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. Mondavi and Rothschild made the decision to hold back their first two vintages from the market.
See all of Decanter’s Opus One tasting notes & scores
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.
Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦
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