Monday, January 15, 2018

Local Lovin': The Urban Grape + a Giveaway!

Wine and food, literally two of my favorite things to be honest. Before we had kids, the husband and I used to go wine tasting, take our time choosing our favorite wines and food pairings and were once awarded most amazing wine buyers on a trip to the Finger Lakes (we awarded it to ourselves). Anyone who is in the throws of having young children and being tasked with maintaining your sanity knows that it's hard to keep up on your fine wines and what's the newest food craze that you've got to try... but when Hadley Douglas at The Urban Grape was like "Hey Amanda, do you want to try to regain some of that coolness again?" I was like yes, please and thank you. She didn't really ask me that but she might as well have! The folks at The Urban Grape, an awesome, eclectic wine shop in Boston, MA is not only a place to stop and grab the perfect bottle of wine. It's a store whose owners think about drinking in a different way. more progressively you might say. I met Hadley last year at a "real women" photo shoot with our mutual gal pal (Astrid of Tapered Collection) and to say that I had a crush from the onset, would be an understatement. She's cool, funny, smart and voices her opinion (which you know I love). I was thrilled to snag a copy of her and her husband's new book "Drink Progressively" and thought it would be wonderful to learn more about her, The Urban Grape and obviously, WINE!

Give us a little background as to how The Urban Grape came about. What initially drove you to start your shop/brand/book?

I really have to give my husband the credit for this one! It was his dream to open The Urban Grape, and I found myself along for the ride at first, but then jumping in with both feet. TJ had been in the restaurant industry for a long time, and knew he wanted to bring that kind of hospitality to Boston’s retail wine world. Our business partnership works because we are good at keeping what we do for The Urban Grape separate – I sell the store and he sells what’s in it. Building the UG brand has been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I’m so proud of how I’ve been able to help TJ articulate his vision for the store. Our new wine education book, Drink Progressively, really grew out of this partnership – it’s his knowledge, seen through my lens. It’s just kind of how we approach life!

What inspires you about wine?

No wine experience is ever the same, twice. Wine is so malleable. Your experience with each bottle is influenced by your mood, what you’re eating, who you’re drinking it with, what the weather is like. It’s widely known that terroir (the soil, air, temperature, etc) around the vines and grapes influences the wine in your glass. But it’s more than that. All of the experiences about that wine influence your pleasure with it. That’s why we wanted a beautiful store and an educated, friendly staff. Wine is grown in the most beautiful places in the world, it should be sold in beautiful places too! Your relationship with that bottle starts the second you walk into our store.

I love the way that you have shaped your business. You're making choosing your wine different than the average wine shop. What does it mean to "drink progressively"?

The concept of “Drink Progressively” is based on a system that we call The Urban Grape Progressive Scale, which categorizes wine by its body instead of by its varietal or region. Basically, we’re saying if you think about five principles of wine – light, medium, or heavy bodied, lemonade, and hot chocolate – you can understand the basics of wine without ever having learned the name of a grape or region. The Progressive Scale rates the body of wine on a scale from 1-10, with one being the most light-bodied (think skim milk), five being medium-bodied (think whole milk), and then being the most full-bodied (think heavy cream). From there, think about lemonade and hot chocolate. Light-bodied, brightly acidic wines have a time and a place, as do rich and full-bodied wines. Once you learn the principles it’s easy to pair wine to food and know what to drink, and when!

What do you love to do in New England, when you aren't busy running your business?

I’m a New England girl, through and through! I love to hike and snowshoe with TJ, our sons, and our dog Zeus. I love the beach just as much as I love the mountains. Yoga is my passion, and I wish I had more time for it – that’s my 2018 goal! JP Centre Yoga in Jamaica Plain is my favorite studio. I’m very into healthy eating, so you’ll find me in the kitchen every day, cooking for our family (a lot of my family recipes are in Drink Progressively!), so to that end I love farmer’s markets and my weekly CSA box delivery. I love my friendships with other women, a lot of whom are small business owners themselves. We’re a bit of a tribe. And as a family we have fallen hard for the Celtics this year. I want to adopt Jayson Tatum as my third son. I’m obsessed.

You have certainly found success and obviously I have a huge girl crush on you! You have a new book out which is awesome, where do you see The Urban Grape headed in the future?

Before I can get into the future, I have to say that the definition of success is a really tricky thing. I’m very hard on myself, and always striving to do better. So is The Urban Grape successful? Sure it is, but there is always something more to accomplish or fine-tune. But when I think of success, it’s not The Urban Grape that springs to mind. It’s my family. I’m really proud of who we are as a family, of who are sons are growing up to be, of our values, and our desire to make the world a place that works better for everyone. I can’t tell you where UG will be in a year, but I can tell you that my favorite part of every day will still be having family dinner around our kitchen table – paired with wine, of course!

PS. Special Treat time! Hop on over to my Instagram post to win a signed copy of Drink Progressively for yourself!

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