Richards, Deutsch Make Finals in Vintner’s Review

Wine maker Robert Mondavi has named The Richards Group one of two finalists for its estimated $10-15 million Woodbridge account, sources said.

The Dallas agency advanced along with Deutsch/LA of Marina del Rey, Calif., in the battle for the Oakville, Calif., vintner’s top-selling brand. Both shops have been asked to rework their presentations, a source close to the review said. A decision is expected by the end of the week.

GSD&M of Austin, Texas, and Venables Bell & Partners, a relatively new San Francisco independent, did not advance. Incumbent Dailey & Associates also failed to reach the finals. The West Hollywood, Calif., agency has handled the client’s creative and media account for the past four years.

Richard Roth Associates of New York is conducting the review.

The winning shop will work closely with chairman of the board R. Michael Mondavi, who has assumed a more direct role in shaping the creative, said a source. The Mondavi family controls more than 80 percent of the publicly traded company’s shares.

“I think they are looking more for work they can get on the air quickly, it seems, instead of looking more at long-term strategic thinking,” the source said.

Representatives for the two finalists refused to comment. The client could not be reached.

Woodbridge, a midpriced line of wines that includes both reds and whites, accounts for about half of the Napa Valley company’s sales. All but about $1 million of Mondavi’s $12 million-plus 2001 ad budget went toward promoting the Woodbridge line, according to CMR.

Robert Mondavi’s other labels, including Coastal, Arrowood, Lucente, Opus One, Seña and Vichon, are not up for review.

Mondavi experienced better than an 18 percent growth in sales in a competitive California wine market in 2001, according to Hoovers Online. Sales for Mondavi wines topped $500 million.

Competitor Beringer Blass Wine Estates also made dramatic strides, experiencing an 87 percent growth in sales to $820 million last year.

E&J Gallo Winery’s brands account for about one-quarter of all U.S. sales.

Neither Richards nor Deutsch/LA has client conflicts.