Meet Zeus

September 25, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

When our dog Chappy died last summer, I swore to TJ, my extended family, and anyone else that would listen that I would never again sign myself up for the pain of losing a family pet. I had been down that road too many times and it wasn’t a road that I wanted to travel again. Ever.

For many months I was mired in the belief that Chappy’s  shocking death outweighed the joy of the many years of his life. His death dragged me down in ways that seemed insurmountable. The day he died started what I now refer to as “The Year of Suck.” It’s not that there weren’t incredibly happy and wonderful times, but it all sort of….sucked….without our family dog there. And the knowledge that a life so kindly lived didn’t ensure an equally kind death was a concept we struggled to understand ourselves, much less explain to our children. 

About five months after Chappy died TJ asked me if I felt ready to talk about getting another dog. He started looking at rescue pups and german shepherds. I felt a twinge of interest but it was always overwhelmed by guilt. But then the boys joined in and started asking for a dog too, and their need for something to love was so clear, their need to move on so apparent. They needed to replace sadness with joy, and seeing that I realized that we all did. 

It was only then that I started to admit to myself that the person who most needed a dog in the house was me. I was the one who most felt the loss of a companion, who most acutely felt my joy had been stolen, who had oodles of baby love left to give and only to rapidly growing boys to give it to. TJ and the boys needed a dog, but I needed a puppy. 

It took eight months but the puppy finally is here. During that waiting period I reached a frantic, fever pitch for a puppy. I was puppy obsessed. You would have thought I was the six year old in the family, counting down the days for the skunky puppy breath, the Frito toes, the wiggly belly, the dreaded puppy teeth, and the puppy tail that wags in the wrong direction. 

His name is Zeus – a compromise from other proposed names like Bonecrusher and Moonshine (the joys of living in an all male household). It’s a big name for a little wiggle worm, but we can already see how he’s going to grow into the name. I shamelessly cradle him like a baby. SHAMELESSLY. We work on his come, down, sit, and stay with relish. I find myself just staring at him sometimes, and I’ll realize with a start that I haven’t thought about Chappy in a day, or maybe even two. But what I realize is, I haven’t forgotten Chappy, it’s more like I was half way through making a mix tape, and now there are a bunch of new songs I want to add. Chappy, and Rufus, and Tigger, and Tucket and all the previous pets are the strong healthy roots; Zeus is the new leaves reaching for the sun. (And speaking of leaves….can you even imagine being a puppy when the leaves are falling? SO.MUCH.FUN.)

Zeus has already worked a Friday night in the store, and he’ll be back for many more shifts. His personality is perfect for a shop dog – he’s interested, but he’s also happy to tune it all out and take a nap. He has a sweetness and a joy for life – truly just a happiness – that is undeniable. He also really wishes the cat would wrestle with him. He’s a good puppy, and with a little luck and training he’ll be a good dog. A dog we are all so happy to have.

Welcome to the family, Zeus Douglas. Thank you for ending our Year of Suck, and for reminding us to take a chance on love.

(Although Zeus is not working tonight, the also adorable Chas will be at UGSE pouring amazing wines from Eastern Europe. And don’t forget that the fantastic Baron Ziegler of Banshee Wines will be at UGSE next Tuesday night from 5:30 to 8! He’s coming to UG as a thank you for our customers’ support of Banshee, and he will be pouring some special treats as well as my favorite, Mordecai.)



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Pot Pie, Halloween Costumes, and Lots of Wine

September 21, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

Last night was a very important night in the Douglas household. It was our annual meeting to determine our group Halloween costume. The debate rages on for a long time, picture your high school debate team, and libations are necessary. But at the end we somehow always come out with a winner. 

To fuel our discussion, I decided to head into the kitchen and make a homemade chicken pot pie with biscuits. We’ve been working on eating foods that touch in our house, so I’m never sure how meals like a pot pie will go over, but with a touch of fall in the air last night TJ and I were in the mood for something cozy. With a little music on and my cream sauce coming together, there was only one thing missing. 

A cocktail. Luckily, TJ did arrive not long after 5 and shook me up a Sriracha Margarita from Cocktail Crate. I am obsessed with these bar mixes and NEED YOU GUYS TO DISCOVER THEM AND FALL IN LOVE. We keep them over by the beer cooler. Honestly, everyone who tries them says they are the best (especially the marg), but they haven’t seeped into our customers’ buying patterns yet. That needs to change! 



With the pot pie and our chosen bottle of wine – a high-acid, tomato fruit Rully red Burgundy – opened and ready to go, the discussion began.

Before we get going, let’s relive what we were last year. The bar was set high, and we couldn’t go backwards or sit on our laurels. We needed something epic. 

Jason led with a predictable plea to be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cute idea, but denied for not being unique enough. 

Noah made his annual push for Lord of the Rings. We all love this idea, but the costuming seems a little overwhelming. Plus, every male in our family wants to dress as an Uruk-hai which leads to inevitable in-fighting. Although I do love the idea of dressing as Legolas. Maybe next year. 

I proposed that this was the year that we should finally fulfill my Halloween fantasy of being the Mystery Inc gang, aka the Scooby Doo crew. We all love this idea and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to pushing it through, but it hinges on Jason dressing as Velma, and that’s a hard sell for a six year old. He exercised his veto power. My heart was broken, but we promised to revisit next year. 

Just when all hope seemed lost, and it looked like we were destined to be the ninja turtles, Noah Douglas hit a grand slam home run out of the park. Actually, a game-ending, bottom of the ninth, walk-off grand slam. While I cannot reveal our plans until Halloween, let’s just say that if we can get our acts together and execute, this will be our best Halloween ever. E-V-E-R. We spent the rest of dinner laughing uncontrollably and looking up pictures on Google. Pot pie, tasty wine, good family discussion, and lots of laughs….when family dinner is good it is so, so good. 

Here’s my one hint: we’re going to need one of these! 




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Tuesday’s Spotlight Wine of the Week!

July 14, 2015 by: The Urban Grape


We’ve featured this wine before and when we do it goes flying off of our shelves. The Mount Eden Reserve Chardonnay is a “winemaker’s wine” that is made to be cellared and aged. This is the bottle that winemakers seek out for themselves because it’s so powerful - but in an old-school California style which is more Burgundian and less over-the-top oak. TJ says, “This was Burgundian-in-style before Burgundian-in-style was a term,” which is sort of like when he tried to explain the Matrix to me.

This is a low yield wine that has been barrel fermented and aged on its lees, with an eye towards nuance and integration. The 2008 vintage has quince, cardamom and spearmint on the nose and palate. It will age for literally decades. This wine isn’t as well known as some of the bigger name Cali Chards, but it’s one that people truly fall in love with once they’ve tried it. Click here to place your order!

Regular Price: $85/bottle

15% per Bottle Discount: $72.25/bottle

25% four-bottle Discount: $255 ($85 savings at $63.75 a bottle) *That’s like buy 3, Get 1 Free!


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Easy Entertaining Hack

July 1, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

Because TJ and I host so many events, both at work and at home, we are all about easy entertaining hacks that make our lives easier. This past Saturday we hosted a philanthropic event in our home for 40 people (pics and details coming after the 4th of July, it was SO fun) and I knew that I had to take a stand against rental glasses once and for all. But what to do for an alternative? 

We had a few requirements – they had to be cheap, they had to look and feel good, they had to be something we could shove in the dishwasher at the end of the night. Most importantly, they had to be sort of bulletproof. Nothing ruins a party like a shattered glass. 

We found our salvation on the shelves of Ikea. Because, of course. Ikea is full of the best life hacks around.

Please meet the Ivrig. This 15 ounce stemless glass converted TJ from his hatred of stemless glassware to a believer. At least for parties. We’re not serving first growths in these, but BBQ wines? All the way. They feel great in your hand and are sturdy without being clunky. The very best part, though, is that I can fit 40 at a time in my dishwasher – there is simply no way you’re doing that with proper stemware. Just the knowledge that I would not have to wash 40 glasses by hand the next morning, or wake up at 6 am to meet the rental pick-up guy made me enjoy the party all that much more. Here they are in our yard, awaiting the party to start. So pretty, right? 

These cost about $2.75 a glass, which you will make back in two parties if you usually rent glassware. It’s so very worth it and a true money saver in the long run. Plan on 1.5 glasses per guest, and bus here and there throughout the night for a quick rinse cycle in your dishwasher. Most importantly, of course, is to fill it with some delicious wine – stop in before the 4th to stock up for your parties!




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A Farewell to Urban Grape Chestnut Hill

June 30, 2015 by: The Urban Grape


In the course of any business, there are decisions you make that you know are right, but you still dread sharing. Today is one of those days for all of us at The Urban Grape. After five fun-filled, fantastic, award-winning and rewarding years in Chestnut Hill, we have decided to close that shop in order to focus on new business opportunities. We didn’t make this decision lightly, but we did make it knowing that it was the best decision for our company’s upcoming growth. 

In five years in Chestnut Hill we have been a part of your holidays, your birthdays, your engagements and weddings. We’ve listened on bad days and celebrated the good ones. We’ve welcomed your children and your dogs in equal measure. We’ve met your parents, wrapped your Father’s Day presents, and understood when you needed wine on a snow day. We’ve paired your wine with everything from turkey to latkes. And moving forward, we can still do all of this for you and more. 

The staff that you have worked with every day in Chestnut Hill, anchored by Erich and Curtis, will be joining the South End and will be personally available to work as your wine concierges for all upcoming orders. The products and services you’ve grown to love can now be ordered via email or phone [857.250.2509] and delivered right to your door. As a thank you for five years of loyal patronage, all clients of Chestnut Hill will receive free delivery from The Urban Grape, FOR LIFE! 

It’s a bittersweet day, but it’s a good day. It helps knowing that for all of us, this isn’t goodbye. See you soon in the South End, or on your doorstep with a smile and a case or two of wine. 


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Global Warming and Wine

June 26, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

TJ and I have been lucky to go on quite a few wine travel trips in the past several years. TJ goes more often than I do, but I’ve stood in enough vineyards in the past three years to know that everyone is struggling with one undeniable issue: global warming is affecting their grapes. For some the vineyards are getting too hot. For others the sun seems to have disappeared completely. For others, bud break happens too late, while in other areas ripening happens too soon. The issues may differ, but the nervousness these farmers feel is undeniable. 

We were reminded of the looming issue of global warming and its effect on grapes while visiting Castello Romitorio in Italy last week (was it only last week? It feels like a lifetime ago). Their harvests have moved up by several weeks. And not just of their grapes, their olives are also affected. Usually a Christmas time harvest, Romitorio now harvests their olives at the end of October. For the moment they’ve been able to deal with the issues caused by global warming by moving their vineyards around and playing with sun exposure and other factors. Vineyards that didn’t get enough sun before now warm up nicely, and other vineyards are assisted by adjustments in the growing schedule. 


This same issue is happening in Alsace. The vineyards that have been in the same place since the Franciscan monks are having to be rethought. New plots of land are being considered, new techniques tried. Vineyards sites with what had always been considered unfavorable sun exposure are now being readied to plant. The farmers there are trying to stay one step ahead of Mother Nature. 

But what to do in Burgundy? They haven’t seen a proper growing season in years. Lingering winters, rain, hail, a lack of sunshine have added up to pathetic yields and aging barrels that sit empty year after year. Burgundian wine is in crisis mode. This is what people forget about global warming – making one area too hot makes another unsettled in other ways. Too cold can also be an indication of the overall warming trend. 

I’m no scientist, and I don’t even want to attempt to wade into the science of this issue. I leave that to smarter people than myself. What I do know is that grapes that are grown in regions that are too hot will have too much alcohol and too little balance. Our palates will change and adjust, but wine itself will different. We’ll see vineyards that have been passed from family to family struggle to produce enough wine. On the flip side, new regions will open up and become viable. Things will shift. But there’s only one Burgundy, you guys. There’s only one Montalcino. There’s only one Napa. 

The producers are worried. And we should be too. There’s a lot more than just wine on the line. 



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Castello Romitorio

June 24, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

Our trip to Italy was, by design, all play and no work except for one very, very special day spent at Castello Romitorio in Montalcino. TJ loves this producer, and their wines at all price points do incredibly well at UG. I had tried a couple of their wines, but honestly hadn’t really focused on them yet because we’ve had so many new wines on the shelves this past year.

Well no more. These are fantastic, approachable, engaging wines made by lovely people who are family oriented, passionate and kind. The complete package! 

Our trip to Romitorio started with an email from TJ that went something like this – “Hadley and I are coming to Italy and we’d love to come visit! [Oh, did we mention we are a group of 13 and 6 of them are kids and that we probably will need a meal somewhere in there to avoid complete nuclear meltdown by the children?] Let us know, thanks!” 

Ever the gracious hosts, Daniele and the crew at Romitorio welcomed us all with open arms, and fed both our minds and our bellies. 

Romitorio is an old fort that sits up on one of the tallest hills surrounding the town of Montalcino. The fort was originally an outpost used for the protection of Siena. A sister fort that sat on a distant hill of equal stature was used to keep an eye on Florence. Between the two cities and the two forts, they were able to keep that whole area on lockdown. Amazingly, secret tunnels between the two forts were built and were reopened during World War II. We all were dying to see them, but no luck. 


The fort was then turned into a monastery. I believe that Romitorio loosely translates into “hermit” and that several monasteries were called by that name in Italy. It wasn’t until late last century, in the 1980s, that renowned artist Sandro Chia bought the fort and the surrounding lands and turned them into a winery. 

Sandro Chia is Italian, but spent most of his time in New York where he was a contemporary with Basquiat and Warhol. Warhols now hang in the fort, while Sandro’s artwork graces the landscape and the wine labels on his wine. Seeing his artwork in person was even more exciting than tasting the wine at its place of origin.

My mother is an artist with a bold sense of color and graphics, and my brothers and I were raised with that appreciation for color. We were loving Sandro’s bright hues, imagery and technique. His paintings would look fantastic in my dining room!

After a tour, we sat down in their tasting room to have a simple, yet mouth-watering multi-course meal offered to us by the staff at Romitorio. Bruschetta, cured meats and cheese, pasta, something that was like quiche but oh so much better, thinly sliced local pork with homemade gravy, vegetables, and local Tuscan cookies – all paired with their white, rosé, and offering after offering of their red wines. I didn’t even know they made a white and a rosé, so those two bottles were the biggest surprise of the day for me. Absolutely delightful! 

The kids were maybe “generally” interested in the process of making wine. They loved smelling the wine stained aging barrels and learning why the aging rooms were kept so cold. They enjoyed seeing the new grapes growing and getting to prune a cluster themselves. And the labeling machine was a pretty huge hit. Our nephew Jackson was the most intent on the process, and asked TJ if he could send him wine questions this summer as he thought of them. So freaking adorable. Maybe he’ll be the one we train to take over the stores so we can move to Italy! 

This is just the start of a great relationship between UG and Romitorio. If you’re looking for an Italian wine and haven’t tried one of theirs yet, please do. They are powerful but graceful, elegant but rustic. They taste amazing with pork loin – I can tell you with certainty from first hand experience! We have several labels at various price points, so there really is something for everyone from this producer. We’re hoping to have them come visit the stores soon so you can experience their hospitality first hand – and so that maybe I can make a few courses for them myself! 

It’s not an easy feat to make a day on the farm fun for 13 people of all ages and interest levels. Thank you to everyone at Romitorio for giving us such a special adventure. None of us will soon forget the wine (or little Lupo, the one year old lethario!) 


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A la Familia!

June 22, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

It’s hard to know where to start in recapping our trip to Italy. The food, the wine, the sites, and the indelible moments that define a fantastic vacation are sometimes hard to unravel and explain when you return home.


What is all boils down to, however, is that this trip was about family.

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past January. My brothers and I have been nagging them for years to come up with an idea to celebrate. I wanted to throw a big party, but their families and friends are scattered and we couldn’t ever come up with a plan. At the end of the day they decided that what they really wanted was to take all of their kids and grandkids on vacation for a week.

Italy is a country that means a lot to my family. We’ve all been lucky enough to travel there extensively. My brothers and I were raised with an Italian wine palate and their cuisine is the epitome of comfort food for us. We feel comfortable there, even if we don’t speak nearly enough of the language. So when the time came to decide where to travel, there really was only one answer.

And how lucky we were, to gather in this homeland away from our homeland, where we could relax, site see, have lots of wine with lunch, cook, and spend a week marveling at the accomplishment of 50 years of marriage, and a happy and healthy extended family. While we were there, I wanted to ask my parents’ what the secret to a long marriage was, but somehow there was never the moment. And I think that is the secret – be busy and fulfilled, keep a circle of people you love around you, trust that the other person will be there for the highest highs and the lowest lows, and never stop exploring or sharing a bottle of wine.

Happy 50th Anniversary to my parents. Thank you for the opportunity to experience thunderstorms rolling in over the Umbrian hills, to watch our children cannonball in a pool that overlooked a vineyard, to get lost on our daily hikes, to switchback a mountain up and back again in a slightly rattling car, for Daniele’s ravioli, and to cheers and cheers again (and again) with a never ending procession of fantastic meals. It is a trip we will never forget!


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Shop Progressively – Boston Bloggers at UGSE!

June 4, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

Chelsea and I had so much fun hosting the Boston Bloggers at UGSE last night for an evening of Shopping Progressively – a stroll through our corner of the South End with stops at UGSE, Follain and Ore Jewelry! 


We poured the ladies three affordable and fun summer wines from Italy. We started with the Secco Italian Bubbles, moved on to the La Spinetta Rosé and finished with the Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso “A Rina.”

The Secco is a fan favorite – you can’t help but get a smile on your face when you try it. The packaging, the price point….it’s all fantastic, easy and fun.

The La Spinetta Il Casanova Rosé is showing beautifully right now. I think Giorgio has really mastered his rosé in the least year. It’s so delicate in color, the palest of pale pinks, but has an incredible creaminess that comes from lees contact with the dead yeast cells. Il Casanova really is a lady killer! 

New to UG, and to me, was the Girolamo Russo red, “A Rina.” This is really the ultimate summer red wine. It’s light-bodied and flavorful, with a really clean and fresh essence to it. Girolamo was a pianist before his foray into winemaking. I think that delicate touch can be felt all over his wines. Save this red wine for a hot summer night, then put a little chill on it and drink it with just about anything you can think to serve!

Thank you to Kate and Ali and all the Boston Bloggers who came out to spend the night with us! Here are some of their fun Instagram shots from the evening (follow us @urbangrape!):

From @jenmarch: 

From @whatmollydid:

From @justusgalsboston:


Want an Urban Grape wine tasting at your home or office this summer? Contact Chelsea for more information! Have rosé, will travel! 





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Our Favorite Rosés….SO FAR!

June 3, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

It is absolutely astounding how much rosé we’ve already sold this year and it’s NOT EVEN JUNE! There are so many favorites that are already out of stock (goodbye until next year Pascal Joulivet), and so many more to come this summer. 

Here are our current favorites – so far. Don’t blame us if we change our minds by next week!



Girolamo Russo Etna Rosato – $24
This was the rosé that TJ was the most excited to bring this year, and right off the truck it was a little edgy. Thankfully, it quickly settled in to the bottle and became the outstanding wine that TJ remembered it being when he tasted it in Italy last year. The Italian rosés are definitely more rustic than the French, but we find them incredibly food friendly and, in general, more relaxed. 

Liquid Farm Vogelzang Vineyard – $33
The Liquid Farm rosé has cult California status for sure. It’s for good reason that they call this wine #PinkCrack. Flavorful, minerally, and earthy with a little marine salinity too, this crazy food-friendly wine will make you wonder why the Europeans get all the credit for rosé. USA! USA! USA!  

Domaine Ott Chateau Romassan – $62
Am I really putting something this expected on our favorites list? Yes, I am and here’s why. Truthfully, we had not had a bottle of this wine in a number of years. Too much hype, too much price…to us it just wasn’t what rosé season was all about. Then we had a bottle over Memorial Day weekend and the reality was, it’s really freaking good. Smooth and lush, this really is the standard by which all other French rosés are judged. Please note this is their Bandol vineyard, which we prefer, not their Provencal vineyard. 

Chateau Henri Bonnaud Terre Promise – $22
TJ is hot on this wine right now. It’s aromas are more floral than fruity, with a touch of herbal spiciness. It’s epically porch-poundable, so one bottle will never be enough. Perfect accompaniment to  summer salads and easy evenings. But let’s face it, a bottle like this you pop with lunch and just keep your BBQ buzz going all day long. 

Laballe Sables Fauves – $12
A fresh and zippy wine that balances fruit, minerality, acid and spice. The wines overwhelming fruit notes are raspberry, but everything is nicely integrated. If you’re looking to uncork summer, make sure to grab a bottle of this wine on your way home tonight! 

Vin Sentier de Provence – $15
God help me I love this wine. Love it. I love the juice, I love the label, I love the price. It’s so easy to drink, but still intriguing. I think you will fall in love with too, and want to revisit it all summer long – or at least until the sun sets on this vintage!  

Mouton Noir Bourgeois – $27
The fancy big brother to Love Drunk from Willamette producer  Mouton Noir, this rosé of Pinot Noir is fancy like Beyonce is fancy, not fancy like Princess Kate. A little funk and a little sass to go along with the pretty pink color. This is a new wine from Mouton Noir, and one that is sure to become a summer staple!  

Daniel Crochet Vigneron a Bué Sancerre – $24
I am obsessed with Sancerre rosé. Their typically so bright and expressive on both the nose and the palate. When TJ told me my beloved Pascal Joulivet Sancerre rosé was already sold out I almost cried. But fear not, this fantastic new rosé is even more intriguing. If you’re looking for pink-tinged sunshine in a glass, look no further than this bottle. 

Il Monticello Serasuolo Liguria di Levante  - $28
This funky labeled biodynamic wine is so unique and special – unlike anything else on the shelf that we sell! It’s very juicy and berry like, and much more full-bodied than a typical Provencal rosé. While it almost tastes sweet on the first sip, it’s actually dry and balanced – it’s just the juicy berry goodness shining through. We don’t have much of this one left, so come snag a bottle before it’s gone!   


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