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News Briefs for January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013

•The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is introducing two new store formats, with openings planned over the next 12 to 18 months. The first new concept, LCBO Express Stores, will be located in large grocery stores across the Canadian province. The second, LCBO VQA Destination Boutiques, is intended to promote local Ontario wines and will be located inside selected LCBO stores. The Boutiques will feature an expanded selection of Ontario’s VQA wines, including hard-to-find labels from smaller producers. The new concepts come as the LCBO embarks on a significant expansion project, including the addition of 70 new locations (on top of its existing 620 stores) over the next two years.

Chivas Brothers is partnering with Italian design company Pininfarina to release a series of exclusive limited editions of its Chivas Regal 18-year-old Scotch to global markets. The Chivas 18 by Pininfarina series is available globally beginning this month, including rollouts in the U.S., U.K., Russia, China and travel retail. The first design in the series is based on “a streamlined drop,” with a metallic blue case and a wood veneer meant to represent the oak casks in which Chivas 18 is aged. It will be priced at £90 ($147). A second design builds on the first with a solid wood inlay and more “aerodynamic” shape. It includes the bottle and two glasses, and will be priced at £360 ($587).

Jackson Family Wines has purchased 877 acres of land from the Seghesio family in Mendocino County’s new Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA. Financial details of the deal, which closed in late December, weren’t disclosed. No vineyards are planted on the property yet, but there are approximately 280 acres that eventually can be planted to grapes. The deal is the latest in a flurry of vineyard-acquisition activity for the Jackson family, which added Sonoma’s Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard in November, Ramal West Vineyard in June and Hickinbotham Vineyard in Australia’s McLaren Vale early last year.

•The Kansas Chamber of Commerce is backing an upcoming push to loosen the state’s retail restrictions on alcohol. According to local media reports, the chamber is joining a new coalition focused on overhauling alcohol sales laws and permitting grocery and convenience outlets to sell wine, spirits and full-strength beer. However, previous pushes to rewrite the state’s alcohol laws—which have been led by big-box chains such as Walmart, Hy-Vee and QuikTrip—have failed. Current Kansas law allows only liquor stores to sell wine, spirits and full-strength beer, while grocery and convenience stores are permitted to sell beer that is less than 3.2% alcohol by weight.

•Ireland’s C&C Group has completed its $305 million acquisition of Middlebury, Vermont-based cider producer Vermont Hard Cider Co. According to a statement from C&C CEO Stephen Glancey, the company is well-positioned to tap the rapidly growing U.S. cider category, which grew by 23% to 5.7 million (2.25-gallon) cases in 2011. First announced in late October, the deal comprises the purchase of Vermont Hard Cider’s Woodchuck label—the U.S. market’s top-selling cider brand—and its Wyder’s and Woodpecker brands. Altogether, the trio account for approximately 40% of category sales, making C&C the dominant player in the U.S. cider market.

•The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI), a monthly review that tracks the U.S. restaurant industry’s current health and future outlook, rose slightly in November to 99.9, up 0.5% from October. This marks the second consecutive month that the RPI was below 100, indicating a period of contraction across the restaurant industry. The majority of restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the 18th consecutive month in November, as well as net gains in customer traffic levels. However, the majority of restaurant operators reported uncertain outlooks on their sales and business conditions over the next six months, and most operators remain pessimistic about the future of the country’s overall economy.

•Portland, Oregon-based chef and restaurateur Andy Ricker is planning to open an outpost of his Portland bar Whiskey Soda Lounge in a space a few doors down from his Thai restaurant Pok Pok Ny in Brooklyn. The lounge will serve as a place for customers waiting to be seated at Pok Pok Ny to have pre-dinner drinks and Thai-style bar snacks. An opening date for the Brooklyn Whiskey Soda Lounge hasn’t yet been announced.


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