Get ready to launch into summer with the launch of Urban Hops, UG’s newly dedicated “store within a store” that focuses on all things craft beer. Come learn more about Urban Hops while sampling Craft Brew Ben’s favorite brews for summer. Stock up and leave happy!
Among the many things we learned last week, we had an unexpected crash course in a subject we hoped we’d never have to study: How to Steer Your Business Through a Terror Attack.
Of course, we’ve been schooled in Crisis PR, but that is a totally different animal. Crisis PR teaches you how to protect your company against challenges to your reputation. Despite it’s name, it teaches you nothing about how to act when you and your city are the ones in crisis.
Looking back over the past week, I have no idea if we, or any other company in Boston, actually rose to the challenge proactively, or just spent the week reacting to situations as they arose.
I can think of things we did well – providing phones, water and bathrooms immediately after the bombing. And I can think of things we did wrong – forgetting to send an email to all of our employees on Monday night offering our thoughts on how we would move forward in the coming week. We’re big communicators at UG, but I think we, like everyone, were in complete shock. How could we send an email to that effect, when we didn’t even know ourselves? But still, silence was a mistake.
Last week, we knew it did not feel right to send our Spotlight newsletter out on Tuesday, but we got caught up in the “onward, let’s move forward” momentum that Wednesday brought. As such, we sent the email Wednesday morning. It talked about Bachelorette parties at UG, and I wanted to throw up when I pressed send. With a week’s hindsight, I know we were only pretending to move forward. Inside, we were still hollow.
All of this brings me to today’s Spotlight email. A decision finally made proactively, not reactively. Instead of Spotlighting a wine this week, we’ve asked all of our customers to instead donate to the One Fund. TJ and I will do the same through a personal donation. We can hashtag #bostonstrong on Twitter all we want, but the victims of the Marathon Bombings will need money to assist in their recovery – not just in the near future, but for years to come. The businesses along Boylston Street will need assistance too. Acts of Terrorism are not typically covered under insurance policies. Believe me, we’ve checked. Some of these business are corporate and have more of a cushion, but many are local and will need our help. The One Fund was created to help everyone affected find a path to recovery.
I hope everyone who reads this blog will click on this link and make a donation – it doesn’t need to be big – to The One Fund. This is our way to really, truly move forward while knowing that we’re helping those most affected to move forward with us. And I know for a fact that it helps with that hollow feeling.
We’re prouder than ever to be a local Boston company, and to have our incredible clients as our extended family.
Yesterday morning, TJ and I lay in bed and got in a fight over, of all things, whether or not he loves our animals enough. People ask us all the time if we fight, and now you know. We don’t fight often, but of course we fight, and always over something stupid.
As I got out of bed he said, “Wait. It was twelve years ago today.” And like that our fight was over.
Twelve years ago, TJ and I met on Marathon Monday. He was working at Vox on Boylston Street, I was at Vox drinking and watching the Marathon. It wasn’t love at first site for him, but I think it was for me. But I was a slow burn for him, and within a few months we were inseparable. We still are.
Our relationship to Marathon Monday has always been tender. Without the holiday, there would be no us, no Douglas family, no kids. We’ve always believed our meeting on that day was fate, one of a string of circumstances that brought us together.
Despite all this, we’ve avoided the Marathon for the past several years. The crowds, the closed off streets, the chaos. It’s never been something we wanted to dive into with the kids in tow. It’s never felt safe to go down into the crowd with them. But our fears were for stepped on toes, drunk people, and possible separation. We never feared anything like what happened yesterday.
As I watched the images unfold, all I could think of was Boylston Street and fate. Twelve years ago, as I ordered drinks from TJ and tipsily vowed that next year would be the year I ran the Boston Marathon, fate was unfolding in the most beautiful way. Yesterday, at almost the exact same spot as where we met, fate was ticking down to horror, dismay, fear and confusion.
Our hearts break for all of Boston and for the families personally affected by yesterday’s events. The day will never be the same for any of us. But Boston is our home, Bostonians are our people. We will overcome this, I know we will.
*Micah put together our new cocktail sampler with the help of Josh Childs of Silvertone and Trina’s. And then he wrote a little blog about it to get you as excited as we are! Cocktails, anyone?
The Vesper, a cocktail brought to us by Ian Fleming, via the book Casino Royale – famously ordered by 007 as an alternative to a straight martini. “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it is ice-cold then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
The first time I had a Vesper was at a bar that now the name escapes me. I had enjoyed a Collins (Old Tom Gin, Lemon Juice, sugar and soda) and asked the bartender to fix me something. He offered up this concoction of gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc and the rest, as they say, is history. I enjoyed the flavor of the cocktail, but was honestly more interested in the connection to James Bond than I was in the drink itself as the bartender rattled off the famous quote written above.
Legend has it that the drink was created by Ian Fleming and a bartender (or created FOR Ian Fleming by said bartender) at the Duke’s Hotel in London, as Mr. Fleming tried to come up with the perfect drink for his lead character to imbibe.
One interesting fact about the Lillet we use today is that it is less bitter than the Kina Lillet that was originally used for the cocktail. They reduced the amount of quinine Lillet Blanc in the 1980s to make the aperitif more palatable to the modern drinker.
The Vesper is a simple drink, but each ingredient serves an integral purpose to the overall flavor; gin offers the botanical base for the flavor of the drink, vodka softens the gin, Lillet adds complexity and some more fruity notes, and lemon peel serves to brighten the whole drink and really let the flavors pop on the palate.
There have been many variations of this drink over the years, different aperitifs, such as Cocchi Americano, being used in place of Lillet different ratios of gin to vodka, the addition of a dash of bitters, etc. We have teamed with Josh Childs from Silvertone and Trina’s Starlight Lounge for a series of cocktail samplers we will feature throughout the year at Urban Grape, and this time we have created our version of the Vesper:
2 oz New Amsterdam Dry Gin
1 oz Tito’s Vodka
½ oz Lillet Blanc
Garnish with lemon peel
We have put together all of these ingredients with an Urban Grape cocktail shaker in one convenient package for just $60. We hope you enjoy the cocktail as much as we do!
Another Boston Wine Riot has come and gone and the staff at UG have lost our voices and, perhaps, our sanity. We love being a part of Wine Riot (this year we manned a rosé table), but it’s tough to talk to people for five hours about anything, much less people that are getting progressively drunker and drunker!
Here are our reflections from Boston Wine Riot, 2013.
If the mission of Wine Riot is to present wine to a new generation of people in a fun and non-intimidating way, then they’re succeeding. Loud music, food trucks, features like the Bubbly Bar, and tables focusing on regions, are so helpful for giving attendees an entrance point into wine. In general the wines being poured are inexpensive, which also helps to convince younger people that good wine can be for them too. Oh, and did I mention the tattoos? The attendees love them, and so do our kids who are now covered in temporary ink encouraging people to “Drink More Wine!”
There is always a new star to be found. Three years ago, TJ tasted Travessia wine for the first time and placed an order on the spot. We’ve been huge fans of Marco’s ever since. This year, it was Blue Crane Imports with their fantastic portfolio of South African wines. This is good, inexpensive juice and you’ll be seeing it on the shelves at UG very soon. If you tried the Blue Crane wines and want to place an order through us, we can make that happen.
People get seriously shitfaced at Wine Riot. There’s food, there’s water, there are spit buckets, there is everything you need to taste wine and not get trashed. Yeah, not happening so much at Wine Riot. It is a den of drunk people by the end. Our favorite moment was on Friday night when a woman came up and asked TJ if she could taste the clear rosé he was pouring. TJ kept saying, “This one? It’s not clear, it’s just a light pink. Does it look clear from there?” She kept on insisting that she wanted to try the clear one, please can I try the clear one, not the light pink the CLEAR! TJ finally realized she was pointing to the empty bottle. Oh boy.
Sometimes the number one wine comes in at number two. Travessia’s new rosé was voted the #2 wine of the Riot. Something called Relax Riesling in a blue bottle came in #1. We’re going to forgive you voters and chalk it up to being a little drunker by the time you got to that table. Marco’s rosé is phenomenal and will be a favorite of yours all summer. We’ve got it in stock at both stores and will keep ordering it until he runs out. It’s limited production, so make sure you pick some up soon!
If you work at Wine Riot, bring a gallon of water and cough drops. Our staff that worked the three time slots sound like a bunch of 80 year old smokers. They are such troopers and their enthusiasm for the rosé we were pouring made our table one of the most popular of the Riot. Great job, Team UG!
So long, Wine Riot. Have fun touring the country and see you back here next year. We’ll be resting our voices and our feet until then.
Admission: I have CSA envy.
I want to be a CSA person. Every summer I dream of signing up, but we’re away so often that I fear I will return home to a fridge full of rotten vegetables. I want to do a winter CSA, but fear week after week of rutabaga (my apologies to all you turnip lovers). Mostly what I want is someone to think of what I should eat each week, do the shopping for me, and deliver it to my door so I can have the pleasure of cooking it, but not the pain of planning it.
Enter Farm & The Fork.
Christine Doherty is just about the most energetic woman you will ever meet. She loves food, and, let’s face it, I love people who love food. She’s come up with what at first seems an improbable business plan because it’s everything you wish you had time to do, but don’t. Each week, she drives all over New England sourcing the best seasonal ingredients from the finest farms, meat farms, fishermen, artisanal producers, bread makers, dairy farmers and more. Then, she separates it into CSA boxes and delivers it to your door. Christine Doherty is the anti-Walmart.
That’s not it, however. Along with your fresh eggs, your bay scallops, your pork tenderloin, your fresh baked bread, your specialty jam and all those vegetables are recipes. Lots of recipes. All amazing ideas of how to combine your bounty into spectacular meals. And, starting with her Spring Season, there will also be beverages pairing suggestions from The Urban Grape!
We know that this all seems too good to be true. That’s why we want you to meet Christine this Saturday at UGSE from 2-5 (don’t worry, she’ll be coming to UGCH too!). She’ll be sampling all sorts of treats that she’s picked up in New England this week, as well as pairing her braised short rib recipe with some Slumbrew beer.
CSA envy no more.
But let’s back up a step and explain what makes these wines such treasures. Ken Wright Cellars produces 12 single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley. Each vineyard has its own unique volcanic or sedimentary soil, the expression of which is what makes the single vineyards so terroir-driven. The grapes from each vineyard go through the same winemaking process after they are picked – the differences in the wines come from terroir alone. This fact is enough to make any wine geek freak out.
Ken Wright runs one of the most meticulous farms in the world. A step beyond organic and biodynamic, the vineyards are tended to with “nutrition-based farming.” This means that the vines are regularly tested at the soil and leaf-stem level to see what nutrients from the ground are getting into the vines. If a nutrient is missing, it is added to vineyard in order to produce grapes that, literally, lack for nothing.
But we know the proof is in the pudding, and asking anyone to buy a wine future when they’ve never had the wine is tough to do! That’s why, for this week’s Spotlight, we’re offering six of our favorite single vineyard bottles from the 2010 vintage at a 25% discount. Try these wines, see how the characteristics of the vineyard appeal to your palate, and then place your futures order for arrival in November 2013.
- 2010 Guadalupe Vineyard
- 2010 Carter Vineyard
- 2010 Meredith Mitchell Vineyard
- 2010 Nysa Vineyard
- 2010 Savoya Vineyard
- 2010 Abbott Claim Vineyard
We are so excited to bring you these exceptional wines. If you have any questions, please email TJ directly and he will be happy to work with you. The pricing for the futures is the same as the 2010s at $65/bottle. If you are ready to place your order for the six-pack OR any of the 12 futures, please email Leah to place your order, or call UGCH at 617.232.4831.
*Everyone is doing it – even Sam Adams! Beer in cans is all the rage. In today’s blog, Craft Brew Ben tells us embrace the trend!
Many of you have probably seen one of the latest trends in craft beer – cans. You might be saying, “Hey Ben, aren’t cans bad for beer?” To which I would say, “No!” In actuality, cans are better for beer (and the environment!) than glass is. And here is why:
-What causes a ‘skunked’ or ‘off’ beer is usually direct sun exposure. While dark glass reduces the risk, cans completely cut out the chance of sun exposure.
-Americans are twice as likely to recycle aluminum cans as they are to recycle glass!
-Cans take less energy to make and ship which = better for the environment!
-Cans don’t weigh as much as glass bottles, this makes them cheaper to ship. Cheaper to ship = less expensive beer!
-Cans are more portable than glass – take them with you everywhere you go!
Don’t be afraid of cans!
You know how sometimes married couple start to look like each other after they’ve been together for a long time?
While I don’t ever think that will happen with me and TJ, we do have other ways that we have subtly morphed into the same person over the years. Some are funny (like completely random fist pumps to music while driving in the car, always good for a laugh), others are spooky (I’ll be thinking of something I need to ask him and he’ll turn around and answer me – weird, right?), and others are practical. For example, while we’re unsure of the reason, our palates stay in complete sync with each other over the changing seasons, years, etc.
I say this is practical because almost every day we see couples at UG that can’t agree on wine. There is nothing more tragic than two people in love, one with a dry palate and one with a sweet palate. Tragic, I tell you. Just imagine the cocktail hour strife!
I used to think our tastes melded because I have such a malleable palate that, like a dog falling in line behind the pack leader, my palate would mold to TJ’s more distinct likes and dislikes.
But over the past year, I’ve noticed that big palate shifts will happen to us both, almost on the same exact day.
Case in point: at 2 pm on Saturday, February 17th, standing in the Grand Cru room at the Boston Wine Expo, surrounded by big, bold American reds, TJ and I could not find a wine we liked, except the Spanish wines from Olé Imports. While we have an appreciation for – and sell – wines from every region, at home we drink primarily Italian and American wines. It’s always been our wheelhouse. So imagine our collective shock when I said to TJ, “I don’t know…I think I’m starting not to like Californian wine as much.” And TJ said, “I know, right? Me too.” A huge palate shift happened to both of us at the same exact moment.
The problem is, a lot of California wine has gotten TOO big – too much wood, too much fruit, too much alcohol. The first sip tastes alright, but then there isn’t much to make you want to head back into the glass. Now there are huge exceptions to this rule. I’m presently obsessed with the Banshee Mordecai, which is primarily Napa Cab. But it’s blended with 12 other wines and has so much finesse. TJ will never truly give up Napa Cab, and he shouldn’t as there are fantastic producers in the region, but he’s much pickier about what he drinks these days from CA. It’s got to have balance and not light your face on fire with high alcohol.
And where have our palates traveled to this week? Spain. It has truly been the week of Spain at UG, starting with that Olé Imports table and culminating in our tasting of all the Muga wines last night with Manu Muga. Big and bold? A lot of the Muga wines were. Tons of flavor? Absolutely. Finesse, style, elegance? In abundance. The feeling that you can’t wait to take another sip? Believe me, we’ve been reveling in these bottles. The Spanish wines we’ve been tasting, especially the Muga wines, have it all, and we are going to start featuring them in a big way this spring and early summer.
And this is the amazing thing about wine. Palates change, preferences come and go, explorations of taste and texture are there to be had. If you’re lucky, you have someone by your side – a family member, a wine club, a group of friends – to experience it with you and share in the excitement of discovering a new varietal or region or bottle. If you don’t have a wine buddy yet, or if you have a home with divergent palates, come to UG and let us be that person! As you can see, we’re evolving every day too. And that’s what makes it so fun.
We’d love to hear – in what ways has your palate changed over the years? Has your palate melded to another’s? Please tell us!
Last night, Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta helped us start a new tradition at UG – he signed the wall in our back room. And did it with quite a flourish, I might add.
Tonight, we get to add another winemaker’s signature to the wall, that of Thomas Houseman of Anne Amie Vineyards in Oregon.
Thomas is a winemaker that got his start in home brewing. We definitely haven’t heard that story before! His path led back and forth across the globe until he landed in Willlamette Valley, specifically in the AVA of Yamhill-Carlton. It was here that he became the winemaker for Anne Amie Vineyards, and became known for producing some incredible Pinot Noir.
But Pinot Noir is just the start for Anne Amie. The vineyards grow a wide array of grapes, most of which Thomas will be tasting at UGSE tonight. In addition to several Pinot Noirs, he will also be tasting his Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, a dry Riesling, and his very popular dessert wines, Anne and Amie. Thomas’ wines are known for their balance, elegance, power and style. It’s going to be a real treat to have him in house tonight. Though we’ve not met him yet, we can tell he has a TON of personality!!
Please join us at UGSE from 5-8 for this tasting. UGCH has a great tasting as well – Diabolique Infused Bourbon. It’s literally a whiskey cocktail in a bottle. Absolutely delicious and a new fave of the UG staff. See you at the stores!