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News Briefs for December 18, 2014

December 18, 2014

•Cigar Aficionado is poised to unveil its Cigar of the Year for 2014—a culmination of test smoking more than 700 cigars throughout the year. The No.-1 cigar will be revealed at 10 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. Cigars Nos. 10 through 2 are already live. Visit www.cigaraficionado.com.

•Terlato Wines has partnered with Italy’s Cecchetto family, owners of the Ca di Rajo winery, to import Epsilon, a new sparkling rosé, to the U.S. market. Simone Cecchetto created the label—which is intended to appeal to Millennial consumers—from the family’s vineyards and winery near Treviso, Italy. Epsilon is made from Raboso, Pinot Noir and Glera grapes for notes of strawberry and green apples and is packaged in a metallic bottle ($30), the company says. It will launch in select U.S. markets in early 2015. Terlato Wines has a portfolio of more than 70 brands such as Italy’s Il Poggione, Mazzoni (Toscana), Nino Franco and Santa Margherita, among others.

Diageo North America president Larry Schwartz is projecting flat first-half sales on the same period last year following a slow holiday start, reports Bloomberg. In a recent call with investors, Schwartz blamed a softer-than-expected Thanksgiving performance, as well as increased pricing pressure. Meanwhile, with the U.S. vodka category facing significant competition from whisk(e)y and other brown spirit segments, Diageo NA has opted to reduce pricing on its Smirnoff vodka brand, which was down 0.2% to 9.7 million cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank. Diageo is set to report its first-half results (ending December 31) on January 29.

•Hakkasan Group has acquired a 90% stake in The Light Group (TLG), the Las Vegas-based hospitality company, from Morgans Hotel Group in a deal priced at $36 million. TLG operates 22 food and beverage properties, mostly in Las Vegas, with venues inside The Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Aria, The Mirage and Monte Carlo. It also has venues in Miami’s Delano Hotel, as well as Los Angeles and Dubai. Hakkasan Group’s portfolio includes the flagship Hakkasan Restaurant, with 12 locations worldwide, as well as Yauatcha, HKK, Sake no Hana, Herringbone, Searsucker and Social House. The group’s nightclub/dayclub brands include Hakkasan Nightclub, Wet Republic and Omnia Nightclub (opening in Las Vegas and in San Diego, respectively, next spring). As part of the deal, Morgans Hotel Group will assume control of TLG food and beverage offerings in the Delano in Miami, and will retain its leasehold interests in the three Mandalay Bay restaurants that will continue to be managed by TLG. Morgans also has an option to acquire a minority interest in TLG for up to 18 months after the closing.

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