The Robert Mondavi—Rosemount joint venture has named Australian-born Ian Shepherd as winemaker for its trans-Pacific portfolio of wines, which will debut in 2003. Formerly winemaker at Seven Peaks, a California winery owned by Rosemount's parent company, Shepherd will make two vintages a year, one in California and one in Australia.
The partnership was formed in October 2000, before Rosemount merged with Southcorp and Rosemount's management essentially took over running Australia's biggest wine company. That worked out well for the joint venture, as Rosemount winemaker Philip Shaw ended up overseeing the winemaking team at Southcorp and was able to continue developing plans with winemaker Tim Mondavi on the California side.
Shepherd was a logical choice to assume winemaking responsibilities, having made wine at several Australian wineries, including Southcorp's Seppelt, before coming to the United States to make the wine at Seven Peaks, in the Central Coast.
The first wines, expected to sell for $13 to $15, will be released in February. The Australian line, which will be called Kirralaa (pronounced KEER-a-LA), will use grapes from Victoria and South Australia. There will be four varietal wines -- Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from 2001 and Chardonnay from 2002. The California wines, called Talomas (ta-LO-mas), consist of a 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon—Syrah blend and a 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon—Merlot, both from the Central Coast.
The flagship wines -- an $80 Shiraz from Australia and a $60 Reserve Syrah from California -- are slated for release in fall 2003. At the same time, a 2002 Chardonnay-Viognier blend will be added to the California portfolio, with the grapes also coming from the Central Coast.
The Talomas Syrah Reserve 2000 from California was made from grapes grown at Mondavi's Byron vineyard in Santa Barbara County, plus some grapes from a Southcorp vineyard in Paso Robles that was planted for a project superseded by the new venture. "The west side of Paso Robles interests us greatly," said Shepherd, "and we'll be looking for more sources there."
The limited-production Kirralaa Shiraz 2000 is predominantly from the Great Western and Bendigo areas in Victoria -- which are traditionally sources for Southcorp's Seppelt brand of wines -- with some grapes coming from McLaren Vale, a key source for Rosemount's Balmoral Syrah. "Tim [Mondavi] is very interested in that peppery, spicy style. We want to do something different from the big, rich Australian style," explained Shepherd.
"One of the great things about this partnership is the selection of the vineyards," Shepherd said. "There's so much great stuff to choose from." Southcorp is the single largest vineyard owner in Australia, with holdings in every major region. Mondavi also has extensive vineyards in California.
Tim Mondavi said the idea is to create wine styles that owe something to both California and Australian winemaking. "We don't think in terms of multiregion blends, but the Australians do that very well," Mondavi said. "Victorian Shiraz has more nerve, density and expression, but McLaren Vale has the opulence and the suppleness. The two together create something special."
To justify the prices, wine drinkers will have to be convinced of that when the wines arrive next year.
Read more about the Mondavi-Rosemount venture: