Wednesday Wine

I’m sure most of you have heard of the legendary Opus One. As you may know, it is a partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe De Rothschild.

The venture started with a vintage in 1979 made jointly with Mouton Rothschild’s wine maker Lucienne Sionneau and Timothy Mondavi at the Mondavi winery. In 1981, a single case sold for $24,000 at the first Napa Valley wine auction, the highest price ever paid for California wine. Then in 1983, 50 acres were purchased for a joint venture winery in Oakville. It was decided the name should be Latin so it could be recognizable in both French and English and Opus, a musical term indicating the first masterwork of the composer, was chosen. The distinctive logo represents a likeness of the two men.

It took years before the splendid Opus One winery was built and opened which Baron Philippe did not live long enough to see.

It was the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild who took over for her father in the family wine business. Since then, Mr. Mondavi has also passed on but both families have continued the venture. Terry has naturally been to the vineyard and attended a special dinner last week. I will let her fill you in on both events.

Have you ever driven in the main road between Yountville and St. Helena in Napa and glanced over to see a beautiful building in the distance sitting alone and looking very regal? Well, that is Opus One. The World of the Wine industry basically only sees One Wine – Called Opus One even though there is another wine that is produced just to be consumed in the tasting room at the winery.

Last fall we took a set of customers out to see Opus One along with other special wineries.  You walk into the main building and since we were VIP’s we had the opportunity to be escorted into the room that is all designed with French period furniture as the Ch. Mouton Rothschild home would be.  All of the furniture, mirrors, etc have all been brought over from France and chosen by Madame Rothschild.

After starting with a delicious glass of 2006 Opus One we were escorted outside to see the vineyards and since it was close to harvest time and grapes were ripe, and looked perfectly ready to be picked.  The gentleman that gave us the tour explained that they give each employee that works in the vineyard a number of rows that they are responsible for and their bonus is based on how well they take care of the vines, which makes the employees feel a part of the whole winemaking process.

We were escorted back inside to the wine facility that was spotless.  It is just amazing that all of this fuss is for just one wine!!  It makes you understand how special Opus One is and why the cost is what it is.  They even have a computerized machine to check corks to make sure that there will be no bad ones going into a bottle of Opus One.  They test one or two corks from each bag they receive.  If one cork is bad they send the whole bag back to the cork producer.

We then saw their new computerized machine to sort grapes.  After the hand sorting is done with all the employees when the grapes come in from the vineyards,

there is a new machine that is cutting edge and the grapes go through this machine that does another sorting and shows each grape that doesn’t make the cut and throws it aside.  It collects the data and also prints out which grapes from which vineyard areas had the problems.

After seeing the winery we were taken to a room that over saw all the barrels that are single row storage on one level – not stacked.  This is important and this is the way the French Rothschild do their cellaring.  If you have barrels that are stacked you have a variance to a degree with temperature.  This way all the barrels are at the same level and same termperature for aging.

Last Tuesday we had the opportunity to have dinner at The Lambs Club on West 44th Street next to the Chatwal Hotel with the winemaker of Opus One. The menu and the wines were fantastic.  The short ribs were sensational and the conversation was lively.

Thanks Terry. I think visiting Opus One would be a must on my list for when I finally make it to Napa. Winemaker Michael Silacci is known as a perfectionist and his wines reap the benefit.

16 thoughts on “Wednesday Wine

  1. I love knowing the “behind the scenes” info on this infamous wine, one of our personal favorites..everyone knows to get that for my hubby as thats his favorite. We were there last April…dying to go back. What a place..I could so go and never come back, am in love with all things Napa Valley!
    PS Still waiting for your address to ship you the Seda things!
    Pls email me

  2. That is such a great post and so interesting to see the behind the scenes stuff. It’s also fascinating to read about different vineyards. Have a great day.
    Ps: I’m hosting a super fun 3 winners GIVEAWAY later today! Hope you’ll join in :)

  3. I spent a little while marketing for one of our local vineyard/wineries here in our region of northern Michigan and had the pleasure of experiencing a lot of the behind the scenes activities of production…it is fun and exciting to see it all come together as a masterfully created bottle of wine….
    enjoyable post…brought back fond memories…

  4. Good morning, Q!

    I’d love to know this place and try its wine. But as you know, I’ll have to wait for about 8 months! LOL

    Love your posts about wine/wineries.

    Enjoy your day, sweetie!


    Luciane at

  5. Sounds great, q! The menu looks fabulous also!
    Amazing how fresh the grapes look there in comparison to what we get in the f=grocery stores.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was so happy to hear the story behind Opus One. I never new. Also, I understand the label more. The stories behind the wineries, wine makers and owners is what always makes visiting and drinking the wine more special. I will definetely add this to my list next time I’m up in Napa. I usually shy away from the major labels when I’m up there and tend to go to the more boutique wineries like Hourglass, Spottswoode, etc. However, this has been added to my list and cannot wait. Love the post.

  7. Great post! I will have to visit. That menu looks exquisite. Not to be too nerdy, but I’d love to know why the Opus 1 2007 and 2005 were paired in that particular order.

    Hope you are having a wonderful Wednesday Stacey!

  8. I’ve been to the Opus Winery in Napa… gorgeous. I remember having a glass outside on the top level… looking out over the vast vineyard, sun setting, slight breeze… I’m dying to go back.

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