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News Briefs for January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013

•Washington state’s wine and spirits wholesalers are calling out Costco ahead of a hearing today on an amendment to the state’s privatization initiative. Washington’s liquor privatization, which ended the state’s monopoly on spirits, was approved by voters in November 2011 and took effect last June. The state legislature’s House Government and Oversight Committee will examine a Costco-backed proposal that would eliminate a 17% tax invoked when retailers (which, under privatization, may sell to bars and restaurants in Washington) sell to on-premise outlets, a tax not currently levied on wholesalers. The proposal would also remove the current 24-liter a day limit for on-premise operators’ spirits purchases from retailers. Besides Costco, Washington’s Restaurant Association is also in favor of the changes, while the Association of Washington Spirits & Wine Distributors and the Teamsters are opposed.

•White Plains, New York-based MW Imports, a division of Mionetto USA, has added Germany’s Schloss Johannisberg to its portfolio. Schloss Johannisberg’s wines include Gelblack Riesling ($35), Rotlack Riesling ($40), Grunlack Riesling ($60) and Silberlack Riesling ($80). MW will import a combined total of 1,000 six-bottle cases in 2013. The estate was previously handled in the U.S. by a number of small importers and distributors. Schloss Johannisberg is the first non-sparkling German wine in MW’s lineup, which also includes Cantina di Soave, Pertinace, Castello di Monsanto, Esperto, Henkell, Livio Felluga and Tenuta Capezzana.

•San Francisco-based wine investment firm Bacchus Capital Management has provided “significant growth capital” to fellow San Francisco company Maritime Wine Trading Collective, a boutique importer, producer and distributor. Maritime, founded in 2009 by Chris Nickolopoulos and Elijah Pfister, counts among its brands Graham Beck Wines of South Africa and Jules Taylor Wines of New Zealand. Concurrent with the Bacchus investment, Maritime has added Nine North—a Stag’s Leap District-based collection of Napa and North Coast red wines—to its stable. Established in 2007 by ex-Seagram executive Sam Bronfman and investment bankers Peter S. Kaufman and Henry F. Owsley, Bacchus focuses on providing strategic capital and making equity investments in U.S.-based wineries and wine businesses.

•Newcomer Pavan Liqueur has launched its eponymous French brand in the U.S. Named after a European dance from the 16th century, Pavan is made with AOC-certified Petite Muscat grapes, which are aged in oak casks and blended with Muscat eau-de-vie and orange blossom water. The 18%-abv offering, which made its U.S. debut in Miami last month, is slated to roll out in New York and California in February. Priced at $30 a 750-ml., it’s positioned as a super-premium cocktail option, as well as an alternative to white wine or rosé. Pavan is produced by Jules Bremant—a division of Suntory’s Louis Royer Cognac group—and is currently being self-imported into the U.S.

•MGM Resorts International is renovating its Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, a complex which includes three hotels—Mandalay Bay, The Hotel and the Four Seasons. Among the key changes, MGM will rebrand The Hotel as the Delano Las Vegas, in partnership with Morgans Hotel Group. The new Delano Las Vegas is slated to open in 2014. In addition, MGM has partnered with the Light Group to open a number of new restaurant concepts and revamp existing eateries in the complex.


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