Thursday, August 24, 2006
Is Michael Mondavi the Next Walter Taylor?
R. Michael Mondavi has one of the most famous last names in American wine making. He just is not very likely to be able to use it on a wine bottle.
Two years he left the family business in a dispute he purchased the Carneros Creek Winery of Francis and Kathleen Mahoney in California's Napa Valley. Mondavi would love to put his name on the premium cabernet sauvignon he plans to produce.
There’s one little problem: Constellation Brands, the world's largest wine company, acquired the name when it bought Robert Mondavi Corp. of Oakville, Calif., for $1 billion in 2004. When you pay $1,000,000,000.00 for something you tend to think you actually own it. In a statement Constellation said the “Mondavi trademark is a valued and important asset, and we will protect that asset from anything which could result in marketplace confusion to the consumer.” That’s lawyer talk for “we’ll kick your ass in court.”
``At some point I would like to get the name on the wine,'' Michael Mondavi was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times.
Mondavi is more likely to find himself as this generation’s Walter S. Taylor, the late Finger Lakes winemaker, who launched the Bully Hill Vineyards label and signed bottles as Walter S. XXXX when the courts told him he could not use his name on a wine lable. Coca-Cola had purchased his family’s Taylor Wine Co. and the Atlanta corporate giant felt like it owned the name when it came to a wine brand.
Taylor was an eccentric rebel that I was lucky enough to meet early on in my drinks writing career. My wife, Sandy, and I visited his vineyard and had some wine with him after touring his home, which was filled with nude paintings of at least two of his former wives. Taylor was paralyzed in 1990 in an automobile accident in Florida where he would often go to paint everything from fishing boats to the space shuttle. He passed away earlier this year. Bottles of Bully Hill, which often featured Taylor’s paintings of goats, carried the tagline: “They got my name, but they didn’t get my goat.”