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News Briefs for December 20, 2013

December 20, 2013

•Napa Valley-based Duckhorn Wine Company has acquired a 20-acre vineyard site in Washington state’s Red Mountain AVA. Duckhorn will use the unplanted site—located just above Col Solare, the partnership between Marchesi Antinori and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates—as a source of estate fruit for a new Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon brand, Canvasback, which will be released nationally next fall at around $40 a bottle. Canvasback will join an existing Duckhorn portfolio that includes Duckhorn Vineyards, Goldeneye, Paraduxx, Decoy and Migration. Decoy, an Impact “Hot Prospect,” surged 42% to 176,000 cases in 2012.

•Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has issued U.S. Private Placement (USPP) notes for the equivalent of $250 million in a transaction completed December 16. TWE CFO Tony Reeves said the move will be used to refinance existing U.S. dollar bank debt that matures in 2014 and is part of TWE’s capital management program. “This is the first time in many years that an international wine company has accessed the USPP market and the offer was oversubscribed by more than three times, demonstrating the strong appetite for TWE’s credit and ongoing support for TWE’s balance sheet from debt capital investors,” Reeves said.

•Custom crush and winemaking company Rack & Riddle has signed a lease agreement to operate Alexander Valley’s Murphy Family Winery. Starting January 1, Rack & Riddle will take over operations at the Geyserville-based facility, with Murphy Family owners Jim and T.J. Murphy remaining on location as consultants. Along with the 50,000-square-foot Murphy Family facility, Rack & Riddle recently signed a new lease in October for a 67,000-square-foot winery in Healdsburg, bringing its total capacity in Sonoma County to around 117,000 square feet. Rack & Riddle, which also operates a 120,000-square-foot facility in Hopland, California, currently produces more than 1 million cases of still and sparkling wine on behalf of over 100 clients annually.

•Darden Restaurants Inc. announced plans to separate Red Lobster from its other brands—which include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House—via a tax-free spinoff, but added that a sale was also possible. Kim Lopdrup, who currently serves as president of Darden’s specialty restaurant group and new business, is slated to step in as Red Lobster’s CEO following the separation. Red Lobster, which posted sales down 5% to $561 million in its most recent quarter, currently accounts for roughly 30% of Darden’s total sales and operates 703 locations across the U.S. and Canada.

•Supermarket chain Fresh & Easy, newly acquired by Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos., has expanded its hours so that stores will be open from 6am to midnight seven days a week, compared with the previous policy in which most stores opened at 7am or 8am and closed at 10pm. Most stores in Nevada, meanwhile, will now be open 24 hours. Yucaipa acquired 167 Fresh & Easy stores last month. The Orange County Register reports that the chain will not be rebranded, as had been speculated.

•Southern Wine & Spirits has announced the retirement of Steve Power, executive vice president, general manager of Southern’s Florida division, after 37 years at the company—effective December 31, 2013. During his time at Southern, the nation’s largest wine and spirits distributor, Powers helped grow the Florida division into the state’s dominant wine and spirits wholesaler with projected 2013 revenues of $2.1 billion, according to Impact Newsletter. Southern will announce Florida’s future management structure at a later date.

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