Thursday, September 20, 2012

The art of drinking progressively - The Urban Grape

Wine is very often an intimidating beverage...the sheer quantity of different varieties, qualities and regions is enough to require expert Sommeliers in restaurants, and to send many of us into fits of exasperation. 
Although I have been slowly developing my palette, I still have trouble going into a regular wine store and not feeling a bit overwhelmed. 
(Photo Credit - Randy Gross)
 Enter The Urban Grape, a new breed of wine store that offers an alternate approach to familiarizing yourself with wine.  
The Urban Grape, originally in Chestnut Hill have just opened their new South End location, I attended the Sneak Preview this Tuesday and can tell it will become a huge part in my future wine education.

(Photo Credit: Randy Gross)
To start, I should present their motto - drink progressively.  This embodies the concept behind the store and its arrangement.  The owners, TJ and his wife, Hadley, are dedicated to dismantling the intimidation some people feel towards wine and replacing it instead with a system that allows even virgin wine drinkers to discover the wonderful world of wine.

The 760 bottles of wine they carry, range from major brand names to small batch, organic bottles, are organized based on a scale from 1-10, according to the level of body and overall strength of taste.  For instance, if you wanted to try something red, with bold flavors that can stand up on its own, you could try anything in the higher numbers of red wine.  The numbers are all clearly propped up on the section indicating the level as well as the color...(R = red, W = white).  
Having worked with creative and leading architects, the store is expansive and clean and has a minimalist style that puts all the wine bottles on showcase.  If you stand at a particular spot, it almost looks like the wine bottles are floating - which was the exact inspiration behind the design.

 So you may be asking, how do you know where your palette stands in a subjective 1-10 ranking?  Well, this is where things get really fun! In the middle of the room, there is a 'taste station', which looks quite like a satellite about to be launched into space.  In it you will find a bottle of wine which the owners think exemplifies each number on the scale.  The station is self-serve, so up you go to try the different numbers and then head to your favorite section(s).
TJ and Hadley were positively brimming with excitement at the Opening and little wonder why, they have developed a brilliant concept as well as a way to bring community and fun into a milieu which is often unfairly shunned as being pompous and snobby.  
The Urban Grape does more than wine, you will also find beer, sake and other kinds of interesting liqueurs and once they are really up and running, you will be able to taste pretty much anything they have on hand.
Oh and with a space as cool as this one, how could they not host the occasional pop-up event? In fact, October 14th will be their first Pop-up event, Two Chefs and a Microphone.  From 7-9, Chefs Seth Morrison (The Gallows) and Michael Scelfo (Russel House Tavern) will present a five course menu with wine pairings.  Grab a ticket while you still can here, for $35.00, they will go quickly!
Pop-up or no, Urban Grape's new location is a perfect fit for any level of wine connoisseur, stop by anytime now that they are open to the public and get drinking...progressively of course:)