Is It Worth $75 a Bottle?


Opus One is an oddity in the world of table wine: It is very expensive, yet not from a single vineyard.

Other than premium Champagnes, such as Dom Perignon, virtually every other great, noble and expensive wine is based around a specific plot of soil. Someday, when the Opus One vineyard is in full production, Opus One will be too.

But until then, from the first vintage in 1979 and through the current release of 1991, the fruit for this wine has come and will come not from one vineyard, but from many scattered around the Napa Valley.


Through the 1990 vintage of Opus One, Mondavi winemaker Tim Mondavi and his compadre from Mouton, Patrick Leon, could choose any barrels they wanted from the vast Robert Mondavi Winery cellar across the road to make a wine that suited them. Few winemakers in history had such a sweetheart deal. There would never be a mediocre Opus One.

The current Opus One, from the 1991 harvest, is the first to be made entirely at the new winery; the wine is monumental. I have tasted 1991 Opus One three times. It shows components of roasted vanilla and chocolate, cherry/cassis with a distinct earthy/gamey quality, kind of like Chateau Haut-Brion. The wine is big and rich, more tannic than many Opus Ones of the past, and in a way a lot like 1989 Mouton.

The oak in this wine stands out more than any previous Opus One, and to that end it gives those consumers who like this “international-style” red wine a lot for their money.

Is it worth it? Some Opus Ones of the past have been more elegant and graceful. The ’91 is a bigger, richer wine that should justify the outlay.