The Grand Cru of California

By Carol & Joe Davis
Dining Detectives

click on image to enlarge & get caption

We are always asked by friends and associates who come to San Francisco, where they should go on their day trip to the Wine Country? We always say drive north on Highway 29 and go to Opus One Winery because Opus One produces great wine, is architecturally stunning and when you go home, people will know where you went and will be impressed. We could hardly believe our first visits to Opus One were almost twenty years ago, when they opened the new facility, and we thought it was time to return. We contacted the winery in advance to schedule a tour which is a great way to learn about winemaking, the Napa Valley and of course taste some of the best wine California has to offer.

We were led on the very enjoyable and informative ninety minute tour by their Guest Relations Coordinator Mark Chon. We learned that Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi founded Opus One and that Michael Silacci is the Wine Maker. The Estate has 169 Acres with 139 acres in wine production creating only 25,000 cases per year. Opus One was first vinified in 1979 with the first release was in 1984. It is a blend of the grapes grown on the estate which consists of five varieties. We learned that more than 80% of the wine grown is Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot comprising around 20%.

While touring the facility we were told that wine making is foremost about farming. Soil preparation, planting schedules, watering and knowing when to pick each grape is an art. They also have a new computerized machine which sorts out individual grapes that are not perfect. The quality control that this provides is quite amazing! Next, there is the blending and then 18 months of aging in new French Oak Barrels before bottling takes place. Our tour made us think about all the goes into creating wine and we felt we had learned quite a bit.

Near the conclusion of the tour we had the opportunity to taste their fabulous 2006 Opus One, which is 77% Cabernet Sauvignon while we sat in a private tasting room overlooking the barrels. Next, we went into the Tasting Room where we also sampled the 2005 Opus One which is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and we felt that it was actually even smoother! Naturally, the older the better is generally the rule as the wine is made to be at its best if you lay it down for 7-12 years to maximize the enjoyment. As with many wineries there is a second label. Overture is the second label at Opus One and is only sold at the winery. They do not offer tastes but it is an excellent blend and definitely worth buying! Funny story, a few years ago friends from Miami visited San Francisco and we recommended Opus One for their day trip. When they returned last year, they completely forgot where the recommendation came from and they asked us if we had ever been to Opus One and did we know about Overture!!.

Opus One Winery
7900 St. Helena Highway
Oakville, CA. 94562


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