The Iconic Opus One, a must-visit winery in the heart of Napa Valley
“Opus” is a Latin word meaning an artistic composition by a well-established artist. If the taste of a Napa Valley wine could be compared to the sound of a musical masterpiece, that wine would be Opus One. But it hasn’t always been called Opus One.
Not too long ago, California wines like the rest of the country were much lower in quality. Mostly made for large consumption, jug wines and cheap labels plagued the land. Along came Robert Mondavi, many thought he was out of his mind when he attempted to bring higher quality into California wines several decades ago. For lack of a better word, Mr. Mondavi successfully revolutionized the California wine landscape, elevating it to world-class status in just a few decades.
On the other side of the globe, requiring little introduction, major wine region of Bordeaux, France has always been known for its exquisite quality wine, claiming among the most expensive in the world. The district of Medoc is home to a powerhouse of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The person in charge of its operation started his wine career at the tender age of 20, Mr. Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
Opus one saw its first harvest in 1979, a collaboration of passion between Mr. Mondavi from Napa Valley and Mr. Baron Philippe from Medoc (Bordeaux France) that continues to thrive decades after. In the early years, it was called NapaMedoc -signifying the union of two renowned wine regions; the name was later changed to Opus One in 1982.
-view from the 2nd floor terrace, looking out to the entrance-
St. Helena Highway, also known as Highway 29, glides through this world famous wine region one district at a time. In Oakville, Opus One Winery lies in the heart of Napa Valley. It is just a stone-throw away from Robert Mondavi Winery; other than grape vines and olives branches on the estate, Opus One looks and feels much more like a Museum than a winery.
Perfectly groomed olive trees line both sides of the entrance driveway; behind them lie impeccable rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape that over the years has been synonymous with Napa Valley. Straight as an arrow, this entrance driveway spears directly into the Winery and its tasting room, which can be seen at the distance. Prestige, sophistication, or perhaps both, there’s something about it that gets your attention followed by a moment of silence which prolongs this antagonizing anticipation. There is something magical waiting in the glass right there at the end of this endless driveway.
(tasting of current 2010 vintage on 2nd floor terrace)
The winery’s courtyard offers plenty of space for tasting and wandering around, but the place to be is up on its 2nd floor terrace. Its location opens to a 360 degree view of Napa Valley right from the heart of it all -Yountville to the left, Rutherford to the right and staring up through the front entrance finds Mount Veeder. Nothing beats a nice summer breeze whispering a spell ever so gently in your ears, gradually you’ll find yourself questioning reality. Then a sip of Opus One seals the deal. This is day dreaming at its best.
Sparing no expenses, the two partners wanted to make the very best Bordeaux Blend that Napa Valley has to offer. Opus One is made following the old world tradition with modern technology. There are more than 400 wineries in Napa Valley, each offers an array of wines to choose from, many boast over a dozen different wines. This practice is unheard of in Bordeaux, France, where Mr. Baron Philippe had his winery. In Bordeaux, a small chateau usually produces two wines, one with the highest quality grapes and a second tier wine with less desirable crops; and that is exactly what you’ll get at Opus One.
The lesser known Opus One wine is Overture, it has the same Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdo, Cabernet France and Malbec. Overture in a non-vintage wine, or no-year, which means grapes used in the making of this wine could come from different years. Newly fermented wine may be blended with previous vintages for a more desirable outcome. Although harvested crops are good, they just didn’t meet the strict standard for Opus One, the winery save them to make Overture, which costs less than half the price of Opus One -although it is still very enjoyable.
Only the highest quality grapes make their way into the bottle of Opus One. A recent taste of the 2010 vintage was memorizing. It showcased vibrant aromas of intense ripe fruit, blackberry, cassis, toasted almond, laced with herbal notes of eucalyptus and a hint of dill. The nose on this wine promised a taste out of this world. On the palate, it never disappoints: silky tannins give way to this gracefully structured wine; luscious dark fruit in the mouth followed by intriguing bouquet of herbs, cedar and mocha. Each taste seems to get better and more complex, lingering finish of sweet oak and toffee reminisces the long endless entrance driveway. Coincidence? probably not! At $40 per taste, it isn’t cheap, but more than just a drink, Opus One is an experience, an escape, it is music in a glass as each note has you craving for more.
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-Certified Sommelier (CMS)
Napa Reserva -Falling for wine, one sip at a time. TM