New Products & Promotions: April 2014

Posted on | March 31, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Diageo has launched a line of rare whiskies, Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company, with the goal of sharing lost barrels with discerning consumers. The first offerings are 20 year old Barterhouse Whiskey and 26 year old Old Blowhard Whiskey. Both whiskies were stocks discovered in Louisville, KY; Barterhouse is bottled at 90.2 proof, Old Blowhard at 90.7 proof. Available in select markets.

SRP: $75/Barterhouse; $150/Old Blowhard





This spring, Dos Equis is leveraging the success of its Dos de Mayo program, a playful promotion that encourages beer lovers to enjoy a more meaningful celebration leading up to Cinco de Mayo. The 2014 Dos de Mayo program will include special limited-edition packaging, Dos de Mayo-themed cross-merchandising offers at retail and a unique Dos de Mayo photo app for on-premise gatherings. |




Il Rifugio wines present the best of several regions of Italy. In addition to Sangiovese IGT from Puglia, the portfolio includes a Chianti DOCG from Tuscany and Pinot Grigio IGT from Venezie. Winemaker Sabino Rosso recommends the elegant and aromatic Sangiovese from the heel of Italy with roasted meats, casseroles or game. Il Rifugio is marketed by Bronco Wine Company which is privately owned by the Franzia Family, which has been in the wine business for more than 120 years.




Cachaça, distilled from fresh sugarcane, is becoming more available throughout the U.S., as Americans discover Brazil’s noble spirit. Avuá Cachaça offers two single-estate spirits, Prata (un-aged) and Amburana (aged in Brazilian Amburana wood). Avuá Cachaça is distilled using a family recipe that starts with three distinct cane varietals and uses sustainable methods including renewable energy.

SRP: $35/Prata; $40/Amburana


Excelsior Wines has introduced Amado Sur Chardonnay, from the Trivento estate in Argentina’s Mendoza region. It joins the portfolio which includes Amado Sur Torrontés and Malbec. Amado Sur 2013 Chardonnay is a blend of 78% Chardonnay, 12% Pinot Grigio and 10% Viognier, building on Amado Sur’s previous success with blends.

SRP: $15 |


Founders Brewing Co., based in Grand Rapids, MI, has begun offering 15-can packaging this spring, starting with best-selling All Day IPA. The 15-pack of cans is offered at the same price as the 12-pack. All Day IPA was released last February, and became a leading seller as a 4.7% ABV session (low alcohol) ale with strong hops flavor. It was also the first Founders beer to be released in cans.

SRP: $17.99







Cutty Sark recently introduced an addition to its portfolio of blended Scotch whiskies. The new Prohibition (“Cutty Pro” to early adopters) pays homage to Captain William McCoy, who bravely ran Cutty Sark to American speakeasies during Prohibition. The flavors are smooth, with notes of citrus and vanilla. The bottle design and cap nod to bottles of the 1920s. 80 proof.

SRP: $29.99







Hacienda Wine Cellars was founded in 1973 in Sonoma Valley. The first wine, a 1974 Chardonnay, took gold at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. In 1992, the Franzia Family purchased rights to the Hacienda label and inventory. “Clair de Lune” on labels references both Hacienda’s founder Frank Bartholomew and the Valley of the Moon area of Sonoma where Hacienda is located. Hacienda Wine Cellars is part of the Bronco Wine Company portfolio, privately owned by the Franzia Family.




Blue Ice Vodka’s latest offering is Crème Brûlée with a nose offering a sweet blast of caramel, toffee and a bit of vanilla. The all-natural vodka’s flavors mingle to create a sense of real crème brûlée. Blue Ice uses pure Idaho water filtered through 200 feet of rock and a five-step filtration process for purity. 60 proof.

SRP: $19.99




Exclusiv Vodka presents a Sparkling Moscato Rosé wine cultivated from the Muscat grape, made in Moldova. The wine has notes of raisins and other dried fruits as well as oranges, and is meant to be enjoyed with food, invoking Moldovan traditions of eating well, drinking well, and good health and happiness going together.

SRP: $9.99


Lucas Bols recently launched Bols Elderflower Liqueur in the U.S. after finding great success in European markets. Bols Elderflower present a balance of floral notes and sweetness and works well as an addition to sparkling wines and in many cocktails and sangria. This liqueur comes in at 15% ABV, and is available nationwide in a 750ml size.

SRP: $17.99


Winemaker Jayson Woodbridge used the same “micro-fermentation” technique he has used for Cherry Pie Pinot Noir, but applied it to three California vineyards, creating what he calls a multi-single-vineyard blend. Pinot Noir in the final blend is sourced from Sonoma Coast, Monterey and Santa Barbara County vineyard sites. This is a full-bodied wine with rich, cherry notes.

SRP: $24.99


WSWA 71st Annual Convention & Exposition Is Almost Here

Posted on | March 28, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) 71st Annual Convention & Exposition is just days away—a packed agenda featuring exhibit halls and suites, competitions, tastings, speakers, educational programs, and a little fun, make it the premier industry event.

Information on the event, to be held April 8-10 at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, is available at the convention website:

One of the most popular attractions at the WSWA Convention & Exposition is the always exciting mixology and tasting competitions, including:

  • The Wine & Spirits Tasting Competitions judged by a panel of experts
  • The Call for Cocktails Mixology Competition showcasing original and creative concoctions from mixologists around the country;
  • Hoptails Mixology Competition featuring brewed beverages as a key ingredient in new cocktails.

 Registration for the WSWA Convention & Exposition also includes three valuable general sessions with exciting keynote speakers:

  • Jordan Belfort, the wunderkind whose story inspired the current hit movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street;”
  • Captain Richard Phillips, the inspiration behind another heralded film, “Captain Phillips;”
  • Noted operations, decision-making and business consultant Dan Heath of Duke University rounds out the speaker roster.

 The Schedule also includes the U.S. Beverage Alcohol Forum, an information-rich program that will provide attendees with practical knowledge and resources to succeed in today’s rapidly-changing beverage market. Topics include: brand entry; on-premise activation; use of mixologists and brand ambassadors; digital media marketing; and, multicultural outreach, among others.

Biographical information on speakers as well as additional details about the events, sessions and competitions are available at the convention website:

TY KU’s Prime Position

Posted on | March 27, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Among the shifting patterns of adult beverages in America these days, one thread ties them together: a sense of adventure. People are seeking new drinks, and new ways to drink—experimenting more freely. Brewed like a beer but enjoyed like a wine, sake is built for discovery. And within the category, TY KU is uniquely positioned to take on a leadership role, thanks to its solid distribution, distinctive packaging and a one-two punch of quality and authenticity in the bottle.

“The state of sake awareness in the U.S. is definitely on the rise,” says Adrian Molina, Brand Communications Manager for TY KU Sake & Spirits. He considers sake a “familiar mystery” for many Americans, whose exposure to the beverage historically starts (and stays) at Asian fusion restaurants. But Molina now sees sake rippling out across gastropubs, chain stores and even seafood restaurants—and receiving a broader embrace, especially among Millennials. Add to this the Japanese government’s recent announcement that they plan to put more marketing muscle behind sake in the U.S. and the stage is being set for expanded usage and sales.

Food Factor

TY KU is framing on-premise as a “huge opportunity,” according to Molina. Sake naturally contains 20 amino acids (more than any other alcoholic beverage), which help neutralize the overly fishy flavors in seafood, creating the perfect alternative to standard wine and food pairings. The amino acids also give saké its strong umami character—the so-called fifth taste (often referred to as meaty or savory). In addition to fish, sake also plays nicely with grilled meats, spicy foods, finger foods and even vegetables like asparagus.

Traditionally sake is served chilled straight in small ceramic cups called ochoko. TY KU also encourages enjoying the beverage chilled and straight; however, “we ask our accounts to serve sake in a wine glass,” Molina adds. This has the effect of easing the intimidation factor for some diners.

TY KU’s sake portfolio is also 100% gluten-free, making it an ideal beverage for the growing number of people on gluten-free diets. These opportunities also translate well to the off-premise for progressive “at home foodies,” notes Molina, whether people are replicating the pairings of a favorite restaurant or adding a new dimension to a home bar.

Elevating the Basics

In recent years, TY KU’s market presence has been spearheaded by eye-catching packaging and a dash of celebrity panache, thanks especially to R & B artist Cee Lo Green, a part-owner of the brand. The sleek bottles continue to stand out on shelves and in displays. Starting in 2014, however, while Cee Lo is still squarely on board, the marketing emphasis is shifting toward the liquid itself. And there will be more focus on culinary partners like Ming Tsai, in order to better educate consumers on TY KU’s benefits and versatility.

That versatility stretches from the dining room to the bar, where the brand’s range of styles provides inspiration. “Seeing mixologists incorporate our Junmai level TY KU Sake Silver in a sangria, expressly to boost the umami, is very flattering,” says Molina.

Gaining Steam

Moving forward, as TY KU aims to gain even more momentum, authenticity comes into play. “Most consumers don’t realize that over 75% of the sake consumed in the United States is brewed in the United States,” notes Molina. “TY KU is brewed in the birthplace of sake: Nara, Japan.” The brewery sources all of TY KU’s ingredients locally, and controls production from grain (rice) to glass.

Education remains an imperative as well. TY KU’s awareness of the American mindset is evident, via the succinct verbiage on the packaging as well as the website (, where the sake information is thorough and accessible. “We strive to be the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of the sake category in an effort to have even the most casual of consumer drinking fluently,” says Molina.

The Skinny On Staff Training

Posted on | March 26, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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We’ve got a reputation for education,” says Chris Tanghe, MS and wine director at Aragona in Seattle. “It constantly came up in interviews: ‘I want a place that invests in me and challenges me when I go to work.’ That’s what I try to provide.” That reputation helped Tanghe put an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff in place when they opened in December.

Whether your business is new or established, turnover and Americans’ growing appreciation for wine makes training is a constant challenge. Even when you’re starting from scratch, like Aragona, you can’t give your staff all the information at once and expect them to retain it; Tanghe started with 45-60 minute sessions. “It’s a lot for new people to take in, and for people not seriously into wine, longer can be taxing,” he says.

“Pre-opening can be a firehose of information,” agrees DC-based MS and consultant Kathy Morgan, “about food, the concept, the people—not just wine.” She advocates “cheat sheets” that give servers and bartenders an outline of important information in a quick, easy-to-use format. “I always make a pairing grid for the menu and wines by the glass, for example,” says Morgan. “There is only so much information a staff can absorb pre-opening.”

Now that Aragona is open, Tanghe schedules classes every two weeks or so, in addition to tasting wines as part of their pre-shift line-up. There’s always an element of practice, not just tasting. “Everyone practices their spiel and how to sell it; it helps give them more confidence. Speaking about it out loud is a lot more effective,” he notes. Service practice might also include how to quickly give guests the lay of the wine list, how to decant a wine, or how to open bubbly correctly.


Tasting is an important part of any wine training, but remember: “Servers always fixate on selling wines they have tasted!” says Morgan. “That’s why it makes sense to have a sommelier on staff if your list is too large for every server to taste every wine.  With smaller lists, say under 100, it is definitely possible for the staff to taste everything.” Obviously not all at once, and, “it’s important to teach the staff to spit.”

The cost of tasting can add up, but Morgan notes that in most states distributors are able and even eager to provide training samples; some reps will even come in and do the training. Don’t rely on them to do all the work for you, though. “I do not believe it is a substitute, because it never reinforces the philosophy of the program or puts the wines in perspective within the list as a whole.”

At City Winery in Chicago, Beverage Director Rachel Driver Speckan does a lot of blind tasting with her staff, following the Court of Master Sommeliers format but often switching things up. She may bring in dried and fresh herbs and fruits to familiarize people with different aromas; compare four Pinot Noirs from different places; or only explore one aspect of tasting at a time—just the visuals, or just the nose, without tasting, for example.

She also likes to use maps, which help staff “learn why a wine tastes like where it’s from, and be able to say ‘this is Italian,’ and ‘this is French’” when they taste it. Pronunciation guides—you don’t want your staff turning “Pinot Gris” into “Pinot Grease” at the table—and books are also useful aids.

“I found that counting inventory is a great training tool,” says André Mack, today the proprietor of Mouton Noir Wines but formerly the head sommelier at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York. “It allows the staff to be introduced to all the wines in the cellar, and touch some of the most priceless wines on the list. It’s like ‘wax on, wax off’—learn by doing and gaining respect for the wines.”

Mack also kept his eyes open for teachable moments during service. “I always took every situation in the restaurant to train staff. If I encountered a difficult cork I would invite staff that had a minute to watch how I approached and solved it.” Faulty wines, too, would be set aside so staff could taste them later and learn to recognize TCA, volatile acidity and the like.


Seize opportunities, but try to keep a plan. The Stock & Bones group has four restaurants on the West Coast. “We have a beverage manager at each location,” says Wine & Spirits Director Haley Guild Moore. “I have them develop a 90-day education plan, outlining areas of weakness and things we need to talk about.”

Moore also isn’t afraid to outsource training, subsidizing WSET classes for particularly interested staff so they can take a $1,400 course for just a $150 “co-pay.” About 30 of them take advantage of the opportunity each year, and since knowledge isn’t reward enough for many people, she offers big incentives: “We partner with local wineries, and we’ll do quizzes every week.  The one with highest points at the end of the quarter gets a weekend away up in Napa.”

Of course, not every restaurant is a stone’s throw from wine country, but even small prizes like wine keys, meals and bottles of wine can get staff motivated if the improved tips aren’t enough. “Sales and service tie in together,” says Moore. “We’re not trying to upsell, we’re trying to give the best possible service. They need to be able to explain why a wine’s that expensive, to back up a recommendation with knowledge.” It may be a lot of work, she says, but it’s worth it if you start with servers who are nice and interested. After all, teaching people about wine is still easier than teaching them to be polite and kind.

The 50 Club Makes Donation to AHRC Nassau

Posted on | March 26, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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On March 6th members of The 50 Club visited AHRC’s Brookville Campus to present a generous check from the proceeds of their 2013 Golf Outing. The donation supports the Fay J. Lindner Center for Autism and the Brookville Center for Children’s Services. A longtime friend of AHRC Nassau programming, The 50 Club has supported initiatives like the Autism Program and the Children’s Education Center for over 60 years.

Tasting at Eataly Kicks Off Sagrantino Month

Posted on | March 26, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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On March 4th, a Sagrantino wine pairing seminar was held at Eataly New York, as part of Sagrantino Month events. Rebecca Mills, DWS, led a tasting of Sagrantino wines from five producers: Arnaldo Caprai, Antonelli San Marco, Scacciadiavoli, Perticaia and Tenuta Castelbuono. Members of the press and trade enjoyed tasting and learning more about this type of Umbrian wine.

Fred Tibbitts Presents 18th Annual ‘A Spring Evening in New York’ Event

Posted on | March 26, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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On March 3rd, Fred Tibbitts & Associates held its 18th annual “A Spring Evening in New York City with Very Special Friends” for esteemed guests from across the hospitality industry. Reception hosts included Trinchero Family Estates, Don Q Rums and The Zamora Americas. The evening offered recognition for hospitality excellence, provided scholarships and made charitable contributions.

Madeira Wine Institute Hosts NYC Tasting Events

Posted on | March 26, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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The Madeira Wine Institute (IVBAM), with support from the EU, recently held tasting events for consumers and the trade to promote the diversity of Madeira wines. Lisa Granik, MW hosted “Midnight with Madeira” at Terroir in the East Village, a late-night, invite-only dinner for sommeliers. Five producers presented two Madeiras each for pairings with dishes prepared by Terroir chef Marco Canora.

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show Held at Javits

Posted on | March 26, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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The 2014 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York took place March 2nd-4th at the Javits Center. The event for the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry offered nearly everything a restaurant owner could want, from stemware to ovens, food prep shortcuts, and more. The Pride of New York section offered locally made specialties, including wines.

Folonari Harnesses Its Italian Roots

Posted on | March 26, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Rocco Lombardo

One of Italy’s most iconic brands is getting a makeover and new ad campaign. Rocco Lombardo, Chief Operating Officer, Frederick Wildman & Sons, shares his enthusiasm and insight for the brand.

The Beverage Network: What led to the decision to repackage Folonari?

Rocco Lombardo: Frederick Wildman has worked with Folonari for over two decades, and while it’s a very
significant brand—300,000 cases in the U.S. last year—it has struggled to gain a foothold in the magnum category. Since its beginning, the brand was built around large format. We needed to take a fresh look at our go-to-market strategy, so we hired a third party agency to help us gain some market insights.

TBN: What did you learn from their research?

RL: Millennials make up over half the consumer base for Folonari, which is much higher than we thought and higher than our competition. We were surprised to learn that the Millennial generation has no preconception of the brand; they are impressed with the traditional style of the label and feel it reflects its origins well. While we did find some negative equity with the trade, the consumer looks positively on the brand.

TBN: Based on these findings, what changes have you made to Folonari?

RL: About 75% of shoppers have not made a buying decision prior to entering the store—they are driven by what is promoted at the store. We need a stronger message to the trade, and we need to stand out more on the floor to drive consumer takeaway. How do you speak to the consumer? Packaging and floor presence. Our new ad campaign, “Amore Italia,” is about going back to the brand’s Italian roots. Folonari delivers the passion of Italy in every bottle.  

TBN: How has Folonari’s promotion strategy changed?

RL: Resources are being shifted away from simply supporting price to supporting our media ad campaign. We are by far the highest-scoring brand in our competitive set with an incredible quality-to-price ratio, so we are confident the wines will benefit from this strategy. Retailers will also see a stronger consumer outreach program in media and in stores. Folonari has not had a significant ad campaign in eight years, so
it’s very exciting.

TBN: How do you plan to reclaim Folonari’s position in the large format category?

RL: Folonari was born in the 1970s as a large-format brand to compete with California. The Amore Italia campaign is focused on revitalizing Folonari in the 1.5L category. We are also gaining a stronger foothold in the premium 3L bag-in-box ($19). We entered two years ago with Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero, and this year we are launching a Rosso di Toscana and Montepulciano with a wrap-around Italian flag.

TBN: What are the most popular wines in the Folonari range and have they changed over time?

RL: The top-selling wines are Pinot Grigio, Chianti, Montepulciano and Pinot Nero. Interestingly, we have seen a movement away from international varietals like Chardonnay and Cabernet for this brand, as consumers embrace the traditional Italian varietals. Italy’s native grapes continue to be one of its greatest strengths—and a major reason why it remains the #1 country for U.S.
imported wine.

TBN: Has Folonari made any changes to the wine style?

RL: You may see the subtle impact of climate change, but there has been no influence from the American market as to how these wines should be made stylistically. Our goal is to market and sell these wines; we are not here to influence hundreds of years of tradition.

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