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News Briefs for February 7, 2013

February 7, 2013

•Portuguese wines (excluding Port) were up 15% by value in the U.S. market for the first 10 months of 2012, to $29.55 million, according to trade group ViniPortugal. By volume, sales rose 8%, from 8.36 million liters in the first 10 months of 2011 to 8.99 million liters for the same period last year. The growth follows the March 2012 launch of ViniPortugal’s $3 million ad campaign to promote the wines of Portugal in the U.S., a market ViniPortugal president Jorge Monteiro calls a “main priority.” The U.S. is currently the sixth-largest export market for Portuguese wines.

•Rollin Soles is stepping aside as general manager and winemaker at Oregon’s Argyle winery to devote more time to Roco, the winery he started 10 years ago with his wife, Corby Stonebraker-Soles, according to Wine Spectator. Nate Klostermann, Soles’ assistant for the past seven years, will take over as winemaker on March 1. Soles, 57, will stay on as a consultant to Argyle, which is owned by Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners (formerly Lion Nathan USA). He will continue to be “the guy who signs off on the blends,” as he put it, and coordinate viticulture with vineyard manager Alan Holstein. Texas-born Soles cofounded Argyle in 1987 with Australian wine icon Brian Croser. Argyle is the only winery to have reached the Wine Spectator Top 100 for white, red and sparkling wines. Its Extended Tirage Brut has been the top-scoring U.S. sparkling wine for six years running, earning spots on the Top 100 in four of those years. Its Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Nuthouse 2003 and its Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2002 were most recently in the Top 100 in 2006 and 2005, respectively.

•Hahn Family Wines has promoted Tony Baldini from the post of general manager to president. He replaces Bill Leigon, who is leaving the company after more than 10 years in the position to pursue new opportunities in the wine industry. Baldini was hired as Hahn’s general manager in 2011, overseeing operations at Hahn Estate in the Santa Lucia Highlands and sister winery Cycles Gladiator in Lodi. Prior to joining Hahn Family Wines, he managed luxury brands for Constellation Wines. Baldini also managed the portfolio at Don Sebastiani & Sons and served as director of marketing for Artisans & Estates.

•San Francisco-based Bacchus Capital Management has boosted its investment in Oregon wine brand Wine by Joe. The move follows Bacchus Capital’s initial September 2011 investment in the label, which is part of the Joe Dobbes Wines portfolio and generally is priced at between $13-$19 a 750-ml. With this second capital infusion, Wine by Joe plans to further expand its national and international distribution footprint, as well as continue building its inventory and infrastructure. Concurrently, Wine by Joe has appointed Anthony Van Nice, who most recently served as president of Dundee, Oregon-based The Four Graces Winery, as chief operating officer.

Domaine Select Wine Estates (DSWE) has added its first Hungarian wine brands—Tokaji Hetszolo and Istvan Szepsy—to its import portfolio. Starting this month, DSWE will serve as the exclusive importer and national distributor for the pair, both of which are produced in Hungary’s Tokaj region. Founded in 1987, Istvan Szepsy is known for its dry wines made with the Furmint grape varietal, while Tokaji Hetszolo—which is part of France’s Michel Reybier group—is recognized for its classic dessert wine made from botrytized grapes. DSWE’s newly-established Hungarian duo joins the importer’s existing portfolio of wines and spirits from 18 countries.

•Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. has agreed to acquire the 210-unit Romano’s Macaroni Grill chain from Golden Gate Capital for around $55 million in cash. The deal is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of 2013. Underperforming Macaroni Grill venues may be converted into locations for Ignite’s 129-unit Joe’s Crab Shack and 15-unit Brick House Tavern + Tap casual dining brands. Macaroni Grill’s revenues in 2012 were roughly $385 million and Ignite’s acquisition of the chain is expected to bring the company’s total revenues to nearly $1 billion.

 

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