In one wine region of California, Onx Winery began with a family’s passion for wine while paying tribute to the unique terroir of Paso Robles.
It all started when Steve and Brenda Olson decided on a second career in wine. Steve owned a Seal Beach-based real estate firm specializing in affordable housing. They purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to Santa Rita Creek. Located in the Templeton Gap AVA, it was known for its extreme temperature variations and gusty winds. From that point, Steve was an active participant in making the best possible wines that represent the diversity of Paso Robles.
I’ve been to Paso Robles twice and have experienced the diversity of soils, varieties of grapes, pioneering people, and history that make it special.
The vineyard was planted in 2005, focusing on the most common Rhône varietals like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. Throughout the years, they looked to innovate and planted an assortment of different varietals from France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Currently, they are focusing on trying Portuguese varieties and Grenache Gris.
Sustainability and Innovation: Exploring Onx Wine’s Remarkable Journey
Onx Wine released its first experimental vintage in 2008 and has expanded its vineyard holdings, planted additional grape varieties, and continued to hone winemaking techniques with a focus on becoming a sustainable winery. They are a certified California Sustainable Vineyard with a commitment to leaving things better than they were before.
The tasting room opened in Tin City, which is a location of modern tin industrial buildings, housing wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries. Onx makes wine for about a dozen other smaller wineries and sells about half the grapes it grows.
Part of that commitment to sustainability is reflected in how tasting kits are packaged. Onx uses the Coravin Vinitas® retail tasting kits, which they helped Beta test, to provide four different Onx wine samples. I had the chance to sit down with Sarah Farley, director of “Onx at Home “and a certified Sommelier, to talk about the story of Onx and sample from the new tasting kit. The kits included one rosé and three red blends.
When the pandemic occurred, 40,000 wine industry jobs were lost, but Onx was well prepared with virtual tastings with the Coravin packaging. Steve told the staff, “I’m investing in you, we will have no layoffs, and we are going to concentrate on our customers.”
Sarah and I tried four of the wines together:
- 2023 Onx Indie Rosé – I don’t think I’ve had a Tempranillo Rosé, but it was delicious. I learned that less than one percent of US wineries make Tempranillo Rosé. This one was blended with Mourvèdre. Sarah talked about the name being like an independent artist that focuses on doing things their way and then becomes popular. That appears to be true as the wine is sold out. I tasted stone fruit, citrus, rose petals, orange blossom, tropical fruit, and melon. The aromas and taste just continued to linger.
- 2019 Onx Mad Crush – this is a blend of 64 percent Grenache, 26 percent Mourvèdre, 7 percent Tempranillo and 3 percent Malbec. Grenache is the star. I tasted cranberry, blackberry, fig, cherry cola, and vanilla. It’s an elegant and great representation of what Paso can produce. The name reflects a late decision to pick and the bad rush to get the harvest to completion.
- 2019 Onx Reckoning – a blend of 64 percent, Syrah, 20 percent Petite Sirah, 8 percent Malbec, and 8 percent Grenache. I tasted lots of red fruit, Asian spice, flowers, brown sugar, spice, and dark chocolate. A rich, big wine, but with balance. The name refers to “Dead Reckoning,” the path you take during a journey vs a straight line.
- 2019 Onx Caliber – a blend of 76 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 17 percent of Malbec, and 7 percent Petit Verdot. I tasted notes of blackberry, allspice, pepper, potpourri, hazelnut, and fig. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon with power.
Onx views using grape varieties as a palate, showing personality through abstract art on each label that tells the unique story of every wine. It’s a combination of old World and new World ways.