Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Deal with O'Neill

“Just in time for the holidays,” started the release that accompanied the latest set of samples from O’Neill Vintners – California-based makers of Tin Roof, Camelot, Martin & Weyrich, and Pepi wines, all of which have crossed the Naked Vine’s tasting table at one time or another because of the good folks at Balzac Communications. (Thanks, Stacey!)

The set contained wines from three of these labels – all relatively inexpensive bottles squarely in the “take to a party” or “crack at a casual dinner gathering” category.

How were they?

Camelot (NV) Pinot Grigio – A set of Camelot samples came to our rescue during our recent kitchen remodel, but this pinot grigio was not among that set. “It’s peachy,” were the first words out of my mouth at my first taste of this inexpensive white. I’ll say this for it – it’s certainly got more body and fruit than many wines at this price point. Most cheap pinot grigio tends to be fairly mild and almost watery. Not so much here. The nose and flavors, as I said, lean peachy. The finish is a bit odd. There’s a little bit of a bitter undertone that seems to be covered by the addition of a little residual sugar. We are talking about a $7 wine here, so nitpicking the finish is a bit much. It’s drinkable enough if you’re not thinking too much.

Martin & Weyrich 2012 Riesling Allegro – This Riesling is from the same label as Moscato Allegro, which I reviewed about a year and a half ago. This wine is more for fans of slightly sweeter whites. I will say that it’s got some interesting characteristics, especially
on the finish. I thought it started much like a typical demi-sweet Riesling, with flavors like honeycrisp apples and some solid weight on the palate. However, rather than simply having a smooth, sweet finish, this one finishes with a little bit of a lemony zing as well, which was an improvement. The usual Riesling pairings go here – fruit, cheeses, and spicy Asian dishes. We had this alongside a spicy beef and rice noodle salad and it worked just fine. I think it’s a decent value at $12.

Tin Roof Cellars 2010 Merlot
Tin Roof Cellars 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

I sampled Tin Roof’s previous vintage last December. Their sauvignon blanc appears to be a model of consistency. I wrote this review for the 2011: “At first sample, some slightly herbal overtones led to a green apple scented nose. This wine’s mouthfeel has pretty reasonable weight with tart apple and lime as the major flavors. The finish has a bit of an acidic bite, but that’s what you’d expect in a sauvignon blanc. I found it flavorful and drinkable…” My notes (and no, I didn’t cheat) were almost word for word for this year’s entry. Sauvignon blancs run the gamut – so if you really like an acidic style, this might work fine for you. For $10, you’re getting a pretty good deal on a straightforward, food-friendly sauvignon blanc.

The 2009 Merlot wasn’t one of my favorites. I thought it was a pretty good food wine, but it left me cold on its own. Whether my review had anything to do with it or not, I tip my hat to the Tin Roof winemakers. The 2010 is a clear upgrade. They’ve added a little bit of cabernet sauvignon and syrah to the petit sirah already in the blend. The result was a merlot with considerable structure and a much better fruit/tannin balance than last year’s. You get some coffee and cocoa flavors to take the edge off what had been a fairly “fruit-bomby” offering. From a value perspective, it’s drinking well beyond its $10 price point. With food, it’s flexible enough to serve as a worthy table red for almost any occasion. We had it with a beer-braised chicken with lime beans and peas in a creamy sauce. Reds are good chicken accompaniments in certain circumstances, and this turned out to be a very nice pairing.

No comments: