In 1984, Baron Philippe, his daughter Philippine and Robert Mondavi selected Scott Johnson of Johnson, Fain & Pereira as design architect for the Opus One winery. In July of 1989, groundbreaking for the new winery took place; and the construction of the facility was completed in 1991. That year Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and the Robert Mondavi family gathered to celebrate their first harvest at Opus One. A wine of subtlety and grace, Opus One doesn’t rush to reveal itself; and neither does the winery. The building literally rises out of the earth, and through a mix of classical European and contemporary Californian elements, gradually discloses its distinctive beauty.
Defined by colonnades on either side, a central courtyard introduces an architectural motif found throughout the building. The winery, like the wine, joins New World and Old World aesthetics. Modern materials – California redwood and stainless steel – are juxtaposed against cream-colored Texas limestone.
The quiet profile of Opus One blends with the natural surroundings – the vineyards and rolling hills of the Napa Valley. And just as it honors the land, it honors the light.
In the Salon, the winery’s most formal space, eighteenth-century Italian opera chairs face contemporary chenille sofas and suede seating. Brightly-glazed, modern ceramics line a fifteenth-century limestone mantel. A room furnished with seeming contradictions, the Salon is a deft merging of Old and New World sensibilities. As elsewhere in Opus One, hand-plastered walls and ceilings are finished with a gesso of pale yet luminous yellow.
The Eastern perspective that an object and the space around it are of equal importance is reflected in the balustrade of the spiral stairway. The balusters are “cast” in negative space. Similarly, the winery itself is integrated into the land around it. The building’s architect, Scott Johnson, refers to Opus One as being “introverted, like a jewel box.” Its hemispheric form nestles in the earth and is surrounded by a grassy berm.
The Rotunda, with its glazed yellow interior, has an inviting, comfortable ambiance. At its center, softly dappled light pours through a pyramidal skylight, illuminating the spiral stairway that leads down to the Gallery — the main entry to the cellar level of Opus One.
The stairwell, like the upper level of the winery, has a formal feeling, even though contemporary, light and understated. One element of style that helps create this elegant mood is the use of mirror images – a device consistently used in classical European architecture.
The descent from the naturally lit Rotunda to the dimly lit subterranean level is dramatic – and purposeful. The wine is aged on the lower level in the cool of the winery’s cellars. At the foot of the bright stairwell, a faint scent of oak greets the senses for the first time.
A lush orchid is in bloom on a round table at the center of the stairwell. Scentless orchids are placed throughout Opus One. These exquisite flowers complement the winery without interfering with the winemaking.
On the lower level of Opus One, classic metal sconces focus parabolas of light against the stark walls of the Gallery. Just on the other side of those walls, the wine begins its second year of barrel aging in ideal cellar conditions.
An allée leads out from the Gallery, and the architecture ushers guests toward the heart of the winery – the Opus One Tasting Room. Beyond its glass walls an entire vintage of Opus One rests in the Grand Chai, the cool, semi-circular cellar that lies directly under the sheltering earthen berm.
One thousand barrels are arranged side by side in the Grand Chai, where the wine is nurtured and aged in new French oak during the first year of its life. Seen from its center, the Grand Chai appears to curve into infinity. The room is actually a semicircle, like the courtyard above it.
Interested in a Tour?
Due to the personal nature of tours at our winery, we do not make tour appointments online. Please call us at 1-800-292-6787 and we will be glad to assist you.
Interested in Tasting Opus One?
To make a reservation to taste Opus One in the Partners' Room, please click here or call us at 1-800-292-6787.