Xmas and Opus One

For Christmas this year, my family and I were treated to a couple of very special wines brought by a couple of very special family friends.  The first was a 1994 Opus One. Opus One is the joint venture begun by the late, great Robert Mondavi, and the also now deceased Baron Philippe de Rothschild.  The first vintages released were the 1979 and 1980, both released in 1984, making Opus One California’s first ultra premium wine.  Now, I’ve heard a lot of people say that Opus One is over-rated and too expensive for what it is.  Yes, it is very expensive and not a wine that I will likely drink on a regular basis, but I will say that I really liked it!  The 1994 is drinking really well right now and still has enough stuff in it to last a few more years.

The 1994 vintage was a long and cool one.  The spring was warm and sunny and budburst was early.  The summer was cooler than normal allowing for an extended growing season.  The blend for this vintage is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, and 1% Malbec and it was aged for 18 months in new French oak.  The wine is an opaque ruby colour with a slight garnet rim and some sediment.  There are intense aromas of leather, earth, cassis, dark fruit and black olives.  It has an incredibly silky texture with soft and well-integrated tannins.  Dark fruit, leather and earth flavours dominate and it has a long lingering finish.

The other wine brought was also a 1994, but this time from the huge Gallo wine company, also from California.  This wine was a Gallo Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma.  I wasn’t sure if this wine would have much life left but it was surprisingly good and I really liked it.  It’s drinking really well right now, but probably won’t last much longer.

After a search of the internet I couldn’t find anything about this wine so I have no background to give.  I do know that it was purchased by our friends in the late 1990s at the winery.  It has an opaque garnet colour with lots of sediment.  Aromas of leather and chocolate dominate with dried fig and earth in a supporting role.  It’s a very full-bodied and dark wine.  There are mature tannins and a good length with a pleasing finish.  Consensus was that this was the favourite of the evening, with Opus One as a close second.

My contribution to the lot was a 1995 Chateau Camensac, a 5th growth Bordeaux from the Haut-Medoc.  Wine writer, Stephen Brook, who wrote the encyclopedic “The Complete Bordeaux”, claims that “almost without exception they are disappointing on numerous accounts, being either green or dilute or short”  (I wish I’d read that before I bought the bottle!)  It is drinkable but a bit disappointing with its very short length.  The finish disappeared almost immediately.

This wine was a lighter garnet colour than the two mentioned above and there was virtually no sediment.  The aromas were subtle with leather, herbs, and tobacco.  Not a lot of fruit was evident.  The texture was smooth and the tannins were mature but there was little concentration of flavour and the finish was almost non-exsistent.

Leave a comment on this wine blog and tell us about any good (or maybe not so good) wines you had over the holidays.

2 responses

  1. Hi Sarah,

    It was a Barrelli Creek, this is the closest I could find online for info. Actually purchase it in Sudbury for $90 around 2001. We did not visit Gallo but did get to the Opus One while in California, and I bought the 1994 in Canada, for I think $99, tasting at the winery was $25/glass US!

    91/100 Gallo Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon Barrelli Creek Vineyard 1995
    Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, United States
    Produced By: Gallo Family Vineyards
    Distributed By: E. & J. Gallo Winery Canada, Ltd.
    Ripe, berry mocha peppery fruit character with some volatile notes, cedar and spice. Ripe blackberry cedar fruit penetrates the palate. Fine richness and fine flavour intensity with a hint of menthol in the finish. Starting to come around in the bottle.

    Last Tasted: 1998-03-01 AG-ST
    Prices: BC $39.95 Specialty


    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the info and thanks again for bringing us those fabulous wines! I thoroughly enjoyed them.
      Have a great New Year!

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