The most elegant wine: Opus One

On my last trip to Napa, I made a point of scheduling a tasting at Opus One.

Opus, to me, is the Queen of Wine. Elegant, refined, full-bodied, and just a little unpredictable. I’ve loved her forever, and the tasting made my love grow even stronger.

Opus does a Cab. That’s it. No other varietals, no other labels. Just the Cab. So the Cab must be stupendous, and it is. Terroir, of course, is everything, so even though they only do one grape, that grape varies greatly from year to year, and that’s what makes Opus so interesting. Let’s say it’s 2010 and California is hit with a ton of rain. The soil stays consistently wet, and even the consistent sunshine never dries it. But in 2015, California experiences a drought. Grapes struggle to grow in the harsh climate, and then disaster strikes, and wildfires break out. Now smoke and soot fill the air.

Now, think about the grapes growing under each of those conditions. In one, picking happens earlier and grapes are round and robust, but must be off the vine in days or they will turn. In the other, the grapes are smaller, their skins are thicker, and they have taken in the smoke so prevalent in the air.

Now you know why the bottle from 2010 tastes entirely different from the one from 2015. Exact same grapes, but quite different conditions. Good winegrowers and vintners know how to adjust to changes in terroir, and how to get the most from their grapes. And Opus has very good winegrowers and vintners. They are artists and scientists, and they create a beautiful bottle of wine.

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