Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for August 18, 2011

August 18, 2011

•Wine Spectator is reporting that Jean Phillips, the founder of Napa cult Cabernet phenomenon Screaming Eagle, is returning to her roots. After a 5-year hiatus from the wine industry, she has purchased the Pillar Rock vineyard in Napa’s Stags Leap District. Phillips told Wine Spectator that she acquired the winery’s 114-acre parcel of land but not the winery or brand. The price of the sale was not disclosed.

•Restaurant chain Shula’s Steak Houses has debuted an interactive iPad wine list through the Hospitality Pads app, claiming it’s the first steak house chain to do so. After being tested and positively received in the chain’s Naples, Florida location this summer, Shula’s will roll out the app in two more Florida locations—Coral Gables and Lake Mary—in September. The app helps customers pick a wine based on criteria such as food pairings, personal taste preferences, regions, and scoring, among others. Hospitality Pads also helps diners keep track of wines by emailing them the name of the wines they liked at the restaurant. Shula’s Steak Houses has 32 restaurants nationwide.

•Diageo’s Smirnoff vodka has partnered with music legend Madonna for its latest Nightlife Exchange Project campaign. Designed to highlight local nightlife in more than 50 countries, the project invites revelers to participate by contributing ideas on what makes their local nightlife distinct in the categories of drinks, dance, fashion, music and others. Smirnoff will then “exchange” these local experiences with those of other countries through a series of worldwide events held on a single night in November. This installment of the campaign will also feature a dance competition, in which finalists will compete in front of Madonna to earn a potential spot on her upcoming tour.

•Japan’s Asahi has agreed to purchase New Zealand RTD producer Independent Liquor for $1.3 billion. Independent Liquor’s brands include Woodstock Bourbon and Vodka Cruiser. It’s the top RTD seller in New Zealand and third-ranked in Australia. Those two markets currently account for 90% of Independent’s sales, but it has made expansion to other markets, including the U.S. and China, a priority in recent years.

•California-based Yard House Restaurants has announced plans to open eight new locations—including its first New York outpost—within the next 12 months. In addition to opening a Westchester County, New York location this October, Yard House will be launching its first-ever Virginia restaurant the following month and an additional California location by December. Next year, Yard House will open five restaurants in Massachusetts, Georgia, Colorado, Oregon and Florida, bringing the chain up to the 40-unit mark by the end of 2012’s third quarter. Each new restaurant will average 10,000 square feet and a guest capacity of 400. Yard House claims to offer the world’s largest selection of draft beer, with approximately 130 beers on tap per restaurant.

•White Plains, New York-based Heineken USA will release Amstel Wheat Bier nationwide—the brand’s first new product launch in 10 years—beginning this month. The beer will be introduced at on-premise venues in seven markets across the U.S.—New York, Boston, Providence, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago and San Francisco—and will only be available in kegs.

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