The first California wines from the Robert Mondavi-Rosemount joint venture are being released to select markets next month, under the Talomas label. Emphasizing value, they are priced at $15 a bottle.
The two wines, a 2000 Cabernet-Syrah blend (87 points) and a 2000 Cabernet-Merlot blend (85 points), carry the broad California appellation and are made from grapes sourced throughout the state's top growing regions. About 6,000 cases of each wine were made, and production is expected to double with the 2001 vintage.
The name Talomas (pronounced "tah-LOW-mas") means "wildcats" in the language of the Chumash people, Native Americans from California's Santa Barbara--Monterey coast.
The February releases are the first step in the joint venture between two of the world's largest wine companies, Robert Mondavi Corp., based in Napa Valley, and Australia's Southcorp, which owns Rosemount. A 2001 Chardonnay-Viognier blend, at $14 a bottle, will join the Talomas lineup in July. Coming out this fall is the limited-release Talomas Basket Press Reserve Syrah 2000, priced at about $60 and made at Byron Winery in Santa Maria Valley.
The two companies, which together own nearly 20 different brands, are also producing four wines in Australia under the brand name Kirralaa (KEER-a-la), which is an Aboriginal word for "star." Also due in select markets in February (but not yet rated in a Wine Spectator blind tasting) are a 2001 Bushvine Shiraz, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2002 Chardonnay, all priced at $14 to $15. Following in September is a high-end Australian wine, the Kirralaa Indelible Reserve Shiraz 2001, priced at $80.
"It's a dream from a purely winemaking perspective, having all the different vineyards in California and Australia available," said Talomas-Kirralaa general manager Jonathan Pey.
Australian-born Ian Shepard, who is the winemaker for both Talomas and Kirralaa, has been working with Mondavi winemaker Tim Mondavi and Rosemount winemaker Philip Shaw.
"There have been lots of hugs and lots of arguments," said Pey, joking about the give-and-take involved with the winemakers' different approaches to grapegrowing and winemaking. "We're having exactly the kinds of arguments and discussions we're supposed to be having."
At this point, Pey admits they still have much to learn. "It's more of a journey than a destination," he said of the first wines. "We're not exactly sure where we want to go."
Read more about the Mondavi-Rosemout project: