Baronne Philippe de Rothschild, S.A. and Constellation Brands
Annual Production (Grand Vin)
The name ‘Opus One’ – derived from Latin – was chosen because it’s easy to pronounce in all languages.
Like so many Napa wineries, the history of Opus One is short, but it packs a punch, born of two legendary winemaking families: Mondavi and Mouton Rothschild.
Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe Rothschild became friends in 1970, and combined their winemaking nous in 1979 to create a vintage that was an instant hit with wine lovers on both sides of the Atlantic. Released in 1984, it was the most expensive Californian wine of the time, costing a then-unprecedented $50 per bottle.
Its immediate success showed the founders their partnership had legs, and in the same year more acres were added to the Opus One venture, and design began on their architecturally-progressive winery. The brand quickly established itself as a leading Californian label, both at home and abroad.
After a long career at the helm of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Philippe de Rothschild died in 1988 at the age of 86, succeeded by his daughter Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. Four years before Robert Mondavi’s death in 2008, he relinquished his share in Opus One and sold it to wine conglomerate Constellation Brands. Nowadays the estate it is owned jointly by Constellation Brands and Baronne Philippe de Rothschild S.A., and continues to enjoy worldwide acclaim.
Opus One enjoys global appreciation, with a keen following in particular in Japan and France. Interestingly, it wasn’t until relatively recently, in 2012, that Opus One opened a sales and distribution office in Bordeaux – a surprisingly late development considering joint owner Mouton Rothschild operates a major Bordeaux negociant company. Still, it’s a good thing, then, that unlike many other Napa wineries, the estate has ample production (25,000 cases/year) to keep its fans satisfied.
Not that this detracts from its value, of course. Prices have risen steadily higher: the average bottle price in 2007 was £100, in mid-2018 it was almost three times that at £284. There’s an appetite among collectors, too. In November 2013 a buyer from mainland China spent $165,000 on a 100-case ‘instant collection’ of vintages ranging from 1997 to 2005.
The label has, at times, divided critics. The 2002 vintage in particular caused consternation when Stephen Tanzer awarded it a meagre 86 points compared to Antonio Galloni’s 95. However, the 2010 vintage – a 96-point scorer by Parker’s reckoning – has impressed critics across the board and remains notably cheaper than its older counterparts, so looks to offer value to buyers.
A predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend, the always popular Opus One is a fine expression of the estate’s sunny Californian terroir, offering fresh red fruit aromas alongside subtler notes of black tea and white pepper, a creamy texture and satin finish.
Composed of the same five varietals that define Opus One – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec – second wine Overture has been produced since 1993 as part of the estate’s relentless pursuit of quality for Opus One, resulting in a non vintage of remarkable elegance and complexity, capturing the essence of the vineyard over time.