Opolo Celebrates 25 Years!

Sometimes the best ideas are born of a simple dream rather than a master plan.

This is how Opolo came to be in 1999, when friends Rick Quinn and David Nichols launched their family-owned winery in Paso Robles—“a hobby that got out of control” as Rick likes to say.

But make no mistake, they took their endeavor seriously. They established Opolo in the heart of the Willow Creek District, which would become one of the region’s hallowed terroirs. Soon, Opolo wines including the Mountain Zinfandel and estate Cabernet Sauvignon made a name for themselves while Paso Robles began to garner critical acclaim. In time, the name Opolo became synonymous with warm hospitality, remarkable events and award-winning wines.

Today, we are still living the dream at Opolo, with two generations of family now involved in the daily operations.

Follow along as we take a look back at the last 25 years of making wine in Paso Robles.

ORIGIN STORY

In the mid 1990s, Rick and David were friends, neighbors and home winemakers living in Camarillo, California.

Rick’s home winemaking group acquired grapes each year from the storied Perata Vineyard in Paso Robles. But when there was a crop shortfall one year, Rick and his wife were left with no Merlot grapes to go along with their Cabernet Sauvignon. “Trying to find 1,000 pounds of Merlot on the spot was like trying to buy one egg,” Rick says. His remedy, as someone in the real estate business, was to acquire his own property to ensure a steady supply of fruit. “For 1,000 pounds of fruit, I could have just purchased a half acre—but I ended up buying 70 acres.” This property would ultimately become the main Opolo estate in the Willow Creek District.

As a fellow winemaker, David was also intrigued with Paso Robles. Rick helped him acquire an existing vineyard in the Estrella District in 1997, after which Rick bought his own contiguous site.

The home winemakers were now Paso Robles winegrowers, but they soon discovered that the balance sheet looked a lot better when you turned your own fruit into wine instead of selling it all off to others each year. The next step was logical: start their own winery!

THE EARLY YEARS | 1999 to 2003

Rick and David called their winery Opolo, a nod to Rick’s Serbian heritage. They made their first wines from the 1999 vintage, including the inaugural Mountain Zinfandel. Here’s how they tell it:

Rick: “There was an oversupply of fruit on the horizon, so we made 1,000 cases in 1999 to show off the quality of our fruit to other wineries…We didn’t have a tasting room or employees, but if we were there, we’d just open the gate and spend an hour or three with people. We sold out of those 1,000 cases in three months. Soon we were making 5,000 cases, then 8,000 cases—it just got away from us.”

David: “To put this in perspective, I was getting my MBA in 1999, and I did a business plan for the winery, with worst case and best case scenarios. My best case scenario was 5,000 cases, and we passed that within three years. It became much more than we ever expected.”

Rick: “We took classes in enology and viticulture at UC Davis, and also hired top consultants to help us along…We opened our tasting room in May of 2001. It was just 12-foot-long redwood boards perched on barrels.”

Rick: “When we poured at our first Paso Robles Wine Festival, there was a guy there with a t-shirt that said, ‘Will Work for Wine.’ We hired him as our first employee.”

David: “Once we understood that people were going to keep coming, we had to grow our capabilities to handle the traffic. We paved the driveway, poured more patio space and expanded our production and tasting areas. It was an exciting time.”

GROWTH, MOMENTUM & HOSPITALITY | 2004 – 2010

By the end of 2004, Rick and David had been making Opolo wines for five years. They were now entering a period of growth and momentum, and tasting room patrons couldn’t get enough. It was time to take the hospitality operation to the next level—a mission that came naturally to Rick and David.

Rick: “We were lucky enough to come to Paso Robles at a great time. There were only a handful of fine dining establishments, and there was no major hotel at that time. There was a lot of runway. I think the growth of Opolo mirrored the fact that Paso Robles was on the rise and becoming known.”

David: “We started our wine club in 2003, and within a few years it was really successful. Neither Rick nor I was familiar with wine clubs when we started, but we knew that we wanted different levels that enabled people to experience a range of wines, not just Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Rick: ““I would say that hospitality is something I got from my Balkan heritage—being a host comes naturally. We passed this on to our members and customers, and they became extended family, and it just grew from there…We started our annual Harvest Festival Parties. We bring in dancers and musicians and make traditional Balkan cuisine to share our heritage with our guests. Events and traditions like these have helped us create lasting connections.”

David: “The club gave us a platform for making a variety of different wines, to feel our way and to find out what people liked. In the process, we also learned about customer loyalty. People had a great time when they visited and it became a big family. A lot of wineries make good wine—but our objective is to make sure our guests have a good time and have fond memories of being at Opolo.”

Rick: “We’ve always looked at this business as agritourism. We believed in creating a welcoming experience where people can spend hours enjoying themselves. We wanted to offer things that would attract people to Opolo and help them fall in love with great Paso Robles wines, and for us, this included providing food and tours and special events.”

1994
THE VINEYARD IS PLANTED
1997
A PARTNERSHIP IS CREATED
1999
OPOLO IS BORN!
2001
THE TASTING ROOM OPENS
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Want to share your Opolo story and be featured during our 25th anniversary celebration?
Click the link below to submit!
Bruce & Paula Roe
Bruce & Paula Roe
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My wife and I bid on and won a silent auction at Saint Demetrios Greek Church in Camarillo in June of 2019 which included a bottle of Opolo Rhapsody and a winery estate tour with lunch for four. We all know what happened at the end of 2019 so it wasn’t until July 2020 that we were able to enjoy that winery tour and luncheon. It just so happened we were celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary as well as my wife’s brothers birthday. Great timing. Amazing is what it was! We were treated like royalty and sampled amazing wines at every stop along our winery estate tour. Lunch was equally amazing! Suffice to say we left the winery that day with over a case of wine and two new Opolo wine club memberships. PS the following September to celebrate my birthday we hosted my sister and her husband for a tasting. They loved the winery as much we do. So no surprise another case of wine left the building along with another wine club membership added to the Opolo family. We’ve enjoyed hosting family and friends for tastings and always take away great memories. Rick and Dave your wines are amazing your staff is even more amazing both at the winery as well as Jeff and everyone in Westlake village. You all make it fun to be members. Congratulations on 25 years!!
Tim O'Connell
Tim O'Connell
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On my first trip to the Opolo estate in 2012 I fell in love with the staff AND the wine! It's one of those special places where you immediately feel at home...but a VIP at the same time! I signed up to become a member and NEVER looked back! 12 years later I'm still getting my 12 bottles and laughing with the Opolo team! Thank you Opolo for giving me a FABULOUS wine collection....and some amazing times! T.
Rodo & Susan  Sofranac
Rodo & Susan Sofranac
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We heard about Opolo for a while, then finally made our visit from Arizona. On our way, our car broke down in Victorville. Because this was intended to be a celebration of our wedding anniversary, we got a rental vehicle and kept heading west. All the while, we kept hoping this would be worth it. Was it ever! As promised, Rick was there not only to greet us but to make us feel at home. The beverages, food, and especially hospitality brought back memories of the old homeland, Montenegro. Beautiful setting with beautiful people. We've been to annual Harvest Festivals since then, and we're still married. Živeli!
Judie Argo
Judie Argo
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We moved from California to Arizona in 2010. Each year, I would drive back to see family, friends and the ocean. One year, I drove to Cambria to stay. I spent one day wine-tasting in Paso, an area my husband and I had visited many times. I got back to my hotel, too early for dinner, so I took my book down to the bar and ordered a glass of Zinfandel. The server asked if I wanted 14 Hands or local. I chose local. I knew very little about wine but had just read an article describing how to tell a good glass. I took a sip of the wine and, immediately, understood what the article had described. I asked the server who's wine it was and she said "Opolo, they're a winery in Paso Robles". I sat with that glass and my book for 2 hours, enjoying the new experience. I bought a bottle for my husband to try when I got home and he loved it, too. A few years later, we drove to Paso and the only winery we wanted to find was Opolo. We loved it even more and it is alway a stop for us when we come back. In 2022, we stayed at the Inn and love it, too. Now, I am involed with the Verde Valley Wine Consortium in Arizona. I have Opolo to thank for getting me started.
Renee & John Page
Renee & John Page
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We have been club members for many years and it is by far our favorite wine! We were introduced by our parents and now we are passing on the love of Opolo to our adult children. A basic staple in the Page household! We live on the east coast and have only been able to visit the winery twice, however we get to enjoy Opolo on a regular basis, from relaxing on our deck, celebrating anniversaries in a rustic setting to vacation in the mountains.
Ginger Sundin
Ginger Sundin
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We have been coming to Paso Robles since 2006 and always make sure we stop at Opolo. Of course we had to join the club! Love, love, love my Opolo wines!
Halene & Rodney Barnes
Halene & Rodney Barnes
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We visited Opolo Vineyards on one our trips to California, specifically in November 2012. We not only enjoyed the tasting room, but also stayed in one of the suites at "The Inn". We were overwhelmed by the hospitality and the wonderful food; not only in the tasting room and outdoor areas, but also the amazing "chef prepared food" that was left for us in the community kitchen. We must say, that trip to Opolo spoiled us for even Napa Valley! Throughout the years we have regularly ordered wine from Opolo and will continue to do so. Happy Anniversary Opolo! From true devotees in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Bill Peterson
Bill Peterson
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Many years ago, when I was a wine club member at Opolo (I no longer drink alcohol however), I fell in love with the 2008 vintage of Opolo Mountain Zinfandel, and was sad to see it sell out eventually, even at the winery. One day I got a phone call from Opolo explaining to me that they had received a return shipment of a pallet of 2008 Mountain Zinfandel, and would I want to purchase some bottles (how amazingly kind a gesture). I drove up to Paso Robles the next day from Newport Beach in Orange County where I live, and purchased two cases, which took me several years to finish, including the last bottle, which was very dear to me. Thank you Opolo for always knowing the specific "palate" of your loyal customers!
Edward DeMeza
Edward DeMeza
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I have shared the wonderfulness of Opolo wines with friends around the country. When a real estate agent in Tampa did a great job helping my son buy his first house....I sent her Opolo wines...she loved them. When my neighbors let us use their garage for storage while we did a major renovation... we sent them some Opolo Cab...they loved the wine. Opolo never disappoints. Keep making wonderful wine and we will keep drinking and sharing it. Best Ed and Kyle Buckeye Az.
Gary Skillett
Gary Skillett
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I remember stumbling across Opolo when they first opened their doors. I drove down a dirt road to the single building. I walked into what appeared to be a small barrel room and there sat Rick behind a small table held up by two wine barrels. Since it was the end of the day, we sat uninterrupted and talked about wine, the Paso Region and he's dreams which came true. That's when I left with my first case of Opolo wines. Fast forward to today and the wife and I still enjoy Opolo wines and the people that make it happen. I raise my glass to another 25 years of success! Gary and Barbara (Gulley) Skillett
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