Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Opus One

Opus One

When you say Opus One to anyone, whether they are Vinophiles or not, they get an idea of an expensive California Napa Valley Wine. And they are right, at $200 a bottle for the current release, it is one of the most expensive bottles of wine in the Napa Valley.

Opus One Facts.
  • This was the brain child of Baron Rothschild and Robert Mondavi
  • The first vintage was in 1979
  • They make only wine per year.
  • It takes 3 years from harvest to bottle release.
  • The wine will be kept in New French barrels for 17 to 20 months.
  • The French oak barrels are only used once.
  • The grapes are all hand sorted
  • The fermentation tanks only hold a single varietal lot each season.
  • During aging each barrel is tested by the winemaker on a regular basis.
  • The winery design is a combination of old and new world design
  • Opus One produces about 25,000 cases of wine per year.
  • In 2004 Constellation Brands purchased Robert Mondavi Corporation and took 50% ownership of Opus One.

This past month, I was given the opportunity to take a tour of the Opus One winery.  This was my first visit to Opus One. What took me so long? I think the price, the attitude and the price…. Did I say price? The cost of the tour and tasting of one wine is $40 per person. Was it worth it? Will I do it again, absolutely.

Hand Sorting 20 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon
The tour was amazing, in my day job I work on satellites that go into space and I am always seeing the latest technology in my work place, at Opus One I felt at home. This season they began using an optical sorter to quickly sort out grapes, the good and the bad. This has allowed them to cut back on manpower in the hand sorting process. They still do an initial sorting, but they now use 12 employees to do this task when in the past it was done by 20 or more. 

Now if you balk at paying $200 for a bottle of Opus One wine, think about this, a 2005 Chateau Lefleur Pomerol is currently going for $2000 a bottle.

I have been focusing on small family run wineries most of my wine career, looking for those diamonds in the rough- this tour has reminded me however, not to ignore the big guys- there is a good reason they are the landmarks of the California wine industry.