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

News Briefs for May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

•Seattle-based Precept Wine Group has purchased Idaho winery Ste. Chapelle from Ascentia Wine Estates for an undisclosed sum. Known for its Riesling, Soft Red, Soft White and Huckleberry wines sourced from the Snake River Valley AVA and selling for around $10 a bottle, Ste. Chapelle is Idaho’s largest winery, producing 130,000 cases annually. It joins fellow Idaho winery Sawtooth Estate in the Precept Wine portfolio, which also includes Washington state labels Waterbrook, Canoe Ridge, Sagelands, House Wine, Willow Crest and Apex Cellars; Oregon’s Primarius; and Shingleback and Red Knot from the McLaren Vale in Australia. The move marks yet another divestment for Ascentia, which recently offloaded California wineries Buena Vista Carneros (to Boisset Family Estates) and Gary Farrell (to Vincraft). Ascentia, whose core brand remains Geyser Peak, is also rumored to be shopping its Columbia and Covey Run wineries in Washington, with E&J Gallo among the potential buyers.

Gruppo Campari reported a 4.6% increase in pre-tax profit for its first quarter (ended March 31), to €52.8 million ($67m). Net sales for the three-month period were up 4%, to €279.3 million ($357m). The U.S.—which accounted for approximately 20% of Campari’s total sales—showed organic growth of 5.4%, propelled by the Wild Turkey Bourbon range (+9.6%) and its American Honey offshoot, as well as the Skyy vodka franchise (+4.5%). Other key brand performers in the U.S. included Carolans (+29%), Espolon (+44.9%) and Campari (+24.7%), whose gains helped offset losses from Frangelico (-13.7%) and Cabo Wabo (-5.5%). Europe posted a 1.4% sales increase for Gruppo Campari during the period, while the Americas grew 1.7% overall, despite a sharp sales decline in the key market of Brazil.

•Online wine retailer Wine.com has added new personalization and recommendation features to its e-commerce site. The new components are designed to offer customized recommendations based on shoppers’ recent purchases, product searches and purchases made by customers with similar tastes. Customers also can now personalize their own profile pages and use a “one-click” process to make checkout faster and easier. The innovations join Wine.com’s recently launched Tasting Room—an educational resource featuring Novice, Enthusiast and Collector levels—which offers information and recommendations.

•Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy signed legislation to legalize Sunday sales of alcohol late yesterday afternoon. The law becomes effective immediately, meaning that Sunday sales will begin May 20. Sunday hours for package stores and grocery stores will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and package stores will now be allowed to sell fresh fruits used in cocktails, as well as olives, cheeses and crackers. The bill maintains minimum pricing laws, but does raise the permitted number of licenses per retailer from two to three. A bipartisan task force will now study the issues of minimum pricing, volume discounts and taxation, and prepare a report to be submitted to the legislature in January.

•Galesburg, Michigan-based Bell’s Brewery Inc. has unveiled a $20-million expansion to its production facility. Bell’s new brewhouse has the potential to create 800,000 barrels of beer annually. Bell’s says it will produce around 230,000 barrels this year. The project is part of a $52-million expansion announced in 2010, when Bell’s celebrated its 25th anniversary. The group has already invested $3 million in renovations for its Bell’s Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo, among other projects. Bell’s currently makes over 20 beers for distribution as well as a few small-batch beers served only at the café.

•Chicago-based 5 Rabbit Brewing will be opening its own brewery in the Chicago suburb of Bedford Park later this year. Since launching last spring, 5 Rabbit Brewing’s Latin-influenced beers have been contract brewed by six different breweries. With the purchase of this new 25,000-square-foot facility, 5 Rabbit will control its production. The brewery is slated to be up and running by August, with its taproom opening in late 2012 or early 2013. Eventual capacity will be 35,000 barrels annually. The brewery will produce 5 Rabbit’s core labels—5 Rabbit Golden Ale, 5 Lizard Passion Fruit Wit Ale and 5 Vulture Dark Ale—as well as quarterly seasonal offerings and a new creation called 5 Grass Hoppy Ale. 5 Rabbit Brewing’s craft beer portfolio is currently available on- and off-premise throughout Illinois, and the company recently expanded into Ohio.

•New York City-based Italian family-style restaurant Carmine’s is opening its first West Coast outpost in Las Vegas at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. The two-storied venue is 25,000 square feet and formerly housed Planet Hollywood Restaurant, which has moved to a different space in the Forum Shops. In addition to two New York City locations, Carmine’s also has outposts in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Nassau, Bahamas.

 

 

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