The Opolo Story
They say good fences make good neighbors, but it was a love of wine and winemaking that was the entrée between Opolo owners Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols.
Their two families have lived side-by-side in Camarillo 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!’ “ And so began the evolution of Opolo, one of Paso Robles’ newest labels. Quinn and Nichols have been neighbors in two counties since 1997 when Nichols bought vineyard property adjoining Quinn’s. Together they now own about 280 acres of vineyards in Paso Robles, about 200 acres on the Eastside and 80 on the Westside. The Westside vineyards are in the Adelaide Hills, producing wines such as Pinot Noir and Sangiovese, while the Eastside properties produce varietals such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The majority of vineyards have been producing fruit since 1998, and a small percentage of it has been finding its way into wine made by Quinn and Nichols ever since.
“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!”
Quinn moved to California in 1979, and continued to pursue his love of wine and winemaking as a hobby. He began to source grapes from Fratelli Perata in Paso Robles. “I got wonderful fruit from them, but in 1994 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 for my home winemaking.”
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 sold fruit to quality labels such as Hess Collection, Neibaum Coppola, 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 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, not an easy task considering they both still have their “day jobs.” Quinn used to own one of the largest Century 21 brokerages in the country and Nichols runs his own wireless electronics firm. Neither has been able to convince their families to move up to Paso Robles full-time, but they’re working on it!
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