A couple of weeks ago when I was invited to the media preview of The Urban Grape, a new Chestnut Hill wine boutique, I had no idea what I was in store for. I will fully admit that up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought Chestnut Hill was an hour way. Well, it’s not. By D line, it’s about 20 minutes from my downtown office. No biggie, and it made me feel a little lame about my knowledge of the area I have lived in for 8 years.
Last night I met two incredibly cool, young, nice, and knowledgeable wine aficionados who may just be redefining the way that wine is thought of in the Boston area. The Urban Grape is, at first glance, a gorgeous, sleek wine shop just steps from the Chestnut Hill MBTA stop.
I met the very friendly Hadley the second I walked inside the store, and she explained the unique layout to me. Rather than being organized by region or varietal, The Urban Grape is organized by the wine’s weight. The long wall of shelves is set up in a way that reflects the body of the wine on each shelf, a unique concept that I had personally never seen before. The Enoline tasting machines are set up so that a taster can taste through wines by how heavy they are, from a light white to a big, chewy, red. That way, even if you aren’t well versed in the world’s wine regions or grape varietals, you can find a type of wine you like, then find many more like it. Everything is marked clearly to make finding “your” wine easy, and they have even marked on the shelves which wines are organic. Brilliant!
Here is a bit of info from their opening press release on this progressive organization of wine:
Terry Peabody, Jr., Managing Director for the award winning Craggy Range Vineyard in New Zealand, believes that The Urban Grape will set a “new benchmark” for wine stores. “Progressive wine lists have been used in restaurants for years but wine stores have not kept up with this customer-friendly trend. I’ve been in wine shops all across the world and I’ve rarely seen a store with a set up as innovative as the progressive shelving at The Urban Grape. TJ’s vision for the store is truly exciting.”
“TJ’s approach to wine sales stems from his years in the restaurant business and his love of pairing wine with food,” explains Jeff Gates, TJ’s former employer and a partner at Aquitaine Chestnut Hill, a restaurant neighbor of The Urban Grape. “The unique ‘progressive’ set up of the store will allow customers to try wines that are similar to the wines they’ve always loved, all while slowly moving out of their comfort zone and experiencing new varietals, flavors and textures.”
Everything in the store is hidden away behind the walls giving the store a truly serene feel; there is no clutter here. The furniture and decor is both rustic and modern at the same time, a little bit of Tuscany in the middle of Chestnut Hill.
The Urban Grape offers boxed selections for special occasions, perfect for bringing to a friend’s house or to have on hand at home for a dinner party. They will always be in around the $50 range, and will be chosen by the owners. A great deal and a little element of surprise in each box!
Their special wine cellar (aka the pricey stuff) is available but not front and center. It is kept chilled and humidity free behind a glass door, totally free for everyone to browse, but not at all in the way of the more affordable wines. Yes, I am very interested in this selection and will hopefully have a chance to write more about it in the future.
Hadley took me downstairs to the storage room where The Urban Grape has plenty of room to store wine which allows them to buy larger quantities at lower prices, keeping the prices low for me and you. Again, I was impressed by how clean the space was kept and the incredible attention to detail that is evident.
I tasted many great wines throughout my visit and left with 7 bottles (many thanks to the fabulous swag shared with me by The Urban Grape)! With my Castello di amorosa wine club shipment, that makes 10 more bottles in a day! TJ has chosen some incredible wines, and among my favorites were the 2009 Pares Balta Ros de Pacs Rosé, the 2007 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Syrah, and the 2007 Piazzo Barbera. Individual reviews to come. . .
After my visit to The Urban Grape, we decided to go to the Capital Grille to do a wine tasting which, for $25 was an amazing deal. The wines can all be purchased at The Urban Grape (How cool to be a new store with wines featured at an old Boston favorite!) We also enjoyed their raw bar and great service with incredible attention to detail. It was a long, leisurely Tuesday night dinner, something we need more of.
The Urban Grape is certainly a wine tasting destination whether you live in Boston or beyond. They will soon start having tasting events which will be good for everyone from novice to expert. Their belief is that if a wine tastes good to YOU, then it’s good. No snobbery, no exclusivity, just pure enjoyment and community building through wine.
Congratulations to TJ and Hadley on building such a beautiful and welcoming space. I certainly look forward to more wine tasting as well as the growth of their beer and spirits selection!