Top Opus One wines and producer profile

Created by Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Opus One wines are some of the world's most coveted. Here are our latest expert tasting notes on this Napa Valley powerhouse, including Steven Spurrier's reviews from Decanter magazine's October 2018 issue.

Opus One was conceived as the joint brainchild of Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, after they first met in Hawaii back in 1970.

Their vision was to combine their expertise in Old World and New World winemaking, to pioneer a blend that was greater than the sum of its parts.

Later in the same decade, Robert Mondavi gave 14 hectares of his famous To Kalon vineyard, in the Oakville AVA, over to the new venture.

For the inaugural vintage in 1979, Château Mouton Rothschild winemaker Lucien Sionneau joined forces with Robert Mondavi’s son, Timothy.

Grapes for Opus One wines are hand-harvested and sorted, followed by long maceration periods in stainless steel tanks.

The blend is generally created using 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot, which is barrel-aged in new French oak for 18 months, then bottle-aged for the same period of time before its release.

Mondavi and Rothschild made the decision to hold back their first two vintages from the market.

According to Beverley Blanning MW, writing for Decanter in 2010, ‘In 1981 a case of the first vintage of Opus One became the most expensive California wine sold to date, at $24,000.’

The sale took place at the Napa Valley Wine Auction, although the 1979 and 1980 vintages were not officially released to the market until 1984.

Opus One is generally recognised to have been the first California wine consistently sold at $50-a-bottle. In this way, it was one of the pioneers of today’s ‘cult wine’ movement in Napa Valley.

The Robert Mondavi Winery’s 50% share in the company passed to Constellation Brands following a takeover deal in 2004. Today, Opus One remains jointly owned by Constellation and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, despite initial speculation that one party might take full control.

Since then, Opus One has become a mainstay of collectors. The estate produces around 25,000 12-bottle cases of wine per year, although production can vary according to the vintage, of course.

Opus One wines reviewed by Decanter experts

Steven Spurrier and William Kelley are among the experts who have tasted Opus One recently. 



See all Opus One wine reviews

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