Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Revisit our good friends at Maloy O’Neill Vineyards and acquire their exclusive, limited-production, Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Maloy O’Neill Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – Private Reserve
Winemaker: Shannon O’Neill
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.
Look – Deep, dark magenta, with red edging and a solid, darker, burgundy core. After swirling this heavy-looking wine, tall, wine-stained tears take a very long time to emerge up high on the glass. After they do appear, they slide very slowly downward.
Smell – Bold and sweet with juicy red fruit and spice, this wine leads with warm cherry, blackberry, braised fig and sweet brown spice. These are rounded out by black cherry, plum and cigar box that appears as the wine opens up.
Feel – Initially soft, the wine becomes quickly grippy as plush tannins take hold at the front of the palate. Bright acids transport fruit to the far corners of the palate as a darkly mineral-laden dryness follows closely behind.
Taste – Dark and bold, with layer upon layer of dark fruit, earthen characteristics and spice. At first, the wine leads with spiced blackberry juice, black cherry and dried black fig. Notes of tobacco, sweet spice, dried fall leaves, cigar box, toasted oak, black plum and dusty dark chocolate round out the palate as the wine opens up.
Finish – Ultra-long and very complex, lead by black fruit that very slowly yields to earthy flavors and dark minerals. At the very end, a hint of flint, oak and black pepper remain, long after the fruit and earthen flavors have faded.
Conclusion – We’ve always been really crazy about Shannon O’Neill’s Cabernet Sauvignon, but today marks our first try of his Private Reserve Cab. We really love this exceptional wine. Like all of Shannon’s wines, this Cabernet is rich, dark and extracted. This wine, though, also enjoys layers of flavor and complexity. Aromatics, too, are deep and complex. In fact, our entire tasting panel found itself inhaling this wine for a long time before ever taking that first delicious sip. We give this wine our very strong recommendation. Enjoy now or cellar a case or two for the next decade. Pair this delicious wine with a garlic rubbed New York steak on the grill.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Shannon O’Neill
WINE EDUCATION: B.S. Fermentation Science, U.C.Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: 1982-Present, Vice President, Vineyard Operations, O’Neill Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA; 1999-Present, President, Winemaker, Maloy O’Neill Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA; 2005- Present, Wine Production Consultant For Various Start Up Wineries on the Central Coast of California.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Making great wine while developing one on one customer relationships.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “I love making big, extracted, intense varietal character wines, and lots of them”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1999
AGENT RED: Greetings, Shannon. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve today. Every time we feature your wines, our Operatives love them. You’ve become very popular among our covert wine lovers. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
SHANNON: It is fantastic to be with you, once again. Thanks for loving our wines as much as you do!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
SHANNON: I think my horticulture class in the 5th grade, started my love for growing things. That developed into growing grapes when my family purchased 180 acres in Paso Robles in 1980. My sister convinced me to go to UC Davis because they needed winemakers for the new developing wine industry in the early 1980’s. She was in her 2nd year as a Viticulture major and I had just graduated high school and had plans to take over my father’s medical practice. My efforts to get into a premed university were daunting despite my great GPA and SAT scores. My sister suggested I sign up for the Fermentation Science Program at Davis which was the exact same first two years curriculum as a premed Biology major consisting of basically, lots of math and science. She told after your second year, transferring to a pre-med school would be very easy at that point. She was right, because there were only 13 students that signed up that year, and I slid right in. The only thing she was wrong about was, once I found out how cool being a winemaker was, med school was out!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
SHANNON: Making Cabernet Sauvignon is the Holy Grail of winemaking. Cabernet has always been the backbone of my winemaking style and the history of my wines. Thank god, O’Neill Vineyards has been a never ending supply of high quality fruit for this endeavor!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
SHANNON: Making Cabernet Sauvignon is the Holy Grail of winemaking. Cabernet has always been the backbone of my winemaking style and the history of my wines. Our two estate vineyards has always been a source of high quality fruit for this endeavor!
RED: Who do you make wine for?
SHANNON: I am the winemaker for our two estate brands, Maloy O’Neill Vineyards and O’Neill Vineyards and have been a production consultant and have done custom crush work for many small startup wineries on the central coast.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
SHANNON: The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon PR is one of the best Private Reserve Cabs produced from Maloy O’Neill Vineyards. The grapes are grown on my Hillside vineyard, hand manicured and farmed to produce high quality low yielding fruit.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
SHANNON: Any red meat. The soft tannins meet up beautifully with the richness of good quality beef.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Paso Region so special?
SHANNON: Paso, because of its very cool nights is a most unique appellation. We get these incredible fluctuations between day and night, sometimes over 50 degrees. So the vines get plenty of heat (or degree days) yet the cool nights maintain the grapes acidity which you need to grow the most premium fruit. 2007 was an amazing vintage for us (as it was for many in California).
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
SHANNON: Between summer maintenance around the property and preparing for this years harvest there are not enough hours in the day!
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
SHANNON: I make 36 different wines a year so I have a huge portfolio of many different styles and varietals to choose from. There is literally something for everyone. But if your one of those wine drinkers that like big, huge, extracted, intense varietal character reds, than you’re going to love my wines, because that is what I specialize in, and that is where my passion is! The Fremere is delicate dinner wine, that goes good with most foods, but I have many wines that are quaffing wines only, that can be served as the meal, so whatever style you like, go through the list on our website, and I promise you will find what you’re looking for!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
SHANNON: I would just like to thank all of you for your unending support, and also the wine spies who do a wonderful job at picking wines that are unique and of interest to people who are looking for something more than what is available on the supermarket shelves. The Spies have consistently choose wines from all the different wineries they feature, that are worth checking out, and they also expose wineries who do not have worldwide distribution to and audience that might never get a chance to try new and exciting wines from small mom and pop wineries from many different regions! I welcome all of you to come to Paso Robles to see all the great things going on here, and if you do! Please visit us and say hello. For all of those who take me up on my offer, just mention you’re from the Spies and we will give you an extra discount on all wines and waive your tasting fees! Thank you again, and hope to see you soon!
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
SHANNON: Thank you and all your customers for your loyal support over the years and enjoy Maloy O’Neill wines.
The location of the Maloy O’Neill Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.