My Wine-Drinking Lumberjack

September 22, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

No one has enjoyed our new adventures in Jamaica Plain as much as TJ. From finally buying the snowblower he always dreamed of to ripping out walls in our basement, he has been checking off his manly to-do list since we moved here. But as he put it, sh*t got real yesterday. 

Yes, my husband turned into a lumberjack after two minutes of YouTube training. We have a small stand of pine trees on the corner of our lot, and they were all fighting for light and nutrients, to the detriment of the entire group. The three littlest ones had to go, but they were little only in comparison. The first tree didn’t do what it was told and crashed through our fence. Whoops! The second and third trees landed right where he wanted them. I think he would have chainsawed every last tree on our property if I hadn’t stopped him. 

Apparently lumberjacking is hard work, so I rewarded him with a cold beer, followed by a cold bottle of wine and one of my favorite meals from the Tra Vigne cookbook by Michael Chiarello. Sunday Funday has a whole new meaning out here in the ‘burbs. 

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Beans

4 boneless, skin on chicken breasts
1.5 lbs new potatoes
2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
2 T garlic
1 cup chicken stock (reduced from 2 cups)
Green beans
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp parsley
1 T butter 

Cut the ends off the lemons, and the lemons in half. Brush them with S+P, and roast them under the broiler until the juices are pushing through and the lemons have soften. When cool, squeeze the lemons through a sieve and set all the juice aside. 

Cut the potatoes in half and bring them to a boil until just soft. About ten minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 450. Warm the olive oil in a large, oven proof skillet. S+P the chicken breasts and brown on both sides. You want a really hefty sear on the skin side so be patient. Remove from chicken. 

Throw the potatoes into the skillet, brown them and scrape up all the pan goodies onto the potatoes. Arrange all the cut sides face down for optimum browning action. Put the chicken back into the pan and stick the whole thing in the oven. Cook until the chicken is done – 10/15 minutes. 

Remove the chicken and potatoes to a platter. Throw the garlic in the pan and cook until fragrant. Put the chicken stock and lemon juice in. Throw the beans in the sauce to just heat through so they stay nice and crunchy. Add the herbs and butter, stir. 

Pour the beans and the sauce over the chicken and potatoes. Serve it to your children and don’t react when they proclaim it, “gross.” Watch them eat every last bite and smirk silently inside knowing that you have won this battle. 

We paired this with the Illumination Sauvignon Blanc from Quintessa. The new vintage is out and it is soooo good. We actually fought over who got the last pour from the bottle. It’s a barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s got a nice round mouth-feel while still being fresh and vibrant. Yum, yum, yum. 




Post to Twitter

And the Winner is…Ed Burns!!

September 18, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

*Our journey with the Urban Hops Homebrewing Competition came to an end last night when we crowned our winner, Ed Burns. I asked Ben to write a blog about the experience, as well as the winning beer. Thank you to our partners for helping us with this endeavor, and to Ben for seeing it through to a very successful finish! Look for Ed’s beer for sale on the shelves of The Urban Grape in the coming months. 

The last several months have been an incredible learning experience here at The Urban Grape. I was surprised that when I first brought up the idea of doing a homebrew competition to TJ & Hadley that they didn’t send me home for the day. A homebrew competition? Even I thought the idea was a little outlandish, but they were in. The Urban Hops Homebrew Competition was born. I started having to ask myself questions that I had never asked before… what kind of timeline should we give people? What kind of beers can people submit? Will ANYONE submit?! It was the first time for all of us doing something like this, so we felt our way as we went along, and I am proud to say that the finish line was awesome.  

Getting to that finish line was an exciting and terrifying experience. With some timeline changes along the way, we slowly but surely started receiving submissions. I felt a huge sense of relief as soon as the first submission came in- at least we had one! Each week at our meetings, Hadley would ask how many entries we had, and as the numbers grew, our nervousness turned to excitement.

On September 7th, I sat down with two people whose palates I trust immensely, my friends Cat and Jeff.. Cat works at The Urban Grape as our Special Orders Manager, and is a knowledgable lover of all things craft beer. Her boyfriend, Jeff, worked for Stone Brewing in California for years, and has an excellent palate that I knew would be honest and discerning. We tasted through the submissions one at a time, discussing the qualities each one brought to the table. We set aside our favorites as we went through, we talked about flavor, aroma, mouth feel, and even the marketability of the beers. As we tasted them, I was blown away by the diversity of the entries. From pale ales to coffee porters, Abbey-style table ales to wheat beers, everything was completely unique. Much to my surprise, there were very few American IPAs, a style that I figured would make up the bulk of our tasting. We were thrilled with the number of beers that were possible finalists, it was a difficult process to narrow it down. Finally, as the day came to a close, we had our final six. One step closer to naming a winner. 

Last night, Megan Parker-Gray of Row 34, Christopher Tkach of Idle Hands Craft Ales, and myself tasted through the six finalists’ beers. With brewers and friends, family and spectators, the three judges analyzed the merits of each beer. I definitely felt the pressure, this was a pretty big deal! So many brewers are looking for that one break that will get them into the public eye, could this competition end up being one of those breaks? After tasting through the six beers, the judges conferred and came to a unanimous decision. The winner, Ed Burns, had created a beautifully balanced Black Rye IPA. The roasted coffee and chocolate notes were beautifully balanced with the subtle spice of the rye and hops. It wasn’t too sweet or too dry, too heavy or too light. The balance was excellent. Having the chance to taste these beers, I can truly say that the next wave of professional brewers is ready and waiting. They are lawyers and teachers, repair people and firefighters. They are everywhere, and that is good news for the craft beer industry.

TJ said yesterday, “I think it is so cool that we can do something like this with beer. You can’t have a competition for wine making at the store, we’re really excited that we can do this.” One of the biggest reasons we are able to do this is because of one man, Glenn Barboza. Glenn is the owner and head brewer of Berkley Beer Company, located in Berkley, MA. Glenn is exactly what you want every person in the beer industry to be like. He is kind and down to earth, knowledgeable and unpretentious, engaging and fun. Our winner will be joining Glenn at his brewery in Berkley to produce a commercial batch of Ed’s winning homebrew which will be sold at The Urban Grape this winter. We can not thank Glenn enough for lending his time, guidance, and equipment to us and Ed, and allowing this to come to life. 

A huge thank you must be given to Megan Parker-Gray and Christopher Tkach, who took time out of their incredibly busy schedules to spend an evening with us at The Urban Grape, doing what we love- talking about beer. If you have not been to Row 34, you are missing out one of the most well curated beer lists anywhere in the country, and if you are looking for some of the most thoughtfully crafted beers out there, look no further than Chris and Idle Hands Craft Ales. His beers are complex and balanced, and are always of the highest quality. Thank you also to TJ & Hadley, who always support not only me, but the entire staff in all of the crazy ideas that we come up with. It is awesome to work for people who share our passions and drive our success. 

Lastly, we have to thank you. All of the homebrewers out there. Your creativity and passion for beer makes our jobs so much more fun. I love being able to spend my days talking and tasting with you, and I can’t wait till the next one! 


Post to Twitter

Winemaker Weekend with Gaetana Jacono!

September 17, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

We’re so lucky to have winemaker Gaetana Jacano of Sicily’s Valle dell’Acate vineyards spending not one evening with us this week, but TWO!

Gaetana will visit UGSE on Friday, September 19th from 5-8 and then UGCH on Saturday, September 20 from 3-6. It’s rare we can get a winemaker to both stores during one visit, so this is a real treat for all of our customers, no matter which store you frequent. 

Located in the Southeastern corner of Sicily, Gaetana’s family vineyard dates back to the 19th century. Her Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the first red wine in all of Sicily to achieve DOCG status. Gaetana will be showcasing the Cerasuolo and many of her other wines, including the Zagra Grillo, Il Frappato and Tané Nero D’Avola, as well as the Insolia and Nero D’Avola from her Casa Ibidini line. 

Gaetana is so highly regarded in Italy, and in Sicily in particular. If you’ve found yourself enjoying a Sicilian wine in the past year, come learn more about the resurgence of this wine making region, and Gaetana’s plans for her family’s estate. Plus, the lady can wear a pair of orange pants like almost no one else…reason enough to stop by and see her live and in person!


Post to Twitter

Spotlight Wine: 2009 Bruno Rocca Barbaresco

September 16, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Spotlight Wine: 2009 Bruno Rocca Barbaresco (Piedmont, IT)   100% Nebbiolo

TJ’s love for all things Bruno Rocca has become the stuff of legends – at least in his own mind. His journey with Bruno Rocca began when TJ was the GM of Armani Café. Bruno tasted TJ on his wines personally while visiting from Italy, and TJ had an instant simpatico for the man, the wines, and the story of how they are made. TJ then visited Bruno at his Barbaresco vineyards in Piedmont, and came home with many signed bottles that still have a place of honor in our home. He was saving a bottle from that trip (a 2000 “Rabaja”) for a special occasion, and came home one night to find that I had used part of it as a base for my bolognese. His response was, “Well. Tuesday is as special a night as any other.” Ever since, it’s always a special night when a bottle with the feather on the label gets pulled out.

At The Urban Grape we’ve converted many people to Bruno Rocca’s single vineyard “Rabaja” Barbaresco, but it’s expensive and out of reach for many. That’s why we’re so thrilled that his vintage Barbaresco is once again being distributed in MA, after being unavailable here for many years. It’s far cheaper than the Rabaja, but maintains all the quality that his wines are known for. The 2009 was a particularly good year for Rocca’s wines, and this bottle is impressive with notes of cherry, leather, anise and spice. The lingering finish will leave you wanting another sip, and then another!

If you’ve not yet discovered Bruno Rocca’s mastery of the Nebbiolo grape, this bottle is a perfect entryway into his wines. Soon, you will have a cellar full of them like we do!

Regular Price: $65/bottle

15% per Bottle Discount: $55.25/bottle

25% four-bottle Discount: $195 ($65 savings at $48.75 a bottle)
*That’s like buy 4, Get 1 Free!


To place your order, please email our Special Orders Department


Post to Twitter

On Balance

September 15, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

As we roll back into the school year, I find myself having an age old conversation with every mother I run into – how to find balance. 

I have long given up on the myth of balance on any given day. Please, let’s just avail ourselves of this crazy notion once and for all, okay? If I have a tough work day or week, my time with the kids suffers. If I have a great week with the kids, my work suffers. Our house projects suffer through it all. All I try and do over the course of any given year is get it all done For the most part, that mantra works for me. But let’s be honest, there is never a moment that I feel this idealized notion of balance. Does anyone? 

There is one aspect that I really push myself to the extreme, and that is cooking. The idea of the home cooked meal, served at a family dinner table seems to ground me to what is important. It is in a week like this week, when I know we will not once all sit together at the table to a home cooked meal, that I feel our true balance has come undone. I’m already looking forward to Saturday and Sunday when we can get back around the table and reconnect after a busy week. 

We’ve instituted Taco Tuesday at our house for a few reasons. The first is that the predictability seems good for the kids – it has alliteration, it shows up once a week, it’s fun! The second is, they love wrapping things up in corn tortillas and that means I can get fish into them on fish taco nights with no complaints. The third is that I can have fun with the sides to make it interesting for me and TJ. Lastly, it comes together quickly, no matter what night of the week we actually eat it (I’m not above holding Taco Tuesday on a Saturday). Here was last week’s concoction. It took a little planning and a little prepping in the morning, but the extra work was worth it.

Taco Tuesday in a Bowl: 

1.5 pounds of slow-cooker shredded chicken – basically, put a whole bunch of stuff over some chicken breasts and let them do their thing while you work. There are lots of recipes on line, but choose a simple one. You barely taste it anyway once you’ve got all the sides!

Pico de Gallo – store bought or homemade. To make homemade, chop 3 tomatoes, a half of a jalapeño, a quarter of a red onion, tons of cilantro, salt and olive oil in a bowl. You can get fancier, sure, but this is completely awesome and does the trick.

Avocado or Guacamole  - I’ll serve chunks of avocado for the boys, and guacamole for us. Ina Garten’s recipe is my go-to.

Black beans – please, I don’t even bother to heat them up. Just a quick rinse. Or not.

Corn – fresh, frozen, roasted. Just get some in there. In this picture we had some left over roasted corn with chimichurri sauce on it. It was a delish addition, but not necessary.

Brown rice (corn tortillas warmed up for the kids)

Shredded cheese (We didn’t put any on ours, but essential for the kids)

Greek yogurt

Shred your chicken and arrange all your sides in a pretty bowl. Top with a dollop of greek yogurt. Look at it longingly in its pretty state and then mix that momma up and dive in! Enjoy with any beverage pairing that sounds good to you – this is about ease, not standing on ceremony.

My parents were in town and the new vintage of Sanguis Couture was released, so that’s what we drank! Who says a California blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache can’t go with Taco Tuesday?!





Post to Twitter

South End Favorites – Follain

September 12, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

How do I count the ways that I love Follain, owned by the always adorable natural skin care maven Tara Foley? The truth is, I can’t. I love this store so entirely and completely, with literally every pore of my body, that I could never enumerate the ways in which it makes me happy.

A lot of people ask me about the products I use from the store, and honestly it’s an embarrassment. And an investment. But I believe so thoroughly (thanks in no small part to Tara) that what we put ON our bodies can affect how our bodies feel, that I’ve slowly but surely made over my entire skin care routine, head to toe. The good part about doing it slowly is that I never have to “re-up” on too much at once, and the products seem to last forever. There is so much quality in every drop that a little goes a long way. Here are some of my favorite Follain products: 

Tammy Fender Cleansing Milk

This was a gigantic investment, but one I am so happy I made. First of all, I hate washing my face with water at night. With this cleanser I can clean it off with cotton pads, no water needed. It’s great at taking off make-up too, so most nights I don’t really need make-up remover (except on those heavy eye make-up nights, and let’s face it those are rare). See? Spending money to save money!! At least that is what I told TJ.

Shamanuti Seaweed Toner

I did not believe that I needed toner, but Tara made me see the error of my ways. I don’t really understand what it does or how or even why, but I swear it seems to clean the those last things off my face that no soap ever can. It also smells amazing and leaves my skin feeling so refreshed and ready for moisturizer. Speaking of which….

Shamanuti Creme No 1

I started using the Shamanuti moisturizer this summer and I love it. All last winter, the winter of wind burn and frozen toes, I used Follain’s Rica Shea Butter on my face just so I would not crack into 1,000 pieces. I probably will do the same this winter, but in the interim I’ve really enjoyed this cream. It feels like buttah. 

Body Moisturizers

Oh, I’ve used a few from Follain and they are all fantastic. Next up to try, probably this winter, is the Organic Bath Co Drenched Body Butter. Over the past year I’ve used a variety of moisturizers, but the thing I’ve really discovered that has been skin-saving is body oil. My current favorite is the SW Basics Lemongrass Body Oil. I just can’t even describe how great you will feel and smell after using their body oils. I’ve also used their Peppermint Body Oil and it makes me feel all energized and ready to start my day. If you need a Follain gateway drug, start here. I go back and forth between a more traditional cream moisturizer and the body oil. 

Ilia Lipsticks, RMS Concealer and RMS Blush

If I’m going to stick to a make-up routine it needs to be easy. I finally found one at Follain that I love. RMS Concealer under the eyes, RMS blush on my cheeks and a little Ilia lipstick. The RMS products are coconut oil based and make you look dewey and fresh. The Ilia lipsticks are so fun and versatile. I basically have dumped all my other lipsticks, and I’m devastated when I can’t find one of these because I’ve stuck it some place “safe,” only to be found when I wear said safe accessory again. 

The ladies of Follain are there to talk you through any skin care or beauty transition you may be going through (I routinely lament about how freaking old I am getting to them, and they take it all in stride). Located just around the corner from UGSE on the corner of Dartmouth and Warren, you can stop by after seeing us, or head to their website for a little on-line shopping (convenient, but not as satisfying as you will miss all the fantastic smells, and the opportunity to smear yourself in an embarrassing number of beauty products). I’ll leave my discussion of all-natural deodorant, also found at Follain, for another day. 

Happy South End shopping! 




Post to Twitter

Staff Picks!

by: The Urban Grape

For four straight years, TJ has said no to shelf talkers of any kind at the store. He doesn’t like how they mess up the streamlined look of the wine, and after years as a sales rep who had to put giant “20% OFF!!!” neon sunburst shelf talkers around Boston’s stores, he was just not going to have it at The Urban Grape. 

Meanwhile, I love bookstores. Not Barnes & Noble type bookstores as much as small independently owned bookstores where they have a staff picks section. I love perusing those lined index cards (this is a Winsor girl thing, we all love index cards…) and seeing what the employees have to say about a particular book. I spent all summer reading staff picks from The Edgartown Bookstore on Martha’s Vineyard and discovered some true treasures that I would not otherwise have picked up. Which got us thinking – could we do our own Staff Picks section? 

As the rosé selection starts to dwindle, we decided to do just that. You’ll now find a whole section of staff picks at the Chestnut Hill store in between the white and red wine sections. In the South End store, the staff picks are spread out around the store, but you’ll see them as you peruse the shelves. 

The response has been overwhelming! As you know, I’m not really allowed on the sales floor (too feisty), but people do seem to love my everyday-girl tasting notes. Case in point, my red wine choice, the COS Frappato sold out in a day and a half. I wasn’t surprised, after all I described it as Italian Kool-aid. What’s not to love? 

The best part of this is that when you head to the store and your favorite sales person isn’t there, you can still find the wines that he or she is loving at the moment. It’s a way for them to help you pick a wine, even when they’re not there to help you pick a wine. 

Come check out the staff picks, and let us know what you think of the new set-up! (And don’t worry, my Frappato is back in stock)


Post to Twitter

Urban Hops Homebrew Finalists Announced!

September 10, 2014 by: The Urban Grape


The life of a beer guy is definitely tough. I sat down with two friends with incredible beer palates and had the pleasure of tasting through dozens of beers. One of those beers will end up being the first ever Urban Hops Homebrew Competition winner, will brew their beer with Glenn Barboza of Berkley Beer Company, and will then be sold on shelves at both Urban Grape stores. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday!

There was one thing that really struck me about the beers that were entered into the Homebrew Competition- the diversity. I couldn’t believe it! Out of the top six beers that were chosen for the final, none of them are the same style. I was impressed how creative the submissions were, from IPA to stout, saison to American amber, each beer brought something unique… which was also helpful for our palates! 

The finals for the Urban Hops Home Brew Competition will be held on Wednesday, September 17th from 6:30-8:00PM at our Urban Grape South End location. Glenn Barboza of Berkley Beer will be on hand to pour his incredible lineup of hand crafted local beers, and will be available to talk to about the transition from home brewing to a commercial set up. Megan Parker-Gray, the beer director at Boston’s Row 34, Chris Tkach, the founder and owner of Idle Hands Craft Ales, and myself, will be judging the final six beers and announcing who will be the first Urban Hops Homebrew Competition. We will not announce the actual beers here, as to keep myself and the other judges from knowing which beer belongs to which people, but without further ado, the six finalists are-

Ed Burns
TJ Creighton
Earl Day
David Glick & Mark Robertson
Stuart Miller
Andrew Starsiak

Thank you to everyone who submitted beers, and congrats to the final six! 


Post to Twitter

Spotlight Wine: Chateau D’Angludet

September 9, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

2007 Chateau d’Angludet (Margaux, FR)

The history of the Angludet estate dates back to 1150 when the property first became nobly held by Bernard d’Angludet. The vineyards themselves seem to date back from the beginning of the 17th century. The estate was split in four parcels in 1791, which sadly disqualified it from being classified in 1855 with the other Medoc vineyards – that said, the land is surrounded by classified properties of excellent producers. In 1891 it was brought back together as one reconsolidated lot, and the property has remained as such ever since, although hectares under vine increased and decreased over the years. The Sichel family bought the estate in 1961 and began to transform the vineyards back to their glory, and have been producing world-recognized wine ever since. 

Every year, Chateau d’Angludet is made to represent a perfect balance between fruit, structure, tannin and freshness by way of acidity. They have proven to have excellent aging potential. They can be laid down for 10 to 20 years, and some of the earliest vintages have gone as long as 50 years. This is wine best served with red meat, game, cheese – a typical French feast that highlights the region’s simple but elegant food.

Parker described this particular vintage as having “black cherry, blueberry, licorice and asphalt characteristics in its medium-bodied, ripe, round, elegant personality.”

Regular Price: $50/bottle

15% per Bottle Discount: $42.50/bottle

25% four-bottle Discount: $151 ($48 savings at $37.75 a bottle) 

*That’s like buy 4, Get 1 Free! 

Email Cat or call 617.232.4831 to reserve your bottles! Offer valid until 9/15. 

Post to Twitter

A Farewell to Summer

September 8, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Last Saturday night felt like a farewell to summer. The weather was hot and humid, the produce was at the peak of perfection, and then….a thunderstorm to end the ages rolled through, bringing cooler weather and the seeming start of fall. As we stood on our deck watching the thunderclouds roll by, I was thankful for a summer that was difficult, yes, but also full of love, good food, and lots of wine. 

A Farewell to Summer Dinner: 

One Beatrice (or other purple) Eggplant, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
3 tomatoes, cut into larger cubes – 3/4 to 1 inch
3-4 ears corn, cut off the cob (uncooked)
3 garlic cloves – pressed through a garlic press, or finely minced
Torn basil
Fresh parm
16 ounces spaghetti
Lots of great olive oil 
Salt and pepper

1. Go to a farmers market and pick out the very best of what you see. We went to Allandale, which still has gorgeous corn and tomatoes.

2. Warm a few good turns of olive oil in a large skillet. You will need more than you think because of the eggplant. Cook the eggplant and zucchini over medium heat, stirring often and scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan.

3. Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and cut the corn off the cob.

4. When the eggplant and zucchini are nearly done (tender, but still holding their shape), add the corn and stir for one minute. Add the garlic and stir. Add the tomatoes and stir. Take everything off the heat and add enough olive oil to make a sauce – about a 1/2 cup, but you may need more.

5. Stir in the torn basil. Season it all with salt and pepper. Be generous with all of these things!


6. Make a box of spaghetti. We used gluten-free for everyone. When it is done, drain it and put it back in the pot. Add the veggies and stir.

7. Serve into pretty bowls with generous heaps of freshly grated parm and a touch more pepper.

8. Raise a glass to summer, and its amazing food.

Pairing suggestions:

Mystic Table Beer-  $7/750ml bottle
A light on the palate saison, this beer is the perfect pairing for fresh vegetables. A style that would have been consumed on the farm, Mystic Table Beer will lend a light pepperiness and fruitiness to compliment the veggies.  

2009 Domaine des Cognettes ‘Clisson’- $23/750ml bottle
This beautiful Muscadet out of the Loire Valley is the perfect accompaniment to anything light and fresh. The extended lees contact on this particular Muscadet gives a creaminess to the palate that will balance the acidity of the tomatoes, while its own acidity will cut through the somewhat earthy vegetables. It will keep you going back for more!



Post to Twitter

Older Posts »