Opus One Winery
A little history
Naming a winery Opus One sets some seriously high expectations. A musical term that comes from the Latin oper, Opus One is attributed to a composition generally considered to be a composer’s first masterpiece.
Launched in 1979, when interest in Napa winemaking was still nascent, Opus One was an ambitious joint venture between two of the world’s most esteemed winemaking figures. The venture was first suggested by the Baron during a 1970 meeting between the pair in Hawaii, and its fate was sealed when Mondavi visited Rothschild in Bordeaux in 1978. Château Mouton Rothschild’s winemaker, Lucien Sionneau, and Robert Mondavi’s son Timothy made the first joint vintage at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1979. The Opus One project then officially debuted in 1980. It achieved near-overnight critical acclaim, matching the lofty aspirations of its name.
The very first vintages of Opus One were labeled Napamédoc, a nod to the wines’ Franco-American heritage. It wasn’t until the 1982 vintage that the brand adopted the name Opus One.
Opus One produces just two wines: Opus One and Overture. The flagship Opus One is a Cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend, which also contains smaller quantities of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot. Overture is made with the fruit that doesn’t quite make the Opus One grade. Its name is another musical reference, meaning an orchestral piece at the beginning of a composition.
The estate vineyards of Opus One, comprised of 4 parcels, sit in the western portion of the famed Oakville AVA. Two parcels, totaling 100 acres, are within Napa’s legendary To Kalon Vineyard. The To Kalon vineyard is jointly owned by a number of famed Napa producers and is generally considered the best winemaking land Napa has to offer. In 1981, Mondavi sold part of his share of the vineyard to the newly launched Opus One venture, providing high-quality grapes that serve as the backbone of the blend. These are complemented by the combined 70 acres of the Ballestra and River parcels, which envelope the winery.
In the vineyards, hand-harvesting and other traditional approaches are taken wherever they work best. When modern techniques benefit the winegrowing process, they are researched, evaluated and integrated into practice.
Guided by the vision of its founders, Opes One’s current winemaker, Michael Silacci, combines intuition and technical acumen with the dual perspective of viticulturist and winemaker. From tasting berries to careful sorting and extended aging in new French oak barrels, each stage of the winemaking process is afforded the same meticulous consideration and attention.
At Opus One’s state-of-the-art facility, the winemaking team goes to painstaking lengths to maintain quality. The grapes are hand-harvested in individual lots, and then each lot is sorted and fermented separately, requiring over three dozen giant steel fermentation tanks. Rather than being sorted by hand, harvested grapes are processed by a custom-made optical sorter, which uses cameras to analyse the size, shape, and colour of every grape.
Opus One also uses 14 different cooperages to provide over 1,000 new oak barrels annually. Tastings take place in a high-tech lab by chief winemaker Michael Silacci before the final blend is decided upon. After 18 months of ageing, the wine is bottled and held an additional 15 months until its release on October 1st each year.
As farmers and artisans deeply concerned with our collective future, Opus One recognises that sustainability practices benefit the winery, their neighbors and their customers. The culture and internal practices at Opus One reflect their commitment to conservation and responsible consumption in the areas of energy, water, waste management, transportation, purchasing, and food. Opus One has been certified as a green winery as part of the Napa Valley Vintners-Napa Green Initiative, and is implementing more than 100 favourable and environmentally friendly procedures.
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