Opus One Revisited: Michael Silacci and the secrets of a laboratory

Two years ago I wrote an article (in German) in praise for the 2006 vintage of Opus One: I claimed that it is much better for one's personal mood to buy expansive wines than the investment funds of the local savings bank. Precise in mind I had the AriDeka Fonds of the German Sparkasse. So even from an economical point of view it might be better to get some bottles of Opus One than a lousy AriDeka paper. Nevertheless when I met recently Roger Asleson (left), the former director of public relations at Opus One Winery, and winemaker Michael Silacci we didn't talked money but data and enology. Well known for their holistic vision of winegrowing as the ultimate expression of terroir, the Opus One guys let visit the scientific inner heart of their winemaking process: the laboratory. Silaccii stressed the importance of intuition, knowledge and experience: Of course, producing a great wine claims an academic view but Silacci confessed also that in the last years he relied much less on data, he likes to use his intuition. As a winemaker one has to be for a long time at one place to understand the details of the terroir, but also innovation and technology is important. For example at Opus One Winery there is a camera that's makes a shot of every berry. Nevertheless sometimes the machine rejects good berries and a member of the staff found a method so save these berries. Experiments with natural yeasts or cork are central in this laboratory, but in then end the last word and gout has the wine: in the glass one sees the vintage 2009. The numbers: 81 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 9 % Cabernet Franc, 6 % Petit Verdot, 3 % Merlot and 1 % percent Malbec. The taste: deep but elegant aromas of ripe black olives, dark chocolate, espresso, ripe blueberries, cornel cherry and cassis, with a charming finish and a slender grasp of tannin at the end.

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