Maloy O'Neill Vineyards

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon • Windy Hill Estate Vineyard

California: Paso Robles

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Mission Codename: Que Pasó?

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Determine what’s happening down in Paso Robles

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Maloy O’Neill Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles

Winemaker: Shannon O’Neill

Backgrounder:

Paso Robles, in California’s Southern Central Coast region (San Luis Obisbo County) is one of California’s oldest and also newest wine growing regions. The first vines were planted in the late 1700s by the Spanish missionaries.

Paso’s unique climate, perhaps influences its vine more than any other area in California. The hot, dry weather that is only minimally effected by coastal fog and wine results in grapes that are more concentrated in flavor and intensity. This climate makes Paso uniquely suited to grow the big red varietals including Zinfandel, Syrah and as in this wine, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark purple and almost black with a dark inky core. The edges are garnet fading to orange with medium-thick legs that slowly creep down the side of the glass.

Smell – Bold and intense flavors of ripe blackberry and black cherry with a subtle floral rose undertone. Earthly aromas of fresh-cut cedar layered on top of an herbaceous fennel and licorice component.

Feel – Immediately spicy (cayenne pepper) and tangy, this wine also has firm tannins and bright acidity.

Taste – Concentrated black-fruit with a solid cayenne pepper spice (see above) with hints of plum, cinnamon and licorice. Given some time, tangy flavors of pomegranate and its earthiness reveal themselves.

Finish – This wine finishes medium-long with the fruit and spice dominating the finish.

Conclusion – Enthusiasts of Paso Robles’ Cabernet Sauvignon wine will immediately gravitate to this wine. It’s highly concentrated and extracted fruit on top of a complex array of cedar, spice, earth and licorice invites both contemplation and another sip. Given its intensity and bold tannins, we feel this wine will age very well. But if you want to dive right in, this Cab won’t disappoint. We do, however, recommend that you decant this wine so all its aromas and flavors are presented in all their glory.

Mission Report:

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’Neill Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the winery says

About This Wine:

The grapes for this wine came from our Windy Hill Estate Vineyard. Picked two weeks earlier than the Gold Medal Winning 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Windy Hill wine has similar characteristics with big, extracted fruit. The supple mid-palate glides focused tannins into a seductive finish accented by notes of cedar and fine grains. At only 1 ton per acre, and super small clusters and berries, this is a good example of a wine with huge skin to juice ratio resulting in a dark, inky Cabernet. A classic estate wine that can drink well upon release yet ages gracefully for 10-15 years.

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.

The Winemaker:

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.

Vineyards:

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.