Opus One 2001-2019

USA, California, Napa Valley

Opus One 2001-2019

It’s hard to believe that the wine world’s most famous joint venture—Bordeaux’s Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Napa’s Robert Mondavi—has been producing its iconic label for more than four decades. Opus One remains one of Napa’s largest production, high-quality brands (around 25,000 cases per annum) and must be the region’s most globally recognized and distributed fine wine.

In With The New

This tasting is the first in a series of Opus One verticals winemaker Michael Silacci and I plan to do together one decade at a time. I asked Michael to choose the first Opus One decade for us to taste. He opted for his first decade at the winery: 2001-2010. 

Silacci started at the winery in 2001, fresh from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

“I had been at Stag’s Leap Cellars for six years to the day,” Silacci reminisces. “I gave Warren (Winiarski) six weeks’ notice.”

Opus One emerged from the pioneering spirits of two of the greatest wine entrepreneurs to have lived. From day one, Silacci continued to work in that pioneering vein, constantly questioning the status quo.

"We like to pick when the skins are either melting or shredding in the mouth."

“I got here in March of 2001, having asked the team at Opus One to wait to do the pruning. I wanted to be there. I felt the vines were looking too much like bushes, and so I started trimming right back. We were picking from the beginning based on tannins, color, and looking at the texture of the skins. We like to pick when the skins are either melting or shredding in the mouth, which give you very different characters

Tasting the 2003, Silacci mentioned, “In 2003, we were concerned we left too much fruit on the vine. But I like the way this has developed.” Indeed, it is a wine that has aged gracefully, once again dispelling the myth that small yields necessarily produce better wines. Instead, the key is a balanced vine, considering factors such as the vintage, vine age, and the terroir.

Although predominately Cabernet Sauvignon (at least 75%), in the Bordeaux way, Opus One is always a blend, which varies from year to year. It usually includes smaller percentages of Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.

2007 was the first year Michael Silacci co-fermented all the Petit Verdot with the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the results are jaw-dropping.

We capped off the tasting of bottled wines by looking at the current Opus One release: 2019. This is undoubtedly one of Silacci and his teams’ most extraordinary achievements thus far, delivering an intense, multi-layered expression of the vintage in a fantastically elegant, medium-bodied package. Stunning!

Before making the final blend each year, Michael Silacci produces a “Kitchen Sink” blend, which is a proportionally correct blend of all the components harvested that vintage. Tasting with Silacci in November 2022, I got to take a sneak peek at the newest baby—the 2022 Sink Blend. The wine opened with remarkably vibrant red and blue fruit notions, leading to a perfumey rose oil, lavender, and baking spices laced undercurrent. The palate is full-bodied, rich, concentrated, and oh-so-seductive, featuring beautifully ripe, grainy tannins and a provocative lift of freshness on the finish. It is a very different style from the graceful 2019 expression—2019 possessing more energy, 2022 delivering more power—yet all signs point to another incredibly successful vintage.

All signs point to another incredibly successful vintage.

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photos by Johan Berglund



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