Is Opus One about to change ownership or stay the course? An announcement about the future of this iconic Napa Valley winery is scheduled for Thursday in Oakville.
At that time, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, one of Opus' part owners, is planning to attend a media conference and lunch at which the future of this historic Franco-Californian joint venture will be revealed.
Insiders expect the owner of Bordeaux's Château Mouton-Rothschild to say she wants to continue the Opus One partnership, despite the recent change in its co-owner. "She wouldn't be flying to Napa to tell the world she's selling the winery," said one industry observer.
The other part-owner is Constellation Brands, which acquired its 50 percent stake in Opus One through its acquisition last year of Robert Mondavi Corp. Constellation likes having the prestigious Opus One brand in its portfolio, but Opus One also competes with the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet, which might give the company reason to redraw its game plan.
Opus One--which sells up to 30,000 cases a year of Napa Valley Cabernet at $150 a bottle--has lost much of its sheen after the departure of famous Napa vintner Robert Mondavi and a series of very good but not great bottlings. Mondavi co-founded the winery in 1979 with the late Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Philippine's father), and it grew to be one of the great names in Napa Valley, with its Bordeaux-inspired interpretation of Cabernet Sauvignon. But in recent vintages Opus One has underperformed compared with other Napa Cabernets.
The winery has also undergone key changes in management. In 2001, Michael Silacci, formerly of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, took over as winemaker, and in 2004, David Pearson became CEO.
Mondavi Corp.'s other joint ventures have already been sold back to its former partners. This past spring, Tuscan producer Frescobaldi took full ownership of Ornellaia and bought out the other half of the Luce venture, which it sold back to Michael Mondavi's new company. Last year, the Chadwick family of Chilean producer Viña Errazuriz bought Mondavi's stakes in the Seña, Arboleda and Caliterra projects.