The Opulent Opus One

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This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles.

The last time, I enjoyed an Opus One tasting was in 1999, when the Napa Valley Winery celebrated its 20th anniversary. We experienced all twenty vintages!

So I was delighted when Roger Asleson, Opus One’s Director of P.R. emailed about his visit to Los Angeles. We met up at Hotel Montage in Beverly Hills. Roger was armed with two bottles of Opus One and accompanied by winemaker Michael Silacci.

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A Franco-California collaboration that was established between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Opus One makes only one wine: the proprietary Bordeaux blend.  This is a wine that you can cellar for 10-20 years or more. Roger and Michael were in town to introduce the 2007 vintage that will be available to the trade in October.

We tasted the 2006 that opens up with an earthy aroma.  The 2007 exudes floral notes, and both express lush fruit, evolving into a perfectly balanced wine.

Eighty percent of the wine’s quality comes from the vineyard.  “The focus is the vineyard,” said Michael. “We pick grapes, so it’s about mouthfeel, we’re looking for balance, not the big jammy taste.”

The wine goes through three sample blends before its final blend in the new French oak barrels where it rests from seventeen to twenty four months before it is bottled. The barrels are sourced from 14 different coopers in France.

The dramatic limestone winery sits on Napa Valley’s Highway 29 surrounded by 169 acres, 139 of which are planted to the five Bordeaux varietals. The annual production ranges between 20,000-25,000. Roger tells me that 40% of the sales are exports to China, Japan and UK and are handled through negociants in Bordeaux.

So is Opus One a California wine or French?  The first decade it had a Bordelais flavor and the second was a balance between Napa and Bordeaux, explains Roger.  What about the third decade?   “We are expressing the site of California with French ideas,” confirms Michael.