Sympathizing With Mondavi

It’s hard not to sympathize with Michael Mondavi.

Imagine having helped build one of the truly great wineries and brands in the world. That’s a pretty cool accomplishment to have on your resume. Now, imagine the brand also carries your last name. Even cooler. But imagine further being that person, making wine, but not being able to use your own name on your new brand.

This is apparently the situation that Michael Mondavi, son of Robert, finds himself in.

Michael, who recently purchased Carneros Creek Winery in Carneros apparently has plans for his own brand. This new turn in his career comes two years after leaving Constellation Brands, the wine behemoth that purchased Mondavi. The problem is that Constellation owns the the use of the name "Mondavi", while Michael’s uncle owns the use of the name "CK MONDAVI" (that’s a long story)

Others in the wine industry have found themselves in a similar situation. While annoying it must be to have your name owned by others, there’s no reason that one can’t move on to do fine things in the wine business. Cecil De Loach and family, formerly of De Loach Vineyards, are doing just fine in their new venture that makes no reference to the famed wine family’s last name.

If I was to bet on it, I’d put my money on Michael Mondavi doing just fine with his new winery. Maybe he should call the new winery:


9 Responses

  1. johng - August 22, 2006

    My client Bob Pepi Jr. can’t make wine under that name so he calls it Eponymous – which is pretty effing funny if you ask me.
    Check it out:

  2. kiddsam - August 22, 2006

    It would be smart for Constilation to let Michael use his sir name on the wines. It would give more stature to the current wines they are producing (in mass quantities)and put the family name back in front of the buying public. I look at it as a win/win to allow Michael to use his name.

  3. WhistlingWench - August 23, 2006

    I was reading about this just a few minutes ago, and my initial reaction was, “so what? Isn’t wine about something more than a name?” While I sympathize that being able to use your own sirname should be one of those god-given rights, if you can’t, you can’t. Make your wine, make it good, and sell it….it’s what thousands of other wine makers do who DON’T have the fortune to be named Mondavi. It’s as if he were expecting his name to sell the wine rather than its quality. Plenty of others in the industry have left family businesses to start their own and felt no need to bring with them the legacy of a name. Less whining, more wine.

  4. George Wallace - August 23, 2006

    Ironically, one of the other notable wine figures barred from use of his own name is on the opposite end of the Respect Spectrum from the Mondavis: Fred Franzia, who is now well-known for the Charles Shaw “Two-Buck Chuck” wines, can’t put his name on a bottle and has nothing to do with producing the box-wine Franzia brand (which comes from The Wine Group, which recently purchased the “Big House” and “Cardinal Zin” labels from Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon winery.)
    Your suggestion to Michael Mondavi is a good one. He can be “TAFKAMM: The Artist Formerly Known as Michael Mondavi.”
    P.S., What would be so wrong about maintaining the established and honorable Carneros Creek brand?

  5. Fredric Koeppel - August 23, 2006

    William Hill sold his winery and name some years ago. And Alexis Lichine (this goes way back) sold his negociant company in Bordeaux to Bass Carrington and could no longer do business under his name.

  6. St.Vini - August 23, 2006

    Constellation paid over $1 Billion for the Robert Mondavi Winery (inc.). Why would they give up rights to this very valuable intellectual property? They would have no way to keep Michael (real first name Robert!) from either competing with them at the high end, or making lower end wine as the Peter Mondavi family does! It would be like Microsoft allowing a competitor to call itself Microsopht….
    And he didn’t buy the Carneros Creek label because that had previously been sold to Maurice Kanbar (creator of Skyy Vodka) a few years ago.
    Bottom line, they sold the name and already profited from it. Lose the ego and come up with something clever.

  7. jeff - August 23, 2006

    one word: anagram!
    Dim Nova?
    Mad Vino?!?!

  8. fred - August 27, 2006

    Mondavino, natch.

  9. wendy hewitt - December 28, 2007

    Hi! Great site! 🙂 I saw R. Mondavi on CNN a few months ago… very impressed. Question: Is there a book/guide out there that exemplifies his stance on understanding wines? I thought that HE had published something, but I’ll be darned if I can find it! Many thanks! Happy New Year! – wendy

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