Many of us are applauding the continued option of wine tastings at home. Especially as we plan entertainment for the upcoming, colder months of the year.
My preference is for winery visits, but I have to be realistic. Especially when average tastings in Napa range from $80-$130 per person. Of course it’s somewhat lower in other California wine regions, but I’d still have to travel to the West Coast. So when ONX (pronounced “onyx”) winery from Paso Robles told me about their At Home program, they caught my attention.
I have to admit that was partly because they use the Coravin process to ensure the integrity of their samples. And I’m all about Coravin, a system that injects inert gas into the top of a wine bottle – or wine sample, in this case – to preserve the wine for weeks, months, even years. Coravin makes the devices for home use, too. In fact, last week I opened a bottle of 2016 Tedeschi Amarone which I had tasted, then coravinned two years ago, and the wine was perfect. (Yes, “coravinned” is a verb now.)
Back to ONX, a small winery named for the onyx calcite soil in their vineyards. The wines they sent me from their new Coravin partnership were also perfectly preserved. I zoom-tasted with Sarah Farley, director of ONX At Home, which the winery pivoted to put in place only weeks after the pandemic began. It’s still going strong, with over 12,000 kits sold.
One reason is the quality and accessibility of the wines (see tasting notes below). Another is the fact that, for no extra charge, Sarah conducts private tasting zooms for an individual, couple, corporate group, or for friends anywhere who order the kits. There’s also an option for a self-guided tasting (videos available online). Both guided and self-guided options are the same price, $65 per kit of four wine samples. The winery also provides food-pairing advice for each wine. If you feel like cooking, some of their recipes are online. If you don’t, no worries; their suggestions are purchasable at a supermarket.
Also, Sarah explained that ONX has California sustainability certification, and their dream is to be fully organic. They’ve already started dressing the vineyards with a compost tea to improve the biome. They do have goats and sheep on the property, so I imagine it’s not hard to obtain the necessary compost.
The winery is located inland from the Pacific Ocean, but in this region the cool ocean air filters in each afternoon through the Templeton Gap in the coastal range. This cools the grapes during what would be the hottest part of the day, and allows for longer grape hangtime before full ripeness, which contributes more complex flavors and aromas to the wines.
If you’re looking ahead for gifting, the ONX tasting kits will hold well for months, they tell me. And they do change the sample collection quarterly.
2022 ONX Indie Rosé is a casual wine, served chilled of course. The aroma and flavor have ripe tropical-style fruit, with minerality around the edges. Overall, the wine has a nice, rounded mouthfeel, attributed to a long, gentle pressing of the grapes. In this blend, some mourvèdre was added to the tempranillo. The winery’s food pairings include watermelon and feta or goat cheese, or pesto and veggie pizza.
WHO: ONX Wines & Vineyards
WHAT: 53% temperanillo, 43% mourvèdre
WHERE: Templeton Gap, Paso Robles, California
HOW MUCH: around $22 (media sample)
2019 Mad Crush is ONX winery’s flagship wine, the first wine they made when they started bottling, in 2008. This red blend has full blackberry aromas, earthy, spicy, with hints of white pepper. A reasonably complex wine. Pair it with aged cheese, mushrooms, even barbequed chicken.
2019 ONX Caliber. Named because it has “high caliber fruit”, this Bordeaux blend wine is definitely fruit-forward, in a New World style. The red and dark red fruit flavors balance the considerable acidity well, and the tannins are lovely and fine, well integrated. Though the wine is aged mainly in neutral oak, there is a whisp of vanilla going on, too. Pair with roasted autumn vegetables or beef.
WHO: ONX Wines & Vineyards
WHAT: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot