Thursty: Urban Grape is much more than your average liquor store

TJ?Douglas doesn’t just want you to drink responsibly. He also wants you to drink progressively.

All of the bars we cover in this space are great and all, but you really can’t beat drinking at home. It’s less expensive, you don’t need to deal with drunk people, except yourself of course, and, more importantly, you don’t need to have pants on to do it. What to drink though, and where to procure the goods? The new The Urban Grape, which opened in the South End late last month is a good place to start.

The second outpost of the popular Chestnut Hill location, owned by TJ and Hadley Douglas, is more than your average packie (as no one in the South End probably calls them anymore). Aside from wine, which is the focus, with about 750 bottles, it’s a veritable playground for the discerning boozehound with 55 sakes, 270 craft beer options, and some 150 bottles of whiskey. The store also holds events, like a recent chef pop-up night that pitted chefs from Russell House and Gallows in a East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop-themed cooking battle, with paired selections from the vaults including pumpkin beers, mezcal, wines, for each course. “We like to have fun here,” says TJ Douglas.

It’s not all fun, of course. The staff at the new store went through 40 hours of tasting and training with top wine educators prior to opening, he says. “We tasted about 400 wines in a week, so they’re not just coming in as new staff, they’re educated wine sellers.”

An EnoRound Elite Tasting Machine allows customers to taste through wines to pinpoint a favorite.  Wines are laid out in a progressive format, from light to heavy, 1-10, with 1 being light like skim milk in terms of body and mouth feel and being 10 like heavy cream. Sipping pours as you work your way up or down the scale with an on-staff guide makes the indecision of overabundance that we often encounter in a wine shop easier to swallow.

How it works

“Let’s say you’re tasting a Sauvignon Blanc from California, it might be a 3. If they like that they go to to the 3 section, and they’ll find that wine along with 60 other wines from different parts of the world, different grapes, prices and styles. It might lead you to a heavier Albarino,” says Douglas. “It lets our clients’ palates become more educated without us shoving information down their throats, which can be intimidating. We’re using the machines to find out what they like, and why they like it. It’s an opportunity for us to speak in the same language.”


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