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Time is expressed in Opus One by the character of the vintage: sometimes with a personality that is highly defined and sometimes with a shade of difference quite subtle from other vintages. Through the minds and hands of the vineyard workers we capture time and the essence of the season – coaxing concentration and tempering abundance.
Place is often defined as terroir and denotes the special characteristics that geography, geology and climate bestow upon a vineyard. Place is best expressed in the mouthfeel of Opus One; it is the balance of power and finesse, structure and texture.
Complementing both time and place is the essential human element: the attitude, will and soulful attention embodied in the team of individuals who prune, harvest, cellar and embrace the vision of our founding partners.
Opus One knocks it out of the park with three excellent, if very different, takes on the the last string of vintages: 2015, 2016 and 2017. Already previously reviewed as a barrel sample, the 2015 was a show-stopper from barrel and is equally impressive in bottle. The last of the "drought" years and a rather warm one at that, the resolute nature of these impeccably tended Oakville vines is apparent in the complex layers, beautiful freshness and rock-solid frame of this wine.
2016 is the vintage winemakers can't remember because it was so uneventful. "We had plenty of rain in the early part of the year," commented Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci, "followed by an early budbreak. We were able to pick fairly regularly with an even flow in the cellar." The more 2016s I taste, the harder it is to fault this decadent, rich, blue and black-fruited vintage.
2017 was, of course, another vintage story altogether and one that I will cover comprehensively in my full Napa report at the end of October. It was a year that started with a deluge, got blasted with heat during Labor Day weekend and then suffered the most devastating wildfires this area has seen just at the tail end of harvest. After all is said and done, I only judge what's in the glass, and what I've tasted so far (admittedly from some of the very best wineries in the Valley) is not too shabby at all. Readers can generally expect elegant, refreshing, medium-bodied wines—like this 2017 Opus One—with pretty perfumes, red fruit signatures and subtle dried herbs in the background. Tannins generally aren't as plush and ripe as in previous vintages, but it's nothing that judicious extractions can't manage. Smoke taint? I certainly didn't pick up any in this Opus One sample, although Opus One had nearly finished harvest (90%) by the first night of the fires.
The winter of 2017 ended a five-year drought with January recording the most rainfall in over 20 years. The abundant rainfall continued into March, causing a modest delay in budbreak, and pushing bloom back by two weeks. Increased soil moisture allowed for healthy vine growth and development. The summer, in turn, was warm and punctuated by occasional heat waves. Despite Mother Nature’s variability, favorable weather in August provided optimal conditions for fruit development and maturation. Superb flavors and excellent ripening led to an earlier than expected harvest, which commenced on the 5th of September.
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