Thursday, September 20, 2012
"Sometimes, you open your second store first." -Hadley Douglas, The Urban Grape
Massachusetts wine retailer The Urban Grape is opening a new shop in Boston's South End. It's their second location in the Boston area, following in the footsteps of their Chestnut Hill location they opened in 2010 which has already won multiple Best of Boston awards.
When they opened The Urban Grape in the decidedly sub-urban Chestnut Hill neighborhood we had a feeling their original intent was to open something closer to home in Boston proper. Things eventually worked out in the form of a new sophisticated space in the South End on Columbus Ave just east of Dartmouth.
The South End location is gorgeous inside and out, mixing warm dark wood with bright white shelving. Polished concrete with inviting window seats.
And walls and walls of wine.
Wines are sorted in The Urban Grape's signature progressive weight format. Whites, rosés and reds are separated, then within those sections, wines are arranged on a scale of 1 to 10 depending on weight. This format does wonders for helping customers select wines based on how full bodied they like their wines and is helpful for pairing wine with the weight of dishes.
It can make it tricky to find, for example, all of the California Pinot Noirs in the store or all of the Barbaresco. But their staff is always quick to provide assistance and I've never had trouble navigating the assortment at their Chestnut Hill location.
At first glance there appeared to be far more wines at the South End location. And the new location definitely feels larger and brighter. But they've actually got about 15% fewer SKUs than at the Chestnut Hill location. About 700-850 unique wines at each location depending on when you stop in.
Refrigerated beers and chilled whites and roses are available. A nice assortment of seasonal and regional brews with staples like Heineken and Bud.
They've also got a couple of walls of hard liquor and mixers.
Sake is available. (shout out to The Passionate Foodie for that one)
As I was perusing the store during the pre-opening event I thinking about what it was about The Urban Grape that's made their model so successful. After all, retail is a commodity business. But they've succeeded in differentiating their brand.
For me, the answer appeared in the form of a single bottle of beer they carry - a bomber of Goose Island Matilda Belgian Ale. I tasted this for the first time in Chicago at Xoco (full review). It was one of the most compelling beverages I've discovered this past year. I don't drink a lot of beer, but I've had it in the back of my mind I'd like to pick this up if I could find it locally. Sure enough they had it.
I've had a high batting average with the wines I've purchased at The Urban Grape, and they've turned me on to some great producers. Like a gorgeous Occhipiniti Frappato, a beautiful Lioco Chardonnay, and an amazing Braida Brachetto. Every time I leave there I come home with a few bottles more than I set out to purchase but somehow I never regret it.
They offer a 15% discount mixed case discount on wine, and if you look around the shop you'll find wines you don't see in many other shops. Like Littorai Pinot Noir, Coho Headwaters, Balletto Pinot Noir, and Mount Eden Pinot Noir. Look - you're already half way to a case. Mix in a few daily drinkers (they sell plenty of more affordable wines too) and you'll get to 12 before you know it.
I look forward to continued success for The Urban Grape. They've got a great sense of what customers are looking for, a smart, clean retail concept, and an enthusiastic appreciation for wine. What more can you ask for?
They offer free delivery in the neighborhood on $150+ orders. Meter parking is available on Columbus Ave. Call ahead if you'd like to arrange for curbside delivery.
Check 'em out:
The Urban Grape
303 Columbus Avenue (just east of Dartmouth)
Boston, MA 02116
Further Reading: A review of The Urban Grape's Chestnut Hill location
Shout out to new friends of the WWP! So nice to connect with Mark L, Tom G, Brad S, Philip B, Alan B, and Steve D this past week.