wines varietal components outshines another. Rather, they all work in harmonious balance and combine to deliver something altogether remarkable.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep ruby red with concentrated color straight out to the garnet edges. When swirled, the wine shows off a very tight surface that settles fast, leaving behind slow-starting clusters of tears that start chubby and then skinny-out as they march slowly down the glass
Smell – Richly layered, leading with cassis, black cherry, overripe blackberry, cocoa powder, brambley (is that a real word?) raspberry, dried dark flower petals – all with a softly fresh earthiness
Feel – Soft at very first, wet, then quickly grippy and mouth-coating as the wine reveals a medium body and fine-grained, firm tannins that gently tug at the cheeks and dry the mouth
Taste – Balanced bright and dark flavors, with delicious fruit of dark cherry, black plum, cassis, young strawberry, smoky blueberry and fine cocoa powder are all framed by soft spice and earthy dried herbs
Finish – Finishes bold and dark, at first, then bright fruit emerges. This transition effect makes the mouth water as flavors literally move around the mouth.
Conclusion – If I loved the 2004 Lexicon, I *_LOVE*_ the 2005! With the characteristic fruit and bold character that I have come to expect from Shannon O’Neill’s wines, today’s wine delivers an ethereal something extra. I really enjoyed this wine on it’s own and decided to pair it with homemade pizza with sausage and fresh basil – which worked beautifully! While this wine is concentrated and deep, it also has the bright acids to make it very food friendly. Grab a case before they run out of this very limited-production masterpiece.
Below follows an excerpt from Agent Red’s initial recon of Maloy O’Neill Vineyards.
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.”
My afternoon with the winemaker over, I headed back to Central Command, the trunk of my hybrid Spy SUV stuffed with Maloy O’Neill’s great wines. 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:
This most unusual blend, while a bit unorthodox, works unbelievably well.
The nose begins upfront with both black fruits (cassis and cherry) and wild strawberry, followed up with wonderful dried fruits and earthy foresty aromas.
The palate starts with a big mouthful of black fruit encapsuled by firm tannins. Secondary flavors of spice, dried tangerine rind, and black tea are all wrapped up with fairly high acidity—making it a wine that will no doubt drink symbiotically with most any food…
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.
Varietals: 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Pinot Noir, 14% Syrah, 14% Sangiovese, 7% Lagrein