The KnowWines Guide to Wine Clubs, Wine Subscriptions, and Wine Delivery

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The internet, investors, and changing interstate commerce laws have come together to bring innovation to the areas of wine clubs, wine delivery, and wine subscriptions. While we love to frequent local wine shops, we also appreciate that consumers are no longer limited by the wine selection in their immediate market.  

Here, we use our experience with wine clubs to outline the pros and cons of the wine clubs available today, as well as the positives and negatives of wine delivery.  Join us as we dig deeper into wine clubs, wine subscriptions, and wine delivery services.

What is a wine club or wine subscription?

There are many different types of wine club aiming to secure wine lovers as monthly customers. Typically, there is some incentive for signing up - a free wine tasting, a shipping discount, or some other enticing benefit. Before delivery, an agreement is signed detailing the number of bottles per month or year, the corresponding monthly fee, and the length of time one must remain in the club (or how many bottles to receive before canceling).

When you join a wine club, an expert is curating your wine collection, eliminating the burden of decision making.  However, the ease of delivery may not be quite as easy as it sounds because delivered wine can’t be left on your doorstep - you have to be at home it. (More on that later!).

There are plenty of reviews claiming that this or that wine club is the best, but the truth is that wine clubs are not one size fits all. While wine clubs attract a good deal of consumers, many of them opt out of wine clubs within two years. Why? Because the consumer may not have taken the time to find out whether a particular wine club will be a good fit.  So, if you’re considering a wine subscription, take some time to identify your wine profile.

What is my wine profile?

Wine consumers fall into six general categories (or genome segments) as identified by Bauerhaus.com. These are Image Seekers, Everyday Loyals, Enthusiasts, Engaged Newcomers, Price Driven, and the Overwhelmed. We have taken the liberty of adding another category: Wine Obsessives.  

Image Seekers like to look over wine lists and wine scores. Perhaps we want to impress friends or clients with wines. Image Seekers also like the look of labels and feel of bottles. They may be up on wine trends but aren’t overly concerned with the details. Image Seekers might spend a little more per bottle than other wine types. However, if there’s a new trend in craft beer or artisan spirits, they are likely to leave wine behind momentarily to chase after the next great thing.

Everyday Loyals are consistent lovers of particular wines. We all know someone like this - the mom who loves Rombauer Chardonnay, the uncle who loves Chablis or the brother who brings Apothec Red home by the case. These loyalists know what they like - and this can be a wine brand, a grape variety, wines from a region. While sommeliers might be frustrated that Everyday Loyals always want to drink the same thing, research shows that this group makes up the largest group of wine consumers by sales.  

Enthusiasts are the folks thirsty for wine knowledge. They love to get multiple inputs before purchasing wine, either from critic scores, shelf talkers (shelf tags), wine merchants, books, or magazines.  Enthusiasts like to check out what is new in the wine section of stores or visit bottle shops while traveling for work or vacation. Enthusiasts may stay enthusiasts for life, or they may become wine obsessives (like us!). They may also someday switch their enthusiasm to spirits like bourbon.

Engaged Consumers are consumers with an interest in learning more about wine, and are typically new wine consumers. They know they like wine. These consumers may become enthusiasts or they may just enjoy wine occasionally with friends.

Price Driven consumers are fairly straight forward. We all know someone who loves a sale, has all the discount codes, and likes to choose the least expensive wine from the list. Nothing wrong with a great value!

Last is the Overwhelmed Consumer. If you like wine but feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices in store aisles, online, or on a wine list, you can count yourself among the Overwhelmed!

Wine Obsessives!  We’re not included in the Bauerhaus assessment, so I add us in as a seventh type of consumer.  We may have started as an Enthusiast or even an Everyday Loyal, but somewhere along the line we jumped to being an Obsessive. We love reading about wine, visiting wine regions on holidays, purchasing wine storage or wine refrigerators, and collecting a broad or specific wine type. We might also subscribe to multiple wine magazines and follow one or more wine bloggers on social media.  

What type of consumer are you?  Let us know in the comments below.

There are wine clubs or wine subscription services that cater to each of these consumer types.  

What type of wine club is good for me?

The best type of wine club for you is the one that matches your wine consumer profile. You may remain a specific type of wine consumer for a short or long time, or you may shift across different consumption types as you pass through various life stages.

Now that you know your current wine profile, you can start to sift through the many wine clubs out there and find one that fits your needs for the next 12 - 24 months. Why 12 - 24 months? This is the time frame within which one can typically get the best bang for the buck. If your wine profile changes, one can typically opt in and out of wine clubs. Just remember to read the fine print before signing us, as there may be a minimum number of months before you can opt out.

What types of wine clubs are there?

Wine Clubs for Cheap Wine

We get it.  You want a grape-flavored beverage containing alcohol without all the fuss and at a low price, with free or low-cost shipping.  And bonus points for not needing to leave your house! You are likely a Price Driven consumer and are interested in wine clubs with a focus on value. 

These wine clubs scan the wine market and look for something different than what is available in your average big-box store. They focus on wine in the bulk market or value wines available for private label wine branding. Alternatively, the wine might be purchased on the bulk market and vinified by a well-known winemaker. 

If you’ve ever purchased (or been gifted wine) and could not find any information about an actual winery, chances are the wine is from one of these types of wine clubs. The online description will instead focus on key flavors, region, and perhaps farming practices. And importantly, value!

Some examples of these types of wine clubs are Winc and Naked Wines.

Famous Store Brand Wine Clubs 

You may be Overwhelmed by all the wine choices and are thus interested in wines that come from trusted brands. Famous store and media brands you have grown to trust look for ways to strengthen their fan base by offering products and services to help consumers stay with a brand. One of these services is wine clubs.  

Without subscribing, it is hard to tell if you will get private label wines or wines from independent winemakers. Based on an extensive online review, it looks like a lot of these wines are private label bulk wines with a few independent winery offerings included.  

Some examples of these types of famous brand wine clubs are The New York Times Wine Club, WSJ Wine Club, and the Williams-Sonoma Wine Club.

Wine Clubs for Wine Discovery

Engaged consumers looking to build upon their wine knowledge might be interested in wine clubs that are a blend of independent producers and private label wines with a focus on education.

Wine clubs for discovery have an emphasis on learning basic wine concepts through sampling many different types of wines grouped by wine color, style, and agriculture practice. Trendier versions use quizzes or algorithms to direct you to a package you might be interested in.  You can expect to learn the basics around wine varieties, regions, and flavor profiles. In addition to targeting Engaged consumers, these clubs also target the Overwhelmed consumer because the level of detail provided is not overwhelming. If winemakers are mentioned, it is because they are well known.

Examples of discovery wine clubs include Vine Box (for wine drinkers wanting to have a taste before committing to a bottle!), Plonk, and First Leaf Wine Club.

Curation Clubs for Enthusiasts

A number of wine clubs aimed at Enthusiasts curate wines from select wineries. These curation clubs may aim to do any of the following:

  • Introduce wine lovers to new wines based on old favorites (e.g. lower alcohol wines from Bordeaux)

  • Introduce wine lovers of a specific wine style (e.g. Northern Rhone red wine blends) to new wineries that make that style

  • Target specific demographics of wine growers or wine makers (e.g. Women owned wineries or Small Independent producers)


These clubs differ from previous wine clubs mentioned as they are typically grower and winery focused. The information on the website, email, and subscription sign-up is very specific to the wineries highlighted. There will be comparisons between the offered wines and how they differ from other producers in the region or growing the same variety. Specific winemakers and importers may be highlighted, and the club curators may explain why they chose a specific wine over another.  

Some characteristics of these types of curation clubs are engaging emails describing the wines in detail, highlights of winemakers, storytelling about the wine, and dedication to customer service. Local versions of these wine clubs may offer local pick-up to save money on shipping. They may even provide delivery (though delivery options may be limited if it is a smaller wine club).

Take a look at these curation wine clubs: Acme Fine Wines Club, Kermit Lynch Wine Clubs, Women Owned Wineries Sonoma Wine Club, and the SIP Wine Club.

Winery Wine Clubs

If you enjoy the same wines year after year, winery wine clubs are a good way to support your favorite winery as well as getting access to wines similar to your favorite(s). Many of these clubs offer special pricing or shipping discounts around the major holidays. Wine clubs also offer benefits to members which may include free tasting, exclusive events, and travel with fellow wine club members.  Accompanying many winery wine club memberships are details not easily found online, such as in-depth stories about the estate, profiles on the winemaker, vintage challenges, even updates on the cats and dogs at the winery!

Many wineries have online wine club information on their website, and you don’t even need to go to the winery to sign up.  One potential drawback is that your favorite winery may not ship to the state you live in - simply check the fine print! 

Some examples of popular winery wine clubs are the Hall Wines Wine Club, the Ridge Vineyards Wine Club (be sure to also check out our detailed review of Ridge Vineyards!), Biltmore’s Vanderbilt Wine Club, and the Schramsberg Wine Club.

Wine Clubs for Wine Obsessives

Wine obsessives tend to purchase bottles independently and may participate in specific winery wine clubs or subscribe to email lists that offer sales on recognized wine.

Wine Obsessives interested in blind tasting will probably like the Somm Select.

Wine Obsessives interested in sales on known wine brands may like Last Bottle Wines.

What should I know about wine delivery?

Here are some key things to know when it comes to receiving your wine shipments.

Minimum Age 21

In the United States, someone age 21 or older will need to sign for the wine.  

Home Delivery of Wine

Wine won’t be left on your porch or stoop in the United States. You will need to be at home when the wine arrives or you will need to travel to a location indicated on your door tag (e.g. FedEx, UPS). One way to reduce this hassle is to have the wine shipped to your workplace. Some businesses may restrict alcohol on-premise, though, so check your workplace policy. Delivery to work might be a convenient option if you travel for your job and want to prevent the shipping company from returning wine to distribution center because you did not pick it up in time. 

Wine Shipping Laws Vary By State

Wine laws are constantly changing. The amount of wine that can be shipped and whether or not your state even allows wine to be shipped are variables. Also, be aware that the wine retailer needs to do paperwork for each state to which their business ships wine. While it might be perfectly legal for the wine club to send you wine, the business may opt out of shipping to your state if there aren’t enough customers to justify the work required to ship.

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Weather and Wine Delivery

Wine clubs may not deliver year round due to extreme temperatures. It is more expensive to ship during the summer as special care is needed to prevent wines from getting “cooked.” Additionally weather disturbances like snow storms or hurricanes can disrupt delivery and delay your shipment.  

How do I store my wine?

Regardless of which wine club you choose, you might find that it is hard to keep up with consumption. This is a common reason why people stop subscribing to wine clubs.  Check out our article on wine storage to learn more about how to store your wines.  

How do I cancel a wine club?

It is important to keep documentation regarding wine club signups. Some wine clubs allow you to cancel at any time. Others require a minimum number of shipments or wine bottles purchased before cancelling.  

Our Wine Club Wrap Up

Wine clubs are a great way to explore the world of wine. It’s important for customers to find a club that’s a good fit (fitting their wine profile). (Also, it is critical to read the fine print before signing up!) If you have a poor wine club experience, it is likely because the wine club does not meet one of your needs. Either it doesn’t fit with your consumption style, the shipments are too frequent and pile up, or you find it inconvenient to coordinate shipment pickup.  

Wine clubs are probably the best fit for Loyal and Engaged wine types. For the Loyalists, getting your favorite wine over the course of the year might be a great way to support your favorite brand or winery, and ensure that you don’t miss a vintage in case your local bottle shop stops carrying your favorite wine. Wine clubs are generally great for Explorers, though Image Seekers may get bored before the year is up. Value wine seekers might find better values at places like Trader Joes and Costco. Enthusiasts might find that some of the detail is lacking, and may wish to seek out wines from sommelier selection services or regional wine clubs highlighting specific wineries.  Obsessives are more likely to purchase from a variety of sources.  We might like to purchase directly from the winery or from traditional bottle shops or online wine sellers by the bottle versus as part of a wine club.  

We’d love to hear about your wine club experiences in the comments below!

Cheers!

How to Create a Personalized Wine Journal - For Yourself or Your Favorite Wine Enthusiast

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While there are a variety of wine tasting journals available on the market, most don’t allow for much personalization. We have a couple of favorite wine apps on our iPhone, however taking written notes on wines using a fine journal and a nice pen is relaxing and mindful (or should we say wineful?) Keeping a personalized wine journal is a great hobby for wine enthusiasts. And wine journals (and accessories!) are a great gift for the wine lover who has it all!

Why a Wine Tasting Journal?

A wine tasting journal is simply a place for recording observations and key aspects of the tasting experience to reflect upon later.  They can be used and enjoyed by wine journals can be used and enjoyed by wine novices, serious enthusiasts, and wine professionals alike. 

Students preparing for an exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers or Wine and Spirit Education trust take detailed notes on wines both to practice tasting notes and to commit to memory key points that will help them in theory or tasting exams. Studies show that writing things down is much more impactful than typing into a smartphone or laptop. 

Why not use a Wine Tasting App?

If you’re just getting started in taking wine tasting notes or want to take some quick tasting notes on the go, then yes, the apps available at vivino.com and cellartracker.com are great.  

But there’s just something to be said for pen and paper. If you’re like the rest of us, when you take out the iPhone to take tasting notes, it won’t take much for you to wander from your intent, either reading other users notes or going off the App and checking the weather forecast. Many people who prefer to take notes in a journal are looking for a chance to unplug and to discreetly take notes without the glow of a smartphone.

About Traditional Wine Tasting Journals

Traditional wine tasting journals are made by a variety of publishing houses and wine bloggers.  Many wine lovers find that these “out of the box” wine journals have both positive and negative aspects.  Below are some examples of traditional wine tasting journals.

The Moleskine Passion Journal:

The Write it Down Wine Journal:

Wine Journal Write It Down
Journals Unlimited

Positive points about traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Great templates for enthusiasts to enter in wine names, vintage, price, aromas and flavors, and general topics like where it was consumed, with whom and with what food

  • Wine tasting terms for beginners 

  • Wine references, like vintage ratings, maps and classic producers.  

Downsides to traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Unattractive cover design (e.g. dated, poor photo, corny phrase)

  • Heavy (e.g. leather, can’t take it with you on wine travels)

  • Looks too much like a wine journal (not discreet - you’ll be ‘that person’ in the tasting room)

  • Wine pairing basics or other ‘notes’ that are not of interest, adding bulk/waste to the journal 

  • Ink bleeding through on ‘cheap’ paper

  • Not enough space to affix wine labels

In case traditional wine tasting journals leave you feeling like you are “painting by the numbers,” this blog outlines a DIY wine journal package and methodology you may find useful. 

The Customizable Wine Tasting Journal Package

Let’s look at the components of a personalized wine tasting journal. 

The Leuchtturn Journal

We have been big fans of Leuchtturn 1917 journals since our first trip to Germany over 20 years ago.  

Here’s what we love about this journal:

  • There are bullets instead of lines.  These bullets allow writers to draw, write, or paste in their content without the visual deterrent of lines or the emptiness of a blank page

  • It has an index, and you can customize it!  We’re amazed that many wine journals don’t come with the option to create an index before jumping right into the note-taking.  

  • The journal lays flat - many leather wine journals don’t.  This creates a nice looking spine after year(s) of use. We like how ours looks on a bookshelf!

  • There’s a classy label one can affix to the front of the journal when you’re done using it.

  • There’s a sturdy envelope in the back of the journal to hold winery brochures, menus, wine label remover sheets, and maps until one gets the chance to affix the info into the journal.  

  • The journals are robust.  We’ve used one journal for a year during regional and global travel, on a boat, and bouncing around in a bag.  

  • The jornal is thin and slips in neatly next to one’s laptop or large tablet (8.85 x 12.4 inches).

  • These journals cost less than typical leather journals.

The Staedtler Pen

No one likes writing with a cheap pen, especially when taking tasting notes.  You want a pen with a fine tip that writes smoothly and is a pleasure to hold.  

The Staedtler Pen

These pens are ergonomic with a triangular shape and are very light in the hand.  The ink dries more quickly than gel pens. They don’t smear, bleed or feather.

The only downside we’ve noticed is that sometimes the lighter colors are not as ‘bright’ on paper as some would like.  We’ve noticed over the years that we use the black pen and the darker colors the most.

The Wine Label Lift 

Some wine enthusiasts love to keep wine labels for future reference (as sometimes it can be hard to remember the details of wine(s) the next day!). As you’ll see in our blog on wine label removal, this can can be done by removing the wine label from the bottle or simply taking a good photo of the label.  We do this either through taking photos of the wine labels or actually going through the motions of removing the wine label from the bottle.   

Our preferred method for removing wine labels is utilizing a wine label lift. These are simply adhesive films that one adheres to the bottle then removes - extracting the label from the bottle.  The label can then be inserted into the journal easily. While they don’t work 100% of the time, there are some tips/tricks online for increasing the likelihood of success when removing a label from the wine bottle. 

We really like that these wine label removers slip easily into the envelope in the back of the journal for storage until needed. Once the label is removed from the bottle, the journaler has the option of adhering it to the wine journal as a memento.

Document Edges for Maps, Menus, and Winery Information

In addition to the wine labels themselves, some wine enthusiasts love to collect momentos from the meal, tasting, trip, or bar where the wine was consumed.  For those purposes we love these document edges in classic colors for adhering such momentos to the journal.

Like the wine label removers, these adhesive corner pieces can also slip into the back of the journal for future use.

If You’re Gifting the Wine Journal Package

If you’re gifting the wine journal package, traditional gift wrap will work just fine. However, if you know a wine lover with a milestone birthday, anniversary or promotion, you may want to consider gifting the journal and accessories with a wine book or simply a bottle of wine. To make the gift extra special,  place the journal and accessories in this covetable premium leather wine bag.

Additional Resources for the Personalized Wine Journal

If you or your wine tasting journal recipient is fairly new to making entries in a wine journal, here are a few resources for different approaches to recording tasting notes:

Court of Master Sommeliers: For those who watched the SOMM movies and want to learn the deductive tasting grid demonstrated in the movies, this is the place to go to find the free grid pdf.  

Wine and Spirit Educational Trust: For those who prefer a more analytical approach to wine tasting, the WSET has courses available to wine enthusiasts and wine professionals, where one can learn the WSET systematic approach to tasting.

Also check out our article on the Wine Tasting Grid and how to set up a wine tasting in your home.

Finally, if you join a wine club or wine subscription, these services will often send attractive, informational cards that detail the qualities of your favorite wines. These make great wine journal entries!

You can be as simple or as elaborate as you like in your wine taking notes, including as many or as few details as you wish.  

Additional Accessories for the Personalized Wine Journal

Here are a few more items that wine enthusiasts might enjoy with their personalized journal:

Wine Aroma Wheel

With over 800 aromatic compounds to explore, Dr. Ann Noble, winemaker and professor emeretis of U.C. Davis, came up with this wine aroma wheel that’s been used for decades.   

Bullet Journal 

The popular bullet journal methodology helped us escape from the rigidity of templated journals.

Maximizing the Personalized Wine Tasting Journal Experience

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For wine lovers, journaling about the experience of each bottle is an invaluable resource for study and exam prep. It does not all need to be serious though!  Sometimes one simply wants to keep their unique tasting experiences separate from other journals.  Benefits of enthusiast documentation include watching your tastes and preferences grow and change.  

There are disadvantages to pre-printed wine journals - format, design and flexibility are limited.  The simplicity of a Personalized Wine Tasting Journal means that the journal will never go out of style.  At the core it is about the content and what you want to document for yourself or to share with fellow wine lovers.  

Happy journaling!

Cheers!






















Opus One Winery: The KnowWines Review

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We’re fortunate to have been visiting the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country for about ten years. In those years, we have visited  Opus One multiple times. As fellow wine enthusiasts and seasoned travelers, we understand that anonymous reviews in public travel forums often give little insight into the wine experience (and you often can’t gauge the experience of the person writing the review!). As the price of wine tours and wine tastings increases, we aim to help our fellow experience seekers know what to expect! In this blog, we’ve put together our insights on the renowned Opus One winery.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing an Opus One Tasting

The Opus One tour is ideal for anyone interested in a luxury wine tasting experience. It’s perfect for the following types of travelers: 

  • Wine enthusiasts who want to see and taste the fruits of the historical collaboration between Napa’s Robert Mondavi and Bordeaux’s Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild

  • Wine collectors who want to taste the current vintage of Opus One, one older vintage of Opus One, and/or the winery’s second label Overture

  • Fans of architect Scott Johnson of Johnson, Fain & Pereira

  • Fans of Bordeaux-style wines 

  • Fans of cult Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine

This experience is not ideal for wine enthusiasts looking for a fast, boisterous, casual tasting.  This experience is not for wine lovers seeking out white wines, sweet wines, or a range of different wines. Finally, this wine tasting experience is not for travelers seeking out small, independently owned wineries specializing in bespoke grape varieties. 

Before purchasing the Opus One wine tasting or tour experience, you will need to consider the following: 

  • How much do you want to spend on the experience? 

  • How long do you want to visit and what do you want to see? 

  • Do you want to taste the current release or three different wines?

What is Opus One?

Opus One started as a partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The aim was to craft a wine combining winemaking approaches from both Napa, California and Bordeaux, France.  They aspired to craft a wine that would become their “Opus.”

While the two met first in 1970, it was not until 1984 that the first vintages (1979 and 1980) were released. Opus One was not crafted in the present facility in Oakville until 1991. Prior to 1991, the wine was made at the nearby Robert Mondavi winery.  

To learn more about this partnership and its significance in American Wine History, check out the House of Mondavi. It’s quite amazing (from both from an enology and from a marketing perspective) that a First Growth Bordeaux - Château Mouton Rothschild - would partner with a newer winery from ‘upstarts’ in Napa Valley.  

Opus One wine (and the second label wine Overture) are Bordeaux-style blends comprised of  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The grapes in Opus One originate from the estate’s approximately 100 acres of vineyards.

Here are the pros and cons of an Opus One tasting experience at the winery.

Pros

  • A serene and elegant tasting experience

  • No one under 21 allowed

  • Great views of Napa Valley

  • Unhurried tasting experience

  • Arrive early and avoid crowds

Cons

  • Tasting fee not waived with purchase

  • No picnics, no pets

  • Plan several days ahead for reservation during the peak travel season 

Choosing Your Experience

Booking

Opus One makes it very easy to book your visit. The website outlines several types of winery visits depending on your budget, interest, and desired experience. When you purchase your ticket online, you quickly receive an email confirmation.

There are a few tasting and tour options available. However, Guided Tours and Library Tastings are not available until the end of 2019 as the winery is undergoing renovations.  Opus One Tasting Appointment at the Pavilion is the only tasting currently available during the renovation.  

We purchased our tickets three days in advance for a 10:00 am tasting on a Sunday.  The weekends can be very busy, as well as weekdays during summer and harvest. To avoid crowds and get more 1:1 attention, we recommend choosing tasting times earlier in the day.  

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Arriving

The Opus One winery is located near Oakville, California at 7900 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562.  It is located 70 miles north of SFO airport in San Francisco and 13 miles north of Napa, California. Drive time from downtown Napa is about 20 minutes in the off season, but can be an hour or more during peak season as the road narrows from four lanes to two lanes north of Napa.

If you are approaching the winery from the south on Highway 29, look for Oakville Grocery on your right. The entrance to Opus One is the next driveway on the right. If you approach the winery from Oakville Cross Road from the east, there is a service entrance that is sometimes open if you want to avoid Highway 29.  If you approach the winery from the north on Highway 29, you will need to take a left turn across northbound traffic (which is not a pleasant experience on the busy weekend or on a rainy day!).

The gates to Opus One are closed outside business hours. However, there is enough room off of Highway 29 to pull off onto the driveway to get out of the flow of traffic.  

As you approach the winery from the main driveway, you will see its distinct architecture, which say is reminiscent of a spaceship.  There is ample parking on the north and south sides of the winery.  

As you walk to the main entrance, you are greeted by creme colored limestone columns, olive trees, grassy lawn and the large wooden doors.  

It is behind these doors where you find the concierge who will direct you to your tasting.   During renovations, a temporary tasting pavilion will be set up near the winery.  

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Our Tasting Experience

On our most recent visit, we chose the Opus One Tasting Appointment as this was the only tasting currently available during the renovation. This tasting consists of one 2 oz. pour of 2013 Opus One, 2015 Opus One, and Overture for $75. Wines by the glass were also available for purchase.

The concierge checked us in and walked with us to the tasting salon called the Partners’ Room. The check-in process was much like a visit to a high-end department store like Saks or Bergdorf’s.  

In the Partners’ Room (or Pavillion, during renovation) you can select wine by the glass or by the tasting flight. 

Seating is available in the Partners’ Room as well as outside the tasting room. Alternatively, you can climb the stairs and take in the views of the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains as well as a good portion of the Napa Valley.

We planned for 90 minutes to enjoy the wines and walk the grounds.  Water and crackers are available upon request at no additional cost.  Feel free to ask the host questions about the wine and winery - if the room is not crowded, most are happy to visit with you for several minutes to answer any questions.  The staff has always been helpful in recommending additional tasting rooms, dining options, and lodging recommendations in the area.  

When you return your glasses to the tasting salon, you have the option to purchase bottles of the wines you tasted.  Opus One is distributed throughout the United States and the world, so check with the hostess in the Partners’ Room or Pavilion to find out if the wines are available in your state or hometown.

If you do purchase one or more bottles at Opus One, check out our article on getting your wines home safely.

Social Proof

Throughout the years, we’ve been sending friends and colleagues to this winery.  Most enjoy the experience, as do many online reviewers. Like us, the positive reviews highlight a serene tasting environment, knowledgeable staff, a relaxed pace, great views, and attentive but not pushy service.  

Most negative reviews of Opus One are on the topic of price and the winery not accommodating children and pets.  Also, some visitors prefer ‘warm’ country-cozy ambiance or the rustic elegance they experience at some other wineries. This winery’s ambiance is much more ‘cool’ and Neo Classical, true to the intention of combining European traditions with California wine.  There is only one style of wine to taste here, and some are disappointed in that as well.

Alternatives

We’ve visited 100 wineries in Napa Valley in the past 10 years, and as such, we’re able to provide recommendations for other wineries in the area should you find the price too high or you are simply not able to get in for a tasting.   

Wineries that allow children

Wineries that specialize in Bordeaux-style blends:

Other Cult Cabs:

Conclusions on Opus One Winery

If you like serene tastings and savoring one wine for 30 minutes or more, go here - you won’t regret it.  Also go if you just want to see what all the fuss is about. We do recommend going during the off-season or in the morning hours before the crowds descend.  We’ve never felt pressured to purchase wines after the tastings.  

If you are looking for a boisterous experience that never gets too serious about wine, don’t go here.  Don’t go here if you are looking for a glass of "cheap" wine or a bar-like experience.

If you are wanting to partake in a library tasting or a cellar tour, contact the winery and check when these tastings will be available again following construction.  

Cheers!

Fifteen Recommended Wineries in Napa and Sonoma

Looking for a little amusement park in your wine tour experience? Visit Castello di Amorosa, "The Castle of Love" in Napa Valley! After ten years of traveling in Napa, we visited this castle for the first time earlier this year and we've just reviewed it in our wine travel blog. Check out what we have to say about this faux-European castle right in the middle of Napa's oldest vineyards! Link in our bio to read the review!
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Five Large Wineries:

Each of these five large wineries produces over a million bottles of wine per year. Because their wines are widely distributed in the United States, you can experience the tasting without feeling obliged to buy something to take home. These wineries either work with many varieties and have many “brands” at different price points,  or they focus on one or two wines made in large volume.

In Napa:

Beringer: California’s oldest continuously operating winery.

Hall Wines: Nestled in the Diamond Mountain District of Napa Valley.

Robert Mondavi: Four decades of award-winning winemaking.

Stag’s Leap: Beautiful architecture, gorgeous vineyards, and underground caves!

In Sonoma:

Jordan: A beautiful winery-chateau in the French style.

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Five Medium Wineries:

Typically, these wineries have been in business for 30 or more years.

In Napa:

Chappellet: Chappellet’s Pritchard Hill is a stunning setting for tasting wine.

Montelena: The winery boasts a unique stone chateau resembling an English gothic castle.

Opus One: Unique architecture paired with beautiful scenery and wine.

In Sonoma:

Ridge: Sip wine in the presence of gorgeous, 115-year-old vines.

Merry Edwards: Merry Edwards is a female vintner making Pinot Noirs with a sense of place.

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Five Smaller Wineries:

These wineries generally make less than 250,000 bottles of wine per year.

In Napa:

Tor: Family-owned, with a focus on single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines.

Pina: Family-owned for eight generations! A small Napa Valley treasure.

Corison: Artisanal, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon by winegrower Cathy Corison.

In Sonoma:

Williams Selyem: Highly-prized Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.

Peter Michael: Nine family-owned mountain vineyards and thirty-five years of handcrafted wines.

Interested in traveling to Napa and Sonoma? Check out our guide to California’s wine country!