When it comes to the image of “Opus One”, most people would associate it as a special occasion wine or an important item in a business scene. Priced at $210 US retail, the wine is, without doubt, one of the most well recognized luxury Californian wines among wine enthusiasts.
The history of Opus One begins with the establishment of a joint venture between France's great Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild and America’s winemaking pioneer, Robert Mondavi. In 1979, with the vision of developing a “Californian Grand Cru” from Napa Valley, they started producing the Cabernet Sauvignon based red wine, “Opus One”.
The name “Opus One” was taken from a musical term in Latin that means “the composer's first
published work”. Latin was intentionally chosen because both French and English share their roots in.
On the label, you will find a design of two gentlemen facing opposite directions and two signatures in the bottom. The one facing right is Philippe, and the other facing left is Robert. Since Philippe’s face is illustrated slightly higher than Robert’s, on the signature part they balance it out by placing Robert’s signature higher than Philippe’s. This was done to clearly express a sense of mutual respect and the philosophy that the wine was a true thoroughbred of two wine cultures.
Opus One is famed for its style in classic Bordeaux, with a layered aroma of red and black forest fruits aroma commingled with a hint of spices, a beautiful balance on the palate, and a long velvety finish. Current winemaker, Michael Silacci, is a graduate of UC Davis who studied viticulture in Bordeaux. The wines are a strict Bordeaux-blend with Cabernet Sauvignon being the main grape. In pursuit of producing the best wine out of the harvested grapes each year, the wine production team adjusts grape varieties and their percentages depending on the condition of the grapes. Therefore, each vintage is “unique and best," never just a replicate of a past vintage. The winery spares no effort in to make sure customers are provided with wines of the highest quality nobody else could offer. Even to choose a cork, every single cork is tested to confirm their quality and only those that qualify are sent to the bottling process.
In terms of distribution, all out-of-US distribution is centralized at specified Bordeaux négociants (wine merchants) to maintain control and transparency in the distribution roots. Also, in order to shut out counterfeits, which was becoming a big issue especially in Asian countries from a couple of years ago, in 2008, the winery started embedding a chip on the back label.
Not only the greatness of the wine itself, but also the efforts and the story behind are what make Opus One the most sought-after wine.
(Original Article in Japanese: Restaurant News Magazine 2012 July Issue)