2023 Harvest at Opolo Vineyards

Off the Charts: Harvest 2023 Update

The excitement is sky-high with the Opolo winemaking team as the 2023 vintage begins to take shape in the cellar.

A perfectly timed warming trend over the past three weeks is exactly what the fruit needed, prompting Winemaker Chris Rougeot to remark that “this might be the best vintage I’ve seen in my 23 years of making wine.”

Winemaker James Schreiner agrees: “The quality is off the charts, the flavors are amazing, there’s a lot to be excited about.”

The harvest season began on a slow note after a mild spring and summer in Paso Robles. At one point, James notes, “We were worried that our westside Cabernet Sauvignon might never get fully ripe, and that it might not get picked.”

That’s when Mother Nature delivered, blessing us with a steady dose of October sunshine. Temperatures have been ranging from the mid 70s to mid 90s, with considerable time spent in the sweet spot of the 80s.

The results are already showing in the young wines. The color saturation of the reds—a key marker of quality—is extremely high. Acidities and phenolics are just right, and the fruit flavors are defined and abundant.

In short, you can expect remarkable wines from Opolo’s 2023 vintage.

Sights & Smells

There’s nothing like walking through the Opolo cellar during the harvest season. The aromas hit you first—the enchanting, yeasty pungency of fermenting wines. Everyone is in motion, bouncing from one urgent task to another. The hours are long, but spirits are high.

You also never know what you might stumble upon. One thing that stands out this year is a collection of eight upright 300-liter new French oak barrels that have been filled with Grenache from our To The Moon Vineyard, which is adjacent to our original estate in the Willow Creek District.

To employ this unique fermentation method, Cellar Master Ernesto Bustamante Jr. carefully pops the heads off the barrels after they arrive at the winery—a skill in which he was personally trained. The barrels are then filled with the whole berries, with some whole clusters (about 10% of the total fruit) layered in at the bottom.

Grapes freshly harvested from Opolo Vineyards

This open-top barrel fermentation is labor and cost intensive, but it creates a unique payoff in the resulting wine: enhanced dimension, complexity and color intensity, with a beautiful oak-accentuated structure. Additionally, the whole-cluster portion imparts hints of savory spice.

After fermentation, the new wine will be racked, pressed and returned back to these same barrels for aging, but only after Ernesto carefully re-installs the heads.

You can expect this special lot of Grenache to become its own dedicated Opolo Reserve bottling, or to help drive the 2024 vintage of our new GSM blend.