A tale of two Opus Ones
Written by James Laube for Wine Spectator
Residents of Brogue, Pa., have been drinking "Opus 1" for close to a year now. It costs $5.95 a bottle and can be purchased by the case at the local grocery store.
The wine is produced by John and Tim Crouch, owners of Allegro Vineyards in Brogue, a small rural community 50 miles north of Baltimore.
Your can imagine their surprise then when they read about another winery in California that planned to use the name "Opus One" as their wine brand.
In November, the Crouch brothers learned that Robert Mondavi, chairman of Robert Mondavi Winery, and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild, partners in a Napa Valley winery, planned to call their joint venture "Opus One" too.
"We came up with the name Opus 1 about a year ago, but it has taken about six months to a year to get it approved by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms)," said John, 36, the winemaker. "At first I wondered if the ATF would approve both labels. Now I imagine we may have to drop ours."
It is a very popular wine this time of year, said John. Made from peaches and seyval blanc grapes, Opus 1 goes great with desserts, he said. His brother Tim, 42, is the "money man" behind Allegro Vineyards, which produces several thousand cases of "award winning" wine each year.
The revelation that another Opus One existed as a wine brand sent a mild shock wave through the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, Calif.
"Isn't that funny," said Harvey Posert, public relations director for the Mondavi winery, when informed of the coincidence.
Mondavi and Rothschild have spent more than two years and a considerable sum of money to ensure the uniqueness of their label.
Clifford Adams, general counsel for the Mondavi-Rothschild winery, said they had secured the registered trademark for Opus One through the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office in January of this year.
Allegro Vineyards' Opus 1 was approved as a label by the ATF in February, according to John Crouch.
However, they never bothered to get a patent on the label.
"Now it looks like we may have to give it up," he sighed. "I just hope to be able to sell the wine at Christmas. We'd hate to lose the Christmas sales. It's very popular here during the holidays."
Crouch said Opus 1 is a wine that "simulates botrytisized riesling."
"The peaches give it a peachy nose, and the seyval gives the wine a vinous quality."
Adams said he believed the Mondavi-Rothschild winery could block Allegro Vineyards from using their Opus 1 label.
But he doubted it would come to that.
"What I understand is they sell a few hundred cases strictly in Pennsylvania," Adams said, "so I don't think there's going to be a problem.
"We have the right, I think, to have them cease and desist, but I think we can work things out."
Adams, who was involved in the Mondavi-Rothschild selection of Opus One, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, admitted it was a strange coincidence the two distant wineries had chosen the same name.
He added he would not mind owning a bottle of Opus 1, which at $5.95 is considerable less expensive than Opus One, which may retail for about $50 a bottle.
"I've gone back trying to figure out how this could have evolved," said Adams. "You know we looked at several hundred names before deciding on this one. It is interesting they came up with essentially the same name."