Opus One Sucks the Big One

Posted by The Wine Whore |

I'm all for drinking GOOD wine... and I don't mind paying a small premium for the honor to taste such well crafted juice... but sometimes there are some affairs that just leave you disappointed. It's kinda like expecting to get in bed with Pam Anderson, but ending up with Rosie O'Donnell instead. The wine doesn't have to necessary be BAD to be a disappointment. It's just that the hype and pricetag doesn't live up to the experience.

Call it wine charity or whatever else you will, but I wouldn't be doing my part to help the wine community if I didn't share my experiences, both good and bad. There are a lot of bottles that I don't get for free, shell out a decent amount of hard earned cash, and then wish I had saved it for my retirement instead. Maybe if more people shared these types of experiences, the pricetags on these bottles would match the actual quality of the juice and not quantity of its hype.

There's one bottle in particular that gets a lot of action in the wine world. In fact, there are few wine connoisseurs out there who have not had an affair with the famous Bordeaux blend named Opus One. But here's the secret that they won't necessarily tell you:

There are a lot of BETTER bottles you can buy for the $200-$300 price Opus One normally fetches!

Buy it young and you may save a little, but chances are, you won't be patient enough to age it long enough for its beauty to mature. In any case, there are few people out there who would argue that there aren't a ton of other bottles out there that would totally kick Opus One's ass... for less than $100!

So why does Opus One sell for so much?

Easy, more hype equal more $$$. Remember those stupid looking Z. Cavaricci pants we all wore in the 80's. Didn't they look stupid? Yeah, well do you also remember how much people were willing to pay for 'em too? Enough said!

For the love of wine, please spread the word about bottles like Opus One... unless of course you're still wearing Cavaricci's... in that case, there's nothing I can do to help you!

What's your most unsatisfying, overrated wine experience?

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mayorkl said...


The Wine Whore said...

Thank you! :)

I bet that means you've had this one!

Veronique Deblois said...

Hey, don't bust Z. Cavaricci chops! Loved those in the 80s.

I've had Opus One and really enjoyed it. I do see your point about there being other wines out there that are equally as good for less of an investment (can you say Cult Vines?).

MVineyards said...

What happens when corporate world invades the wine world.

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! I wore 'em too! :)

Exactly! I'm not saying this wine isn't good, but it is definitely overpriced.

I think MVineyards nailed it... a lot of the qualities that I love about wine are ruined when things get corporate.

I'd be curious to hear someone defend the price of this bottle...

Anonymous said...

I have similar thoughts about the 1st growth bordeaux. They fetch a hefty price tag and the truth is that a lot of the second, even third and fourth growth bordeaux are making equal or better wines for a third or half the price tag.

The Wine Whore said...

That's a great point! There's a lot of this in Bordeaux, especially when it comes to 1st growth. Hopefully these bottles too will one day go down to prices that are more reasonable. I'm not looking for 'em to be cheap, but I just like it when the price matches the quality, not just the hype.

Any other regions you can think of that have this problem?

Beth said...

Opus One is tremendously overrated, primarily because of the name. There are many other Bordeaux-style wines available for much less. The best ones come from boutique/family wineries. One example is Anderson's Conn Valley. You know I manage travel them and I have tasted a lot of their wines, so I am a little biased, but I can guarantee you that their Bordeaux-style wines are much better and sell for under $100. Another good one is Bell Wine Cellars. Their Clone 7 Cab is right near $100 a bottle and is incredible.

Christopher Cina said...

It's very common among the high end wines, the ones with the large marketing budget. The Napa Silver Oak falls into the same category, used to be a great cult wine, now its a mass produced wallet buster. So much so they had to go out and make an Alexander Valley version, which is actually better than the Napa lately.

Anonymous said...

Beth - I think your on to something with the whole boutique winery thing. The last trip we took to Napa I would say that my favorite wine from the trip was a bordeaux style blend from Clos Pegase in Calistoga. Small place, had to have been mostly sourced grapes because it seem like they had sprawling acreage.

Mike Supple said...

Beth - Couldn't agree with you more. Anderson's Conn Valley is some of the best wine coming out of Napa, and a value at that! Not cheap, but what from Napa ever is...

TWW - Have a specific vintage and/or tasting note to go with the post? I don't disagree, but I like knowing more specifics about disappointments to better avoid them. Not saying it's worth the money, but in '05 Opus made some good juice, and I've heard good things about '06 and '07. After many years of trading off the overpriced hype, maybe they're finally turning back to making wine?

winedudeonline said...

I couldn't agree more. Opus is a good wine but not worth $200.

The Wine Whore said...

All great points!

There's definitely a lot of smaller, less hyped wineries that are making juice with a much high QPR than the Opus. The trick is finding them since they obviously as hyped up.

Mike- It's not that there is anything in particular wrong, which is why I didn't comment on any specific vintage. It's more just a matter of being able to get the same quality and taste out of a much less expensive bottle.

drinknectar said...

I can't say I've ever had Opus One, nor did I wear Cavaricci pants. I'm not sure any wine is worth $200 IMO. I drink it...then I pee. Maybe I say that because I've never had anything over $100 (and that didn't even seem worth it). It could also be my frugality (if that's a word).

I can liken it to US Made Gibson guitars. There was a time there when the quality sucked but the guitars were still fetching $3,000 - $5,000 because they were US made Les Pauls. I could pay $2000 and get a US Paul Reed Smith and the quality and sound are amazing. Once I got my Taylor, playing anything else seemed second rate, so I suppose the same thing could be said of high quality high price wines. BUT once I'm done playing my guitar, it hangs on my wall and I get to play it again. Once I drink the $200 Opus One, it just eventually goes down the toilet.


Joshua S. Sweeney said...

Thank god I'm far too poor to regret dropping a couple hundred on overrated mediocrity!

Beau Carufel said...

I tend to put Opus One in the same category as Silver Oak. :)

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! Josh, I think you totally summed it up... it's funny how many similarities there are between the wine and music worlds. As someone who has spent money on music equipment, I would have to agree... an investment in music lasts much longer than it seems to with wine! :)

I would have to say though that there are some $100 bottles that are actually WORTH trying!

Save your money Joshua on a real gem instead!

It seems like a lot of people put Silver Oak and Opus in the same category... anyone want to argue that Caymus belongs there too?

Kate said...

Just a note: While the review is amazing, the photos above are priceless.
Anytime I want to splurge and think i want to try Opus One, I will think of these photos.

winedudeonline said...

there tasting fees are overpriced too. $30 for a tasting of one wine!

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! I've sent an email asking them to use this picture on the label of their newest vintage... think they'll go for it? :)

$30 is a bit steep for a tasting... did they at least give you a nice pour?

Mike Supple said...

While Caymus may at times be overrated, they are one of the very few well known wineries that have actually maintained their price point for years. I don't remember the exact numbers off the top of my head, but I think they raised the price a few dollars in the last couple of years for the first time in over a decade.

Maybe you can make the argument that it was always overpriced and the times finally caught up with it. I just find it interesting when a famous winery actually holds pricing even amidst getting good reviews.

I also think Caymus is much more consistent than Silver Oak and Opus. You're much more likely to get a good bottle no matter what vintage when you pop the cork on Caymus.

Of course if I'm spending anywhere near that kind of money I'd rather be drinking Champagne or Burgundy any day of the week...

Beth said...

More great family wineries that have similar Bordeaux-style wines at lower prices are Signorello, ZD Wines, and Wm. Harrison. I did a one-day Napa tasting run at these wineries and they have some great ones. Definitely try some of these!

The Wine Whore said...

I would definitely agree that Caymus is consistent and doesn't quite fall into this category. Hopefully they don't read this and jack up their prices... :)

Are there bottles of Champagne and Burgundy that fall into this same overhyped pitfall?

Thank you for the great suggestions Beth! You have some great taste... hopefully I'll get the chance to try some of them soon!


Joeshico said...

Hey, lots of comments on this post. Great job!
I did have a chance to taste the Opus One about two years ago. Had a friend who swore it was the best ever. Think I offended her when I stated that I have a rack full of $20 wines that are just as good.
Opus One is the biggest proof that price does not mean quality.

The Wine Whore said...

Hey there Joe! :)

I probably shouldn't admit it, but I always get excited to see your comments. Thank you!

I was afraid this post would get more criticism from folks that believe that Opus is the best stuff ever, but obviously from the comments, it's apparent that it really isn't!

Just goes to show ya! What I'm really surprised about is the fact that I haven't found a lot of other negative reviews out there on the stuff.


Pam C said...

Oh Randy! LOL on your post about using the picture on a wine label!! That is the most god-ugly picture of Rosie!!! I think I would shun a bottle with that picture....I don't think she had a hairy chest in reality. I agree with Beau Carufel on Silver Oaks overpriced. We stopped there last October. No one bought any for what we tasted. I can't comment on Opus One cuz it's out of my price range. Great discussion however on the subject. Thanks!

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! For me, the picture of Rosie did it! I mean come on, that's funny stuff! As for whether or not she has hair on her chest, I am not at liberty to comment! :P

That's exactly why I posted this... Opus One is out of most people's price range. I would hate for them to splurge on this bottle when they could be drinking much better stuff with that money!


Joe said...

Didn't AC Slater wear Z. Cavariccis...in the 90's??!!!

Coty said...

Awesome post Randy! I agree 100%, hype doesn't mean anything. And I love the Rosie analogy!

Kevin Glowacki (Atlanta Wine Guy) said...

I've had Opus One a few times and would agree, it isn't worth the asking price. The most recent release is better than previous years, but at $200, I'll pass.

Another wine that falls into this category is Insignia.

Silver Oak is supple and soft, with loads of oak, but I'll give them credit for maintaining a long term price stability and a consistent taste profile. The wine is good, but not $100 good.

Caymus is consistent and you either like their style (I do) or you don't. I also give them credit for lowering the price on the Special Select in the 2007 release. It is available (if you can find it) for as little (I say that with my tongue stuck firmly in cheek) as $100, versus the $150 it was at for the past few years.

I'll say there are plenty of other wineries that deliver great wines for less money, even in Napa Valley. Wineries like Artesa, Chappellet, Buehler, Turnbull, Whitehall Lane, Bell, Branham and big names like Mondavi (Oakville is the bottling you want) deliver great wines for $50 and less. I'm sure there are many more as named above and not named, but a lot of those are only available to those who live or travel to Napa...or any of the other great wine producing regions in the USA.

Value is always in the eye of the beholder and $200 is actually pretty cheap when you begin to compare that against the cult Napa cabs, the top Bordeaux and Burgundies. Then again, folks who buy those wines tend to have net worths starting in the 8 figures, so that sort of money is all relative.

Wow, that was way too long...oh well.

tampawinewoman said...

Wine Whore:

First and foremost - truly disgusting picture. Logged on this morning to do some 'catch up' and realized after that photo that I should have more coffee.

Second, I don't even know where to start with this post and 'Opus'. While, I can certainly appreciate it's place in the wine world, and the historical value. This is a classic case of the expectation that the wine be an 'amazing experience' and the wine not matching up to the reality that your wallet is a couple hundred dollars lighter.

I describe this as 'the Emperor's new clothes.' You remember the story. No one wanted to step forward and tell him that the elaborate wardrobe that he just paid for was nonexistent, and that the Emperor was, in fact, naked. The Emperor probably drank Opus One as well. No one that pays that kind of money wants to say that they may have been 'duped.' The only thing you can do after you have paid that kind of cash for a bottle is brag to all of your friends, look what I can afford, and tell them how delicious it is, and hopefully they will deduce that you are wealthy and obviously brilliant.

Of course, in the alternative, you could go on line and tell the whole world on your blog that this insanity needs to stop.

Well done! Thanks Randy.

Jodi a/k/a tampawinewoman

Christer said...

There are often (not always) some extra fine nuances to some of the greatest wines in the world that is not detectable to us all. All of us cannot grasp art, music, design, food and many more things either. What you pay for in Opus One (as one of several examples I could use) is not just it's content or marketing, but heritage.

Over here in Europe, heritage is very important, because it is also a kind of safety. You must have been among the best for a long time to achieve this. And then later on you have to pay for it, even if quality drops. This would be true with Rolls-Royce, Luis Vuiton, Gucci, Rolex, Nike, in fact, on all type of so called luxury goods, you pay many times tha actual value of making the product for a feel, idea, a safety and history.

You can make Nike sneakers much cheaper, but you also pay for a brand that says something about you, you are sporty, and can afford to use your money on shoes,just for running in them.

Luis Vuitton does not have better leather than all others, in fact, it is some kind of laminate, so should be cheaper, and again, you pay for image.

Rolls-Royce never produced the best cars in the world, at least not in pure quality terms, and now, they really do make a fantastic (if ugly looking) one for the first time, or do they? No BMW does, so now you pay for a emblem made by others. Why would you? Image, style and history.

It is the same with Opus One. In a reataurant people around you will get an image of you drinking this bottle, that the as good but quite unknown producer would not. That is because of Opus One's heritage. They have been on the top for a long time. Maybe not always quality wise, I have had some boring ones, but to me, 94 and 89 are almost perfection. 99 is also fantastic.

I have no problem that people pay 200 US for a wine with Heritage, because they pay for, and often want's more than just the content. I do however not understand why peaople pay 150 US for someting new and unheard off, because of two vintages high ratings in WS or by Mr Parker. This estate has not yet proven it's heritage.

But I would love the big names to be cheaper, because wine is a drink, not for investment.

Worst wine ever, a true rip off, not only because of the producer, but also the writers.

2003 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. This is not even close to what a good Lafite should be, it acts like a bad vintage Crus Bourgeois. Lacks pretty much everything a great Bordeaux should have, and allready taste like it's twenty years old. (Haut-Brion and many other 03's aren't much better).

Ed Thralls said...

I think Christer explained it best. Maybe the changing economy will bring things more into equilibrium, but until then as long as there is someone paying these prices, Opus will be able to continue to charge them, simple as that.

Silver Oak used to be one of my favorites, but in the 2000's they really dropped off in my opinion and I now consider them greatly overvalued.

When we were in Napa back in 2003 we thought about checking out Opus One and their winery and vineyards look immaculate. But then we heard of the $25 tasting fee (obviously that price has been raised base on an earlier comment) and we chose to pass. I have had Opus One, don't recall the vintage, but luckily I wasn't the one who bought it. However, it was pretty damn good at the time in my opinion.

Unfortunately, as weird, crazy human beings that we are, many of us succumb easily to that hype, prestige, hubris, etc... so, unfortunately, quality doesn't necessarily come into play as much as pure demand economics. However, I would have to assume many of these people actually enjoy the wine. I mean, there are people who love fruit wine and muscadine down here in the southeast and I wouldn't touch the stuff! So, to each his own as long as you are happy with it.


The Wine Whore said...

Chris definitely did sum it up well, but I also like your last statement Ed!

To each his own! I definitely can't criticize anyone for buying this bottle, because well, I obviously did the same thing. I guess I figured I would post this about Opus One so that people may realize it for what it's worth. I think a lot of people think this is amazing juice... and well, it IS good, but buying a bottle of Opus is more about heritage, hype, and whatever else has gone into it's pricetag. If you are cool with that, then enjoy!

Thank you all for the great discussion on this topic!


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