Staff Bios

   

TJ Douglas – Owner, General Manager, Buyer

I love wine. Not just the taste, but the experience. I love wandering into the kitchen an hour before dinner, seeing what is on tap for the evening’s meal, heading over to the wine cooler, and picking the perfect bottle. I love opening that bottle, pouring the wine into my glass, swirling it, smelling it, tasting it. Pouring my wife a glass, “cheers,” and taking that first real sip. Another great day on the books, now it’s time to relax and experience life in the moment.

I love that by age two and a half my oldest son knew that his grandfather likes Cabernet and that his mommy likes Bubbles. I love that my sons will grow up stacking bottles in The Urban Grape, learning about wine, and people, and the world; after all, wine is universal. I love that our family dinners feature good food, good conversation and, of course, good wine.

And I love The Urban Grape. It is the culmination of half my life’s work. From dishwasher, to server, to restaurant manager, to wine salesman, to the owner of a boutique wine store – each of my experiences with wine (and the people who love wine) has led me to this moment. I believe we have opened a store that can create community, memories, and joy through the experience of wine.

So enjoy – from my family dinner to yours.

Hadley Douglas - Owner, Communications/Events

My earliest wine memory centers around one word – “Trefethen.”  Actually, it was two words – “More Trefethen!”  It was my dad’s birthday party and I was about 15 years old.  I sat to his right with my family and extended family stretched out on either side.  Somehow I had a wine glass, and in the merriment that glass kept getting filled along with everyone else’s.  A case of Trefethen into the evening, my older brothers took me aside and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you through this.”  It was a fun night, but a while before I drank wine again.

After helping many other companies with their marketing, public relations, events and philanthropy I’m excited to now be doing the same for The Urban Grape.  The perks are great – there’s always lots of wine to sip with dinner, and I liked the owner enough to marry him.

 

Trefethen: Powerhouse of a wine.  Sweet purple fruit on the nose leads to rich, silky mouthfeel with flavors of baked anise, licorice and game.

Alexandra Asacker

I am a music educator with a passion for wine and food. I spend my time studying for my Master of Music at Boston Conservatory and sharing my love of wine at the Urban Grape. I began my exploration into the world of food and wine in Montreal, and continued to taste my way through Scotland, Italy, and Canada before moving to Boston. I worked at Best Cellars on Boylston Street, and later earned my Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. I have been fortunate to meet some of the most generous people in Boston’s wine world who have shared their bottles and their knowledge with me. Come visit me at the Urban Grape in the South End so that I can share with you!

Chelsea Bell - Tasting/Event Coordinator

To quote the great Federico Fellini, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta” and to me, nothing goes better with pasta than vino!

I grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts where family was everything. There is nothing I relish more than opening a bottle of wine (or two) with my family and unwinding. I was introduced to wine by my family and intensified my relationship through working at Best Cellars in Boston’s Back Bay. I am currently on track to take the Certified Specialist of Wine exam this fall. For me, the world of wine encomposses what I love about life; family, food, travel, working the land and sharing moments with good people.

Trevor Bernatchez - Chestnut Hill Store Manager

Good music, good company, great wine, and great food…What else could you ask for in life? As a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and a child of the restaurant industry, it’s no wonder that I fell into place so quickly here at The Urban Grape. having spent the last 9 years serving tables and touring the country playing music, I’ve met a lot of people, shared a lot of meals, and needless to say, opened many a bottle of vino in the process. I love using my past experiences to help customers find the perfect bottle of wine to pair with their three-course dinner party, or even just for pizza night. I’m so happy to be one of the newest members of the family here at UG, and lucky that our regular patrons have been so warm and inviting to me as well.

Ben Bouton - Urban Hops

I still remember the first beer I ever tried. I was probably 6 years old, and I asked my father for a taste.. realizing the opportunity to potentially drive me away from beer forever, he obliged. It was a Long Trail Ale (I love you now, Long Trail!) in a cold stone mug. I remember it being the worst thing I had ever experienced, and I’m sure I chugged some chocolate milk as a chaser. Figures that I would end up as a beer manager one day. My first experiences with beer after that first fateful foray were at Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton, NJ. It was an incredible Coffee Stout that got me hooked, from that point I started trying everything I could get my hands on. Moving to Boston in 2008 opened my eyes to a whole new world of incredible craft beer.

In my life away from The Urban Grape, I am a classical musician. I have a bachelor’s in voice from Westminster Choir College, and a master’s in conducting from Boston University. I currently freelance around New England as a singer, violist, and conductor. So if you’re ever in Urban Grape and need to nerd out about classical music and beer, please come talk to me!

Andrew Ferguson

We love wine and enjoy it. It is a form of appreciation akin to music, art, literature, etc. We share it together and celebrate its diversity. When we sip, it unites us in pleasant discourse, celebration, and camaraderie.

Over 20 years in all forms of the wine business has given me the opportunity to taste and learn about a lot of wine. Food being a major part of it, I became a cook as well. The marriage of food and wine has been my passion for as long as I can remember. Wine writing, judging, making, selling, serving, growing, presenting have all delighted me. Sharing wine is still my favorite activity.

 

Kelly Hulme

I grew up in the restaurant industry in Ohio, and with parents who always made good food, good wine, and good friends a priority. Shortly after college graduation I decamped for France, and fell in love with wine while biking through the legendary vineyards of Burgundy. I’ve been studying, drinking, working, and travelling for it ever since; spending several seasons selling wine in some of Nantucket’s best restaurants, while taking winters off to travel in New Zealand, France, and California. I recently graduated from Babson so am thrilled to be part of a crew that’s committed to innovation in the world of alcohol retail (and to having a fun time doing it.) My favorite drinks are Champagne anywhere/anytime, a shot of Drambuie on a ski lift, and a Cisco Indie Pale Ale on a hot beach.

Joseph McLaughlin

I seem to be a master of self-reinvention: modern dancer, actor, legal assistant, wedding officiant, massage therapist, and now a serious student of wine. I had always liked wine and while working on a ship I got the chance to visit a winery in Chile’s Casablanca Valley. That visit set my life on a new trajectory. There I was introduced to Carménère and heard the story of the grape that was thought lost to history, was rediscovered in a Merlot field, and has since become a signature Chilean wine. This story sparked my imagination and made me want to learn more. Now, after passing the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Advanced class, I am excited to join The Urban Grape and get to talk about wine all day long.

Kristyn Morey

As a Boston transplant hailing from Chicago, I definitely credit my wine education for helping me find my footing in this city that I now call home. My experience with it was limited until I took a winetasting course through my undergrad at DePaul University – yes, schools do that, and for hard-earned college credit as well! From then on, my eyes were opened to a view much wider than that of the nearby grocery store’s shelf, and I was hooked. Being a wine lover enriched my experiences as a server in Boston’s fine dining scene at DaVinci Ristorante and Island Creek Oyster Bar, where my passion expanded into a deep appreciation for food and mixology; it allowed coworkers and regulars at Coolidge Corner Wines to turn into friends, who in turn sparked a devotion to craft beer; and it fostered infinitely more confidence and enthusiasm to draw from during my time as a sales representative for a wine and spirits wholesaler.

I have seen the business from all sides, but am thrilled to be back on the retail end and joining the crew at Urban Grape. The possibility a great bottle of wine holds as an accompaniment to any experience – whether it be to bond or impress or remain gracefully understated – is an exciting challenge I not only appreciate, but embrace as well.

Micah Rochelle - South End Store Manager

Like many others in the wine industry, I kind of stumbled into it. As a youngster, I dreamed of being a rock star, writer, record producer, lawyer, traveler, or photographer, but never thought about a career in wine. When I began working in restaurants I was immediately hooked on the role wine, beer and spirits played in the dining experience. Spurred my desire to learn more, I earned my sommelier certification and continue to dedicate myself to wine education. A self-professed food fanatic/nerd and trained chef, I am obsessed with finding the right beverage for every meal, and I share that obsession with anyone who will listen. 

My childhood dreams were diverse and my career in the food and wine business has been no less so. I have been a cook, dishwasher, server, sommelier, manager, beverage director, bartender/mixologist and wine salesman. I am excited to have joined the Urban Grape team and to have the opportunity to share my passion with our customers.

Yoko Ota-Sawyer

Born and raised in Tokyo, I spent a quite bit of time at my uncle’s sake/liquor store, which my great-grandparents started more than 100 years ago. But it was when I took my first wine tasting class while I was a student in Paris that I realized what I wanted to do with my life was wine. After making a career change from hotel concierge to the world of wine, I have worked in retail stores, assisted promotions, and judged competitions. In order to learn how hard people work with nature to create a glass of wine and to truly appreciate it, I have also worked the harvest in Champagne and Mosel. I also worked as a cellar hand -  washing winery equipment in a pair of gun boots, turning my hands purple making red wine, bottling/labeling/building pallets with blisters, and serving wine at a street fair in tiny villages of Germany. The most exciting thing about a glass of wine for me is that it lets me travel geographically and chronologically and what I love most about wine is that it brings people together. I am currently pursuing the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma while losing my heart to grower Champagne and wines from off the beaten path.

Erich Schliebe

I come to The Urban Grape as a restaurant refugee.  I spent the previous nine years at L’Espalier, where I was head sommelier for five years before becoming the beverage director.  A great gig, I know: getting to taste many, many fantastic wines, eat some wonderful food, and work with some amazingly talented people, but a brutal work schedule.  Following the maturation of a heralded bottle of Bordeaux is great, but it’s no match for following the maturation of my daughter.  I’m excited to experience the more civilized retail side of the wine world. 

Great wine doesn’t just exist in the bottle.  It has a story: a history, a future, a home, a creator, and a purpose.  Burgundy is my favorite region, but I’ll drink just about anything.  I’m happy to help you pick up that special gift bottle or give you recommendations to accompany for tonight’s dinner.  In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, torturing my guitar with unskilled fingers, and lamenting my beloved Oakland Raiders.

Cathryn Vanettes

I started my journey with wine by mistake.  I stumbled on a job at a wine shop in Southern California and the rest is history.  It’s been a few years since that first wine job and I love it more every day.  I spent the last 5 years in San Diego, where I developed a love of craft beer, the hoppier the better.  I became a Certified Specialist of Wine about a year ago, and I love to study, taste and learn more about wine every day.  To me, wine is a way to experience cultures around the world and create memories with friends and family.  Pop open a bottle of Rioja and you’re transported to Spain, you taste the soil, the air, the rain, and everyone you share it with has a different perception of the same wine.  It all adds up to a pretty magical experience.  I’m excited to be at the Urban Grape to help you find your next wine experience.

Celine Della Ventura

Coming from a purely French and Italian background, I really had no choice but to love food and wine. Growing up, family vacations in France and Italy always revolved around amazing food and wine experiences, whether it was taking a 2-hour detour to a restaurant we just had to go to, visiting beautiful wineries in the absolute middle of nowhere, or taking in the Champagne region by enjoying a glass of Champagne at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in International Business and Spanish at Concordia University in Montreal, I decided to explore a world that had intrigued me ever since my teen years. A wine-based internship in NYC lead to a 2-month trip to Bordeaux where I harvested grapes in the vineyards, gave tours to visitors, and worked in the cellars at two different estates. On my days off, I jumped from chateau to chateau, tasting, visiting, and experiencing the greatness of Bordeaux.

I’m very excited to be joining the Urban Grape staff and look forward to sharing my experiences and hearing about yours!

Catherine Whitehill

To me, wine equals great conversation, wonderful times spent with friends and family, and amazing memories of traveling throughout the world. As a professional soccer player, I have been fortunate enough to travel and experience different cultures through food and drink. The best part of all of these trips was bringing a special bottle home to share with my loved ones. Beginning in Athens as an Olympian and through my time living and traveling in the US and abroad, wine has been an ever growing passion that I am now excited to pursue as a member of the Urban Grape staff. I hope you will stop by and allow me and the rest of us at UG the chance to be a part of your next great memory created over a glass of wine.