Working Mom Blues

April 11, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

There are days, maybe even weeks (lets be honest, months), where I dream of being a stay at home mom. I usually snap out of it, but I am in one of those phases and it’s been prolonged and deeply felt for a number of weeks now. I think it comes from being in our new home, and not really having the time to conquer our never ending list of projects. TJ and I are slowly raking our yard at the rate of one cubic foot per week. At this pace it will be October before we’ve done everything, and we’ll have to start all over again with the leaves. I’m overwhelmed.

I also feel this way when I can’t cook. If I have too many nights in a row of “Look everyone, it’s mom’s special homemade quesadillas!” featuring stale tortillas and the end bits of cheese, I start to become unhinged. I feel like I should be HOME making gluten-free crackers and dairy-free yogurt and sugar-free desserts, or raising chickens and cooking spelt pancakes for breakfast every morning. I just want to grow my own tomatoes, okay? I mean, is that so much to ask? 

I find a lot of these “family-friendly” food blogs only add to my feeling of utter insanity. I’m looking at you, Weelicious. Those freaking bento boxes of color coded melon balls on her Instagram account make me want to SCREAM. If I made this for Noah and Jason I would have to get up at 5am and then I would have a complete nutty on them when they brought it home untouched. I love and applaud that she can do this for her children, and that her children will eat it, but it’s just not happening here in the Douglas home. I need realism. I need achievability.

So imagine my excitement when I discovered Dinner: A Love Story. There is a book, which I have not seen yet, but I fell hard for her blog this week. Here is a woman after my own heart. She too makes tortilla soup and deconstructs it onto her kids plates – thereby skirting around the “I make one meal” hell that we put ourselves through. She too admits that her children are freaky little terrorists that try to hijack family dinner. She too admits that there are nights when the mere thought of making dinner for her family makes her want to throw in the towel. The best part of all? She took a picture of a shriveled up old lime she was using for dinner and put it on Instagram. I looked over at my shriveled up old limes and had a serious laugh. Life is just too busy for fresh limes.

Yesterday, I made her Indonesian Chicken Salad for me, with leftovers for TJ that kept well enough for him to eat when he got back from Italy late last night. Per her suggestion, I took all the salad parts and put them into individual, non-touching fiefdoms on the kids’ plates. Sure, Jason gagged on the pineapple and called it disgusting, but Noah ate it all! And yes, Noah said he was convinced if he touched the peanuts that he would die of a peanut allergy, but then Jason ate his. Most importantly, with a few simple cheats to her recipe (a bag of coleslaw mix and a pre-cut pineapple among them), I prepped it all and then read US Weekly while the chicken cooked. Amazing. Maybe, just maybe, this working motherhood thing will be okay after all. At least for this week, and definitely even further if I just buy my tomatoes at Allandale Farm moving forward. 

And, of course, a wine pairing suggestion… 

As you know, TJ just got back from VinItaly. While there he spent a lot of time with the Ribolla Gialla grape from the Friuli area (also grown in Slovenia under the name Rebula). This is a white wine that is actually macerated on its skins. It’s not an orange wine, but it does have a light copper hue to it. It’s earthy and fat with a thick and fleshy mouthfeel thanks to some tannins in the wine. It’s big enough for the peanut sauce, but can handle the spiciness from the peppers and sriracha as well. We’ll be bringing some of these in in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for them at UG! 

And don’t forget our free tastings at both stores tonight. Nothing cures the working mom blues like a glass of wine after a hard day! 

 

 

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Welcome to the Jungle

April 7, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

You know what we did on the Sundays when we lived in the South End? Got up sorta late, made some pancakes and bacon, took the kids to the Esplanade and every playground in between, stopped at a restaurant on the way home from those playgrounds for snacks and beers, made dinner, watched tv, watched more tv, and went to bed. 

Little did we know that moving out of the Boston proper to the wilds of Jamaica Plain would mean that we would spend our entire weekend at Lowe’s Garden Center in Dedham and then in the yard of our new house hacking invasive vines off of our trees, and raking up years of pine needles in a futile attempt to reclaim some of the land for grass. Little did we know this would involve cutting down saplings and and following trails of ivy for what seems like miles. And, seriously? What is tunneling under our grass? Let’s back up even more than that….how do you take care of grass??? And trees? And bushes? We need a landscape care expert who will work for wine, and we need him or her pronto. 

Lucky for us, the kids love yard work. Which is good, because they will be doing nothing else on the weekends until they go to college. They actually both cried this morning when they found out it was a school day, they wanted to get out there adding to their vine pile. I wonder if they will feel the same way when they find out the name of the summer camp I just signed them up for is “Mom’s Garden Crew.”  

 

Even luckier for us, the endless to do list on the outside can mean only one thing – it’s officially rosé season. I’d say yesterday was the first real rosé day of the year. It’s time to dive into the pink, and I recommend the Regaleali rosé of Nerrello Mascalese. Nerrello Mascalese is the new hot wine geek grape, primarily from Sicily, and grown at the base of Mt Etna. This rosé wine is sick. We popped it during an intense staff meeting last week and it was refreshing and drinkable – a tart but balanced strawberry lemonade that goes down way.too.easily. It’s stocked at both stores presently, and will be joined throughout the summer by 140 different labels of rosé. We’ll be stocking new labels through the summer, so you have to check in weekly to see what’s new! 

Next Sunday when you’re sitting on a patio drinking a beer, think of me and TJ wrestling with our vines, glass of rosé in hand. 

 

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Wine and Travel: Joseph’s Personal Wine Journey

April 1, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Our daytime shoppers at UGSE have come to love Joseph, who always has a smile and time to chat. I’m amazed at how he remembers the name of everyone who walks through the door. Joseph was one of the first people we hired for UGSE, because we could tell he had gotten the wine bug and was looking for a big career change. He had passion. It’s been exciting to see him grow and learn about wine over the past year and a half. Today, he shares the story of how he discovered wine, and the journey that led him to UG! 

 

One exciting aspect of travel is the discovery of new places, new people, and . . . new wines. Seven years ago, when I worked aboard the Queen Mary 2, I was an eager, though not well educated, wine consumer. One stop on the ship’s Maiden World Voyage was Montevideo, Uruguay, an old port city with faded trappings of its colonial roots.

Having an evening off in port (an unusual occurrence), I took myself to dinner at Le Corte Restaurant on Montevideo’s Constitution Plaza. There I learned about Tannat.

Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the “national grape.” Tannat wines produced in Uruguay are usually quite different in character from Madiran wines, being lighter in body and lower in tannins. The Tannat vine was introduced to Uruguay by Basque settlers, especially Pascual Harriague, in the 19th century. Today it is often blended with Pinot Noir and Merlot and is made in a variety of styles including those reminiscent of Port and Beaujolais. Plantings of Tannat (also known in Uruguay as Harriague) have been increasing in Uruguay each year as that country’s wine industry develops. The Tannat wines produced here are characterized by more elegant and softer tannins and blackberry fruit notes. [My thanks to Wikipedia!]

After passing through the glacier fields at the southern tip of South America, our next port was Valparaíso, Chile.

There, on an excursion to ViñaMar Winery in Casablanca Valley, I was introduced to Carménère, a grape originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France.

At the winery I was told a tale about a grape that was thought lost to history and rediscovered in a Merlot field. I was intrigued. The short version of the story is that Carménère, like most of France’s grapevines, was decimated by phylloxera (an aphid-like insect) in the 1800s. Carménère, a notoriously finicky grape, was basically abandoned when the wine growers replanted their vineyards, and thereafter it was thought to have gone extinct. Years later, in 1994, the Chileans, tired of producing bad Merlot, asked a French expert to examine their fields. He discovered that the “Merlot” fields were actually a combination of earlier ripening Merlot and later ripening Carménère, which together produced an apparently dreadful wine they had mislabeled Merlot. Once they separated the vines out, the Merlot improved and Carménère came into its own as the national wine of Chile.

Carménère wine has a deep red color and aromas found in red fruits, spices and berries. The tannins are gentler and softer than those in Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a medium body wine. Although mostly used as a blending grape, wineries do bottle a pure varietal Carménère which, when produced from grapes at optimal ripeness, imparts a cherry-like, fruity flavor with smoky, spicy and earthy notes and a deep crimson color. Its taste might also be reminiscent of dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather. The wine is best to drink while it is young. [Again, my thanks to Wikipedia.]

It was also in Valparaíso that I was introduced to Pisco Sours. Pisco is a grape brandy and when mixed with lime juice, syrup, and sometimes egg whites, it becomes a Pisco Sour. Sitting at La Colombina Restaurant overlooking the harbor from atop one of Valparaíso’s 42 hills, while sipping my then “new favorite cocktail,” was one of those special moments you are privileged to experience when traveling.

 

When I finally returned to Boston, the memories of my wine experiences led me to take introductory, one-day wine classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education, which then led to more intensive WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) classes, which finally led to my joining The Urban Grape team.

Hopefully my next international trip will be a first-hand exploration of Argentina and its signature wine, Malbec, which is yet another French transplant. I’ve already started saving up those airlines miles!

 

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March Customer of the Month – Amelia Hughes!

March 31, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

March came in like a lion, and pretty much stayed a lion the whole 31 days. Let’s help it go out like a kitten by introducing our March customer of the month, Amelia Hughes!

Amelia is a forensic photographer who works on animal cruelty cases around Massachusetts. She does the difficult fieldwork that most of us would find too heartbreaking. She’s also a foster mom to feral kittens – helping them to reach an age where they can be adopted by loving families. Amelia posts adorable photos of her fosters on her Instagram account: @catandbirdie. You will die when you see how cute these kittens are. On April 12th, we’ll be donating 10% of our sales from BOTH stores to the Animal Rescue League of Boston in support of Amelia’s work with the foster program. Polka Dog Bakery will be on hand giving out treats to all of our four legged visitors, and we’ll have great wine tastings at both stores. So spread the word and let’s help Amelia and the ARL save Boston’s feral kittens! 

What is your favorite bottle (or can!) from The Urban Grape? 

I can’t pick just one…kind of like me and cats.  I need about a dozen around at all times!

The Urban Grape’s motto is “Drink Progressively.” How has your palate changed over time?
 
It’s become more adventurous.  And I am increasingly obsessed with pairing wine (or beer!) with food.

Why The Urban Grape? 

Everyone is not only knowledgable, but also genuinely friendly.  How could you not fall in love with a place that you can walk into and say “Hi TJ, I’m looking for something that is a real punch in the face, and yummy”  all while making socially awkward jazz hands….and not be judged.  Coming to the Urban Group is always a perfect balance of fun, learning, and adventure.  What could be better than that?

 

If you could share a bottle with anyone – living or dead – who would it be and what is the bottle? 

Interior Designer Jeff Lewis {he’s on Bravo TV’s series Flipping Out} and I love his style,his humor, and his love of cats.  We would share many bottles of Chimney Rock Elevage while renovating my 1920′s Spanish Style dream home in Los Angeles.

We’re doing the UG Customer of the Month to give our clients a platform to raise awareness for causes that are important to them. Tell us your story. 

I walked into the Animal Rescue League of Boston five years ago to volunteer to help homeless cats, and to photograph the adoptables to help show their personality and help them get adopted faster.  I ended up working on animal cruelty cases and fostering special needs cats and at-risk kittens.  The animals and the people that I have been blessed to work with have changed my life and I work very hard to do the same for them.  The staff and volunteers at the ARL do amazing work for homeless animals.  They have fantastic shelter veterinarians, and a wonderful foster care program.  Kitten season is starting, and we are getting really excited to be getting our next litter of kittens to foster (like we did last April when had a mom cat with nine two-week-old kittens!). I hope everyone will join me on April 12th to help the ARL raise money to save, neuter, and find homes for these loving kittens.

 

(Thanks to everyone who came out to support our February Customer of the Month, Kyle, at his fundraiser last night. It was a huge success!)

 

 

 

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Why Eastern and Central Europe

March 21, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

*It’s hard to find a nicer human being than Chas Boynton, our rep from Arborway (and newly appointed VP of the company – congrats Chas!). Chas is passionate about wines from Eastern and Central Europe and has been single-handedly leading UG’s education on the region. We love when our customers learn right along with us, so we asked Chas to explain a little bit more about the region so everyone can feel more comfortable trying one of these bottles next time you’re in the store. 

Why Easter and Central European wines? Put simply… These areas wrote the first testament on viticulture and have paved the way for appellations such as: Napa, Rioja, and even Bordeaux. Georgia is believed to be the crux of wine as we know it. Tokaji-Hegyalja, Hungary warranted the world’s first appellation 100 years before Bordeaux. Villany, Hungary has supported highly organized grape culture that pre-dates the Romans. Western Slovenia waves its rebel flag in the face of “fresh wine” and preserves the most ancient vinification techniques known to man. Croatia’s flagship red variety, Tribidrag (Crljenak Kastelanski), claims ancestry of what was once thought to be North America’s crowning “indigenous” varietal, Zinfandel.

However, World War and the Socialist ideal of state run volume production, which emphasized quantity over quality, have rendered these areas obsolete and forgotten in the eyes of cotemporary consumers. Buyers aren’t wooed at the thought of desolated and war torn areas saturated with insipid jug wine and two day old bread. This is a drastic misconception. Look to the endless rolling green hills of Stajerska, Slovenia or the breathtaking coastline of Dalmatia wafting in resinous, herbal and salty “freskina” or scent of the sea. It is time that we embrace Europe’s best kept secret… The aesthetically beautiful and vibrant cultures that span from the Western Balkans to the continental origins of the first Magyar tribes.

Only 20 years after decades of war and the fall of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, we are bearing witness to a Wine Renaissance as the re-establishment of legendary family-owned wineries and enterprising young winemakers gain momentum. The emphasis on indigenous varietals, native yeasts, adherence to age-old winemaking traditions, and the overall unique personalities of these wines attract adventurous palates. It is only a matter of time before consumers and sommeliers alike lift the iron veil and grasp a wine experience like no other.

 

Wines of Stajerska, Slovenia

The following producers are located on the eastern side of Slovenia in the region of Stajerska (Stah-Yair-Ska). It is a breath taking environment of endless rolling green hills lined with vineyards that stretch the length of the horizon. Until 1918, this area was known as Lower Styria (formally Austria) and had been for many centuries. Grapes have also been cultivated here for over 2,000 years in addition to famed aromatic hop fields and ethereal pumpkin seed oil – a real treat with the local wines. The rich agricultural diversity of these Slovenian Hills owes itself to fertile soils and the unique convergence of Continental, Alpine and Mediterranean climates. In large part it is the balance between these climates that make the wines of Slovenia so regional and so interesting.

The Urban Grape has roundly embraced “the Truth” behind many of Arborway’s Eastern and Central European selections, which creates a seamless segue into our first producer, Verus.

Verus literally translates to true, sincere, and genuine. These characteristics embody the philosophy behind the three young winemakers, Danilo, Bozidar and Rajko, all of whom come from grape-growing or winemaking families. They pooled their resources and now own a modern cellar and 10 hectares of vineyards growing exclusively white wine grapes on a bedrock of grey marl and sandstones at an altitude of between 300 and 340 meters.

The sheer beauty of the gently rolling green hills that cradle Verus’ terraced single vineyards are enough to take one’s breath away, but the vivacity of the finished wines will leave you reeling like a blow to the gut. While each varietal exudes its own characteristics there persists a common spine of precision, razor sharp acidity, focus, and nerve. I have experienced this kind of polarizing palate dynamic between ripeness and structure in only the very best Loire Valley whites.

2012 Verus Sauvignon Blanc
Radiating with classic gooseberry, passionfruit, and nettles.

2012 Verus Furmint
A seductive smoky flint and petrol, reminiscent of the Mosel, is buoyed by piquant pineapple pith and quince. Saline mineral quench yields an assertive sapidity.

Crnko, also located in Stajerska, has bottled its renowned single varietal wines since 1984, garnering local and worldwide fame alike. The “Jarenincan” bottling, however, is part of an age old tradition that has just started to make a splash in the States. Not unlike the Edelzwickers of Alsace or the Gemischter Satz of Austria, “Jarenincan” represents a co-fermented field blend of multiple varietals that change from vintage to vintage highlighting only the best characteristics of the harvest. 2012 was anchored in Laski Riesling (no relation to the Rhine Riesling we know and love), Sauvignon, Ravenec (a.k.a. Muller Thurgau often found in Northern Italy), Chardonnay, and Yellow Muscat. The vessel is shaped like a Soviet missile, carries 1 liter in volume, and is finished with a bottle cap. That’s right… Pop and pour this patio crusher all summer long.

2012 Crnko “Jarenincan”
Spring flowers, spice and lychee waft from the glass while stonefruits of peach and yellow plum flesh out this off-dry and broad shouldered behemoth.

With Chas’ recommendations in mind, stop in this weekend and grab an Eastern European wine – it’s always exciting to try something new! 

 

 

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Level Up – Now at UGSE!

March 20, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

A very quick blog tonight – the boys are off from school and they have run me completely ragged today. The only thing I love more than spending the day with them, is putting them to bed at the end of that day! 

Starting today, UGSE can accept Level Up! We’re really excited about this, and if it is successful we will install it in Chestnut Hill as well.

For those of you that use Level Up, you’re probably used to earning rewards at the stores you frequent. Sadly, the state of Massachusetts does not allow liquor stores to give these type of loyalty rewards. We know this is a bummer, but we still wanted to install it for two reasons: 

1) We love anything that makes payment easier for YOU. We know that people who use Level Up absolutely love it, so that’s reason enough for us to have it right there. 

2) We love anything that makes payment cheaper for US. When you use Level Up it saves us money. That’s money we can put towards rewarding the staff at the end of the year, getting new UG t-shirts, installing some cool planters outside of the store, etc., etc., etc. The more you use Level Up at UGSE, the more money we have around with which to do some cool stuff. So from UG to the Level Up users – THANK YOU! 

Spread the word and let your friends know we’re now accepting Level Up in the city! 

 

 

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Donation Guidelines for The Urban Grape

March 19, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

 

Every year The Urban Grape gives over $40,000 in charitable donations to the communities surrounding our two stores. We could not do this without the dedication of our amazing staff, especially Chelsea, who organize and work our donated events as part of their already busy schedules. 

We’ve recently tweaked the UG donation process. Here you will find everything you need to know about asking for, and receiving a donation from The Urban Grape. 

1. All donation requests must come in the form of a donation request form, located on the contact us page of our website. You can scan and email, mail, or drop off a donation request form. In-person, email and mail requests without a donation form cannot be considered. 

2. Customers of The Urban Grape receive priority over cold approaches. If your email comes with the greeting “To Whom It May Concern” you probably will not see your request fulfilled (coming from a fundraising background I am still shocked at how many of these I get!). 

3. Organizations in and around the areas of the stores get first priority. We try to help schools, PTAs, churches/synagogues, and other community-based organizations first. Then we go from there. 

4. After we’ve donated to our neighbors, we look for organizations with a cause that means something to us and our staff. These generally fall into a few basic categories: Access to food/education/basic necessities for underserved communities, rescue organizations for animals, organizations that support the LGBT community, and the arts. 

5. Unfortunately, after we get through all of this there is very little left over for communities outside of Newton, Brookline, Boston and sometimes Cambridge. If you are sending me a request for an organization in Norwood, it probably will not get filled – not because we don’t think your organization is worthy, but because we simply can’t fulfill every request. 

5. In general, we give three kinds of donations: gift cards in varying amounts (8-10 per month); in-store wine tasting parties for 20 on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday night (4-6 per month); or – our biggie – a free wine cellar consultation with TJ, with a first purchase discount (4-6 per month).

***If you’d like to approach us about another idea, we are always game for creative ways to work together that will drive awareness and business to The Urban Grape while raising money for your organization. Feel free to pitch us. Remember – I come from a corporate philanthropy background and I like partnerships!

6. We do not donate product to events. We do offer all non-profit organizations a good discount on our beverage catering wines and free delivery within our delivery radius. You should ask for this via the donation request form. 

7. We do not donate in-home wine tasting parties. If you bid on and win an in-store wine tasting party, please do not ask us to then turn it into a Saturday night in-home wine tasting party. 

8. The in-store wine tasting parties have an expiration of six months from the date of the fundraising event. 

9. We give out our gift cards, in-store party donations, and free wine cellar consultations an average of 8 weeks ahead of scheduled events. That means we are now working on May events. If you ask us for a donation a week before your event, we usually are not able to fulfill it. 

10. BOSTON MARATHON: At the start of every year, we double and sometimes triple our gift card donations to accommodate marathon fundraising requests. Please know that we try to help everyone, but we are absolutely inundated. To keep it fair, everyone gets gift cards, except for one or two great customers who might get in-store fundraising events. At a certain point, we just have to say no to the marathon requests. Sadly, we are reaching that point for the 2014 Marathon. 

11. Starting in March, Joseph is now helping me (Hadley) to organize and respond to all the donation requests we receive. You can still address them to me, put ultimately they need to end up in Joseph’s hands. He works days at the South End store, Tuesday through Saturday. That said you can email or drop them off to just about anyone and they will make their way to Joseph. If you send me an email or letter, please don’t be surprised if you hear back from Joseph. I’m still involved, just learning to delegate!

12. Joseph and I meet every two weeks to make determinations on the donation requests. So if you don’t hear anything for a couple of weeks, don’t panic. But again, get those requests to us well in advance of your event.

 We’re so happy to be a business our customers can count on to fulfill their donation requests. We hope these guidelines help you as your plan your fundraising event. Happy philanthropy! 

 

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Biodynamics: Hokus Pokus or Cutting Edge Farming?

March 18, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

*Cathryn has the blog today and chose to delve into the world of biodynamic wines. What do you think – is it hokus pokus or does it help the wine to fully express itself? No matter where you land on the issue, it’s fascinating to learn about the intriguing practices in biodynamic farming. (And for the record, we think biodynamic farming does allow elements to shine through that can sometimes be dulled by pesticides or other heavy handed production techniques!)

You may have walked into the Urban Grape and seen the word “biodynamic” labeled on some of the wines.  When I started working here, I had a vague idea what that word meant, but I was unaware how detailed the whole process of biodynamics really is.  I decided to do some research, and the more I learn about the concept, the more intrigued I am. 

Biodynamics is a form of sustainable, holistic, organic agriculture.  The point of biodynamics is to create a self-contained ecosystem on the farm by promoting the health of every plant and animal.  This concept was created by Rudolf Steiner in 1924.  Steiner developed biodynamics to act as a blend of practical science and spirituality.  He prescribed the method to farmers who had noticed that since the introduction of commercial fertilizers and pesticides, their properties were declining in health and production.  Biodynamics can be applied to any crop, but in this case, we’ll just talk about grape growing and winemaking.
  
Biodynamics is mostly applied in the vineyard.  Steiner prescribed 9 different ‘preparations’ which are made throughout the year. These preparations are created and applied to the crop according to the Zodiac calendar.  In one preparation,  cow manure is buried in cow horns in the soil over winter. The horn is then dug up, and it’s contents are stirred in water and sprayed on the soil. 

In another preparation, yarrow flowers are buried sheathed in a stag’s bladder. This is hung in the summer sun, buried over winter, then dug up the following spring. The bladder’s contents are removed and composted (the used bladder is discarded).  

The instructions for making these preparations are very detailed, all the way down to how the mixtures should be stirred.  The ‘intention’ of the farmer must be very focused, as negative thoughts and energy will affect the outcome of the preparations.  

In the Cellar, however Biodynamics takes a more hands-off approach.  Racking, filtering and fining must also be applied according to the zodiac calendar.  Winemakers must be content to let their wine mature without other intervention.  

Steiner stressed the role of lunar cycles on the farm.  He asserted that yields would be better and the farm would be healthier if planting, harvesting and everything in between was planned according to the positions of certain constellations in relation the the moon.   Farmers must also be careful to promote other plants and animals on the property in order to create a harmonious balance in the ecosystem of the vineyard.  Certain plants repel pests while others attract helpful insects or animals. Butterflies, bees, ladybugs and even some birds are encouraged by the addition of certain plants around the vineyard. 

This whole concept seems to conjure up images of Shakespeare’s witches making potions under a full moon.  However, many people believe that all these processes really do make better wine.  Blind tastings of biodynamic vs conventionally grown wines consistently show that biodynamic wines have better expressions of terroir.  Other studies show that yields of biodynamic grapes are higher quality (albeit lower yield) than their conventional counterparts. However, there seems to be no quantifiable difference between wines grown using biodynamics than just basic organics. Wineries can be certified Biodynamic by Demeter USA, an organization that guarantees all the correct preparations are made. This is a long, expensive process, however, so some wineries may strictly adhere to biodynamic principles without actually being certified.  Certified wines will have this logo somewhere on the label:

I encourage you to try some Biodynamic wines for yourself.  Here are a few examples of what you can find at The Urban Grape:
Ehlers Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California
Zind-Humbrecht Riesling & Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France
Belle Pente Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR
Domaine Tissot Cremant, Jura, France
Dm Fleury Champagne, France
Pares Balta Cava, red & white blends; Penedes, Spain

If you want to find out more about Biodynamics, check out these resources: 

What is Biodynmics?: A Way to Heal and Revitalize the Earth: Seven Lectures by Rudolf Steiner

Biodynamic Wine Demystified by Nicholas Joly

Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers by Katherine Cole

http://www.demeter-usa.org

 

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It’s 4 AM: Where is Your Craft Beer?

March 14, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Ben wrote this piece for the Urban Hops Newsletter (which you should sign up for if you want all the latest UG beer news!) and I asked him to post it on the blog as well. Next time you’re cracking open a beer, raise a toast to the delivery driver that got up at 4 AM to get it the shelves! 

Meet Jeffrey. Jeffery is not only one of the nicest guys out there, but he is our incredible delivery driver from the Craft Brewers Guild, the distributor from which we get the largest percentage of our beer. In this photo, Jeffrey (effortlessly… I have no idea how he does it) is wheeling 140 pounds of beer down the stairs at The Urban Grape Chestnut Hill. Every day, people like Jeffrey deliver hundreds of cases, dozens of kegs (each full keg weighing about 160 pounds), and countless gallons of beer to stores, restaurants, and bars all over the country. These are the people who make it work. 
 
I am incredibly lucky to be in the position I am in. Every day, I get to share some of the most incredible beers in the world with craft beer lovers right in our store. I see the reaction of people when they walk in and find their favorite beer from back home, or the beer they tried at the hall in Germany. Behind the scenes, though, there are thousands of men and women who put their heads down, load up the trucks, and get those beers safely to our shelves, never seeing the consumers excitement over the newest, most exciting beers. Jeffrey makes my job easy. So just how is it that your favorite beer gets to the shelf? Here is how our delivery from Craft Brewers Guild of Boston works:
 
Tuesday, 3:00PM- I meet with Sean, our Craft Brewers Rep. He places orders in his hand held device.
 
Tuesday, 3:30PM- Sean receives confirmation from his server of UG’s order.
 
Tuesday, 5:00PM- Bob, the Night Shipper, checks to make sure that our delivery goes out on the correct day, and enters in items that may have come into the warehouse during the day.
 
Tuesday/Wednesday, 10:00PM-4:00AM- The night team takes a ‘Pick Sheet’ and gets to work loading the pallet with the beers I have ordered, then load the pallet onto a truck. The Warehouse Manager, Dan, oversees everything.
 
Wednesday, 4:00AM- Jeffrey arrives at the Craft Brewers Guild warehouse in Everett, he organizes his truck and makes sure everything is there for his deliveries. Mark, the Delivery Manager, oversees that all drivers have the proper product and are ready for deliveries.
 
Wednesday, 9:00AM- Jeffery arrives at The Urban Grape Chestnut Hill with the beer! #DeliveryDay starts on the Urban Hops Twitter and Facebook accounts (@urbanhops and /urbanhops)! 
 

As you can tell, there are a lot of people that have their hands in the process of making sure we get our beer every day (this was a somewhat simplified version of how it all happens, and I apologize for all of the names I may have missed!). With the recent launch of Yuengling in Boston, Craft Brewers Guild hired over a dozen more delivery drivers to deal with demand. On Monday, March 3rd, Craft delivered Yuengling to over 500 stores in a single day! Many of the drivers working that day personally delivered well over a thousand cases. Our delivery drivers are some of the most hard working folks out there. So the next time you see one of these incredible people driving around Boston (and you will see them!), be sure to give them a friendly wave and let them cut in. Without all of these hard working women and men, we’d never be able to enjoy the beer we love. 

 Have you heard about our Urban Hopsters Homebrew Competition? You can learn more here. Submissions are due April 1st thru the 18th! 

 

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Making Each Bite a Lovin’ Spoonful

March 13, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Last fall, I attended the Lovin’ Spoonfuls Tailgate party at Sam’s. I will be honest and tell you that I went because I was invited, and because I knew a lot of fun people would be there. I wasn’t particularly passionate about Lovin’ Spoonfuls mission, mostly because I didn’t know that much about it. For the record, their mission is the recovery and redistribution of perishable food that would otherwise be discarded. This food is delivered to the community organizations where it can have the greatest impact. 

At the tailgate, they showed a video that had me in tears, and frankly quite disgusted with myself, by the end. It’s not an easy three minutes, but you should watch it. Because it will shock you. And after the shock, it will motivate you. 

That video stuck with me, and about a month ago I made a commitment to myself that I would stop wasting so much food. It was good timing, because TJ had also challenged me to reduce our grocery bill by 50%. And, we decided we wanted to have the majority of our meals come from home, for additional savings. Cut the grocery bill by half while creating double the meals. And end food waste while we’re at it. The challenge was on. 

In the past month, I have gone from throwing out a garbage bag of food each and every Sunday, to running my fridge down to the barest minimum each week, with almost nothing left over to waste. Our grocery-based waste has been reduced by 80%. In four weeks, we’ve saved $2,000 (a combination of  savings from grocery bills, take out, and dining out). I have been reduced to tears more than once at the site of a nearly empty refrigerator – even though I know I have planned well and that there is food to eat, even though I know that I can always go to the store and pick up whatever I need. Imagine looking at that fridge and knowing that you are out of options, that there is no food or money to fill the fridge – that’s what happens to innumerable families across the country each day. 

Here’s how I tackled our food waste problem: 

1) I have a weekly budget of $250 for all family groceries and most home supplies (toothpaste, etc). To accomplish this, I buy 90% of my food at Market Basket (the value there is amazing) and then my meat and a few other things at Whole Foods. I plan every meal we’re going to have for the week, and use leftovers for lunches (and TJ’s at-work dinners) throughout the week. 

2) When I get home from grocery shopping, I go through my fridge and take out everything that I haven’t used from the week before – veggies, fruit, etc – and use it right then and there. First, I roast any leftover veggies and make them into a grain salad to munch on during the week. Any sketchy fruit gets made into smoothies. Left over meat gets thrown into a Sunday salad. If something is gross I chuck it. No guilt. Last week I threw out only three mini cucumbers that were close to liquified and beyond saving. 

3) I wash everything and put it away. I know, you’ve read this tip 100 times. But it really helps me to not waste food. For years I’ve bought grapes for the kids and never served them because I don’t feel like washing them. They always go bad in my fridge. Do you know how expensive grapes are?! I’ve probably chucked $1000 of grapes since my children were born. Now, I come home, wash them, take them off the stem, and put them in a big tupperware. Just like that they went from the hardest fruit to pack for lunch to the easiest. Hence, they all get eaten. 

4) I make things in bulk and freeze what I am not going to use. I was so blasé about this in the past. I’d be all, “I really should freeze that before it goes bad.” And then never do it. Inevitably I would end up throwing it out. You can’t watch that video above and do that ever again. This isn’t about starving kids in Africa, this is about a shocking number of kids in MA being food insecure. Also, soup rocks. It’s cheap, you can put almost anything in it, and you can eat it all week. If you get sick of it, freeze it! 

5) We stopped ordering take-out. If we’re going out to dinner than fine, that gets planned into the week. But we stopped the spontaneous “I have food in the fridge but don’t feel like cooking, so can you get sushi?” nights. That was the number one practice that was leading to so much waste. When we get a little better at this, we may add in a take-out night here or there (because my God, I get so sick of providing food for people), but it will be planned for so we aren’t ignoring food that is in our fridge. 

6) We just plain eat less. And my waistline is thanking me for that. 

There are a few steps left to really complete this exercise. Like I want to start composting, because I want to have a little garden at our new house. Granted, we have turkeys and skunks and foxes and raccoons and coyotes out here by the city’s limits, so I’m not sure how that will work. But I’d like to try. And I’m determined to teach our kids to waste less. This starts by my serving them less and letting them ask for seconds. But it’s also teaching them that they can’t take food for granted. Noah is great about this. Jason, not so much.

I truly hope you will watch the video above and join me in this challenge to waste less food. Alone, it’s not much of a savings, but if we all did this together, the reduction in food waste would be incredible. And think of all the extra money you’ll have for the truly important things in life. Like wine. 

*If you want to support Lovin’ Spoonfuls this month, go visit Treat Cupcake Bar at The Street in Chestnut Hill. They are the featured charity of the month. And then stop by UGCH for a tasting, obviously! 

 

 

 

 

 

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