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Inside Opus One, Napa Valley's Fanciest Schmanciest Winery

December 12, 2012 at 10:02 AM | by | ()

Napa Valley is a weird place. It's kind of demure, with rolling hills blanketed in low rows of lush vineyards, but also kind of action central, as the chances are high that the person cooking your food or pouring your wine is at the top of the industry. Recently we ventured into kitchens, cellars and wineries (all accessible to you, too) in search of the extraordinarly yummy, which really is the norm in Napa. Here, we share some of our winery picks.

A visit to: Opus One WInery in Oakville, California

Oh, Opus One. Where to start? As we've already mentioned, Robert Mondavi is the OG winemaker here in Napa Valley, but it wasn't until he partnered up with big-deal French winemaker Baron Philippe de Rothschild to form Opus One that Napa Valley wines started to gain traction on the international scene. The friendship began in 1970, but it wasn't until 1979 that Opus One produced a first vintage and still later yet, in 1991, that the winery got the iconic architecture it calls home.

The vision of both Mondavi and de Rothschild was "spare no expense," and be totally "dedicated to the art form of making wine" to produce a Bordeaux-style red from the famous Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, using centuries of French know-how (and the clout helped too).

It was named "Opus One" to underscore the fact that this winery would produce only one type of wine, and it would be their greatest work—their magnum opus. If one year's harvest isn't great enough, it isn't made. There's only 169 acres, so care is needed at all times of the year.

The building itself is something of a landmark, being designed by Scott Johnson and representing the merge of American and French viticulture. The predominant material is white limestone after the chateaus of France, with white oak to represent the American end of things. View the structure from above and the negative space takes the shape of a wine glass.

Fun fact: Opus One was so exclusive that guests needed to be invited in during the first five years; eventually Mondavi argued enough to open it to the public, for which we are very thankful.

Tasting details: Because the winery is so popular yet so small, reservations for even a simple tasting are required. During your reservation, you may buy individual glasses or bottles in the tasting room and either enjoy them there or head up to the rooftop terrace to enjoy with a view over the vineyards. If you opt for a tour, two tastings are included.

Pricing: Call 1-800-292-6787 to make a reservation for a tasting or to join in the $60 tour and tasting, which includes glasses of Opus One Overture and, currently, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our wine pick: Well, there's really only one to say: the 2009 Cab Sauv. It's what's focused on and included in the tour and, by the time we'd finished the tour and the drinking, we weren't in the mood to continue sampling (or paying individually on top of the $60 for them).

Tucking into the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

We attended Flavor! Napa Valley as a guest of Napa Valley Tourism, but headed to the wineries ourselves, so rest assured all photos, opinions, and inebriation is completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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