The Charmer Sunbelt Group and SWS Announce Agreement Under Which Distinctive Wine & Spirits To Be Acquired by SWS of Illinois
For Immediate Release:
Laura Peet                                                         Wayne E. Chaplin
The Charmer Sunbelt Group                             President and Chief Operating Officer                                               Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.
212-699-7005                                                   305-625-4171

The Charmer Sunbelt Group and Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. Announce Agreement Under Which Illinios-Based Distinctive Wine & Spirits is to be Acquired by Acquired by Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois

NEW YORK, NY and MIAMI – FEBRUARY 7, 2008 -- The Charmer Sunbelt Group (CSG) and Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc., Miami, Florida, today announced an agreement under which CSG’s Chicago, Illinois-based Distinctive Wines & Spirits, LLC is to be acquired by Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.  The transaction is scheduled to close on or about March 31, 2008; no financial details were released by either party.

Distinctive Wines & Spirits was founded in 2003 and since that time has been a member of The Charmer Sunbelt Group (CSG), one of the nation’s leading distributors of wines and spirits. 

“Over the past few years we have invested considerable time working to increase our market share in Illinois,” said Charles Merinoff, Vice Chairman and CEO of CSG.  “Despite these efforts, and although we are extremely proud of the services this team has delivered to our Suppliers and Customers who do business in Illinois, the volume of business does not justify our continued presence.

“While exploring several options, we engaged in talks with Southern Wine & Spirits.  With a significant presence in the luxury market in Illinois already, the purchase of Distinctive’s product line became an attractive possibility for them,” Merinoff added.

Commenting on the acquisition of Distinctive Wine & Spirits into Southern’s Illinois operation, Wayne E. Chaplin, President and Chief Operating Officer, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc., said: “This acquisition continues our drive to build on and further enhance our already strong presence in Illinois, which is one of the top five wine and spirits markets in the United States. We know this important acquisition will enable our highly specialized Illinois Signature Fine Wine Division to significantly add to its already impressive portfolio and simultaneously help us to better serve the ever more demanding and discriminating needs of both our on- and off-premise customers as well as our current and new supplier partners.”

Noting the growing importance of the fine wine market in Illinois, Mr. Chaplin added, “We plan on working closely with our current and new suppliers in blending these valuable portfolios into our already strong and established Signature Fine Wine Division, a move which we know will only continue to enhance Signature’s position as the leading fine wine distribution group in Illinois.  In particular, we plan on staffing Signature with both our existing sales personnel as well as augmenting them with the very best and most knowledgeable wine experts in the business.  Commensurately, we also plan on reducing the number of accounts handled by each sales executive, which not only will bring a higher level of service to our customers, but also offer our team members the quality time needed to effectively build our suppliers’ fine wine brands going forward.”

 In reviewing Distinctive’s broad wine portfolio, Mr. Chaplin also emphasized, “If certain brands need broader coverage or stronger support in the food and drug sales channels, for example, then in consultation with each brand owner, we will attempt to accommodate their wishes by moving them to an alternative and best fit sales division within Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois in order to serve the very best interests of a specific brand. Such cases will be reviewed on a brand-by-brand basis.” 

Will Conniff, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois’ Executive Vice President, General Manager, further commented, “We are excited as to the depth and quality of the former Distinctive Wine portfolio.  I am more than confident in our ability and that of the dedicated resources of our Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois’ Fine Wine Team ranging from our Fine Wine Consultants to our Master Sommelier to represent them in a manner that reflects the quality of their portfolio. We are thrilled to represent these Crown Jewels.”  (Mr. Conniff has been a Certified Sommelier since 1984 and is a CWE member.)

In connection with this acquisition, Mr. Conniff further announced that Mike Thompson, in his current role as Vice President and General Manager of Signature Fine Wine Division of Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois will oversee the newly expanded division.  Mr. Conniff said, “Mike has a proven track record of building and managing luxury brands.  He joined Southern’s Signature Fine Wine Division in 2005 as General Sales Manager overseeing all aspects of sales.  Prior to his coming to Southern, Mike was the Managing Director of LVMH’s luxury vodka business.  He is an industry veteran of 18 years and has been responsible for developing sales and marketing operations throughout the United States, Canada, Asia, Middle East, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.  He graduated with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management from Michigan State University and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.  We welcome Mike in his expanded role and have every expectation that he and his new team will bring a higher level of service and confidence to the Illinois Fine Wine Market.”

Mr. Conniff also noted that Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado, who is the Company’s Director of Wine Education in Illinois, will oversee all training programs for the newly expanded Signature Fine Wine Division. According to Mr. Conniff, Mr. Alvarado joined Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois in 2005, with his love of wine starting more than a decade earlier, as a room service waiter for Hilton Hotels in his native Puerto Rico. It was the beginning of a career path that would ultimately lead him to achieve the professional distinction of becoming a Master Sommelier (MS) in 2005, a status at the time that only 78 other North Americans had reached after passing the rigorous MS examination.

In making this announcement, Mr. Merinoff said, “Although we are disappointed to separate from our valued team, this transaction is clearly in the best interests of both organizations. This arrangement frees our resources to focus on strategies for growth that will benefit our customers and suppliers in markets where our position is strong.”

About Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.

Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. is the nation’s leading wine and spirits distributor and Control States broker with a tradition of service excellence since 1968, with operations in 29 states.  The Company currently operates in: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Company has a strategic partnership with Alaska Distributors Co. of Seattle, Washington, called Southern Wine/Spirits West, a joint venture that has wine and spirits brokerage operations across the Northwest Control States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. On a national basis, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. employs more than 10,000 team members. For more information contact:

The Charmer Sunbelt Group

The Charmer Sunbelt Group (CSG) is one of the nation's leading distributors of spirits, fine wines, beers and bottled water.  CSG is a group of affiliated companies operating in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and The District of Columbia, markets which collectively account for nearly half of total US spirit and wine consumption.  Together, these companies employ more than 7,000 associates and distribute more than 60 million cases per year. For more information about CSG, please visit