It was a love of wine and winemaking and a mutual vision that life is wine country that was the entrée between Opolo owners Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols. Their two families have lived side-by-side in Camarillo, CA since 1996. As Nichols remembers, “I knew Rick to say hello to, but that was about it. Then one day, he said to me, ‘Hey Dave, I just planted 10,000 grapevines!’ “ The rockets went off -- and so began the odyssey of Opolo, one of Paso Robles’ most outstanding wineries.
Their estate vineyards are in the Adelaida hills west of Paso Robles. The vineyards have been producing fruit since 1998.
The Dudes of Mourvèdre
“We both love to make wine, and have made our own ‘backyard’ wine for some time,” said Nichols. For Quinn, that “some time” dates back to his childhood in Minnesota. “I grew up in Duluth, in an Italian, Serbian, and Croatian neighborhood.” Quinn recalled. “Our families would make wine from grapes we’d ordered from California that would be delivered in a boxcar. We didn’t have any of this ‘pick in the early morning and crush a couple of hours later.’ By the time we got the grapes they were already fermenting!”
Indeed, the name Opolo is a nod to Quinn’s Yugoslavian heritage, and is actually the name of a blended rose-style wine found on the Dalmatian Coast. However, Quinn and Nichols have no plans to actually produce that wine, so we’ll have to be content to just enjoy the name on the label.
Quinn moved to California in 1979, and continued to pursue his love of wine and winemaking. He began to source grapes from quality growers, such as Fratelli Perata in Paso Robles. “I got wonderful fruit from them, but in 1995 they said they just didn’t have any Merlot to spare, so I went out and bought some Westside vineyard property sight unseen, to assure I’d always have a source of grapes.”
Though the impetus for buying that first parcel of vineyard was having grapes for his own winemaking, Quinn has always sold the vast majority of his crop to other labels. Quinn’s and Nichols’ vineyards sell fruit to quality labels such as Hess Collection, St Supery, Harrison Vineyards, Wild Horse, Castoro Cellars, and Fetzer.
Most of the fruit from Quinn’s and Nichols’ vineyards will continue to be sold to those other labels, but the pairs’ estate vineyards will be a major source of fruit for the Opolo label. This is a situation that both Nichols and Quinn relish. “It really helps us as vineyard owners to get direct feedback about the wines we’re producing from our vineyards,” explained Nichols. “We want to make great wines, and the more information we can get, the more we can control the viticultural process and find out what we’re doing right.” Quinn agreed, saying “we obviously want to optimize our farming methods to produce excellent fruit, and because we have total control of the vineyards, we can apply the methods we believe will produce the absolute best quality fruit and, therefore, the best possible wine.”
1999 marked the first commercial crush under the Opolo label, when Quinn and Nichols produced Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Muscat Canelli. Quinn and Nichols have essentially taken over the viticulture and winemaking duties.