Hunting for the Perfect Wine

November 21, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

*Cathryn was a little worried about sharing her blog on pairing game meats with wine, but I think you’ll agree that it is a fantastic view into the decision to start hunting, and the excitement it has brought to her wine and food pairing! 

The eating habits in my household have changed drastically in the past nine months. Up until that time, I was in charge of buying groceries and preparing most of our day to day meals. Jeff, my boyfriend, usually made our more elaborate and special occasion dinners. About nine months ago, Jeff told me he wanted to learn to hunt. I secretly hoped it would be just a phase, as I was imagining dead animals in our kitchen and a freezer full of weird stuff I had no idea how to cook. Luckily, I had plenty of time to get used to the idea. It took 6 weeks of safety classes, countless hours researching gear and animals, and months of finding someone willing to take an inexperienced guy out into the woods with a gun.

We had our first bit of success in August, when we took our kayaks out to White’s pond in Concord and fished for trout. We ended up with five rainbows. Preparation was simple, just stuff with lemons, thyme, salt & pepper, oil well and throw on the grill. It was delicious, and had a subtle flavor of the lake it came from. This was the first time I had distinctly experienced the idea of terroir in food rather than wine. With it we drank Domaine Laurens Blanquette de Limoux. The lemony, sparkling minerality brightened up the meaty, earthy trout. After one experience cooking and eating what we had worked to acquire, we knew there was no going back. There are no words that can describe that kind of satisfaction.

Jeff finally got his first hunting opportunity a few weeks ago, when he went out in search of pheasant. He brought home two birds. We quickly realized how small our kitchen sink was when he plucked and dressed the pheasants in it. I cried a little the first time, and kept several feathers which now hang as a wreath on our front door. We prepared a very special meal of Greek style pasta with pheasant. The sauce is made with sweet red wine (we used Offley Ruby port), fresh herbs and, of course, pheasant. It’s braised to delectable tenderness and topped with toasted pine nuts. I chose Owen Roe ‘Sinister Hand’, a Washington red blend, to go with our meal. I wanted something with darker fruit but not too rich, since the sauce was so rich on its own. The result was an ideal pairing, a fantastic meal and an incredible feeling of accomplishment.

With the second bird, we made General Tso’s pheasant. This spicy and savory twist on Chinese take-out was a great weeknight dinner. I drank Sans Liege ‘Groundwork’ Grenache blanc, a rich, aromatic white from California with just slight sweetness to temper the spicy pheasant. I was happy to learn that eating game meat doesn’t have to mean only stew and sausage. These recipes came from, a blog written by hunter-gatherer Hank Shaw. This site has been invaluable, and outlines everything you’d ever want to know about harvesting your own food. He has amazing recipes for everything from venison stroganoff to fresh pasta made with acorn meal. Also outlined are tips for foraging, hunting and preparation. He also has written a couple cookbooks on the subject. Hunting is hard work for Jeff as the hunter and me as the homemaker, so its great to have this site to go back to for inspiration and motivation.

Currently, Jeff is working hard to find his first deer, which we hope will become our Christmas dinner. He settled long ago on making stuffed deer heart (stuffed with dressing similar to what you would serve with Thanksgiving dinner) and I have decided the eventual pairing will be a Chinon from Couly-Dutheil, an herby cabernet franc from France’s Loire valley. While his first attempt in New Hampshire last week was unsuccessful, he came back with a renewed appreciation for the New England wilderness and the challenge of procuring your own meat. He remains obsessed with finding another hunting opportunity this year, while I quietly expect our Christmas deer with have to wait for next year. An animal that size would feed the two of us for a long time, and I look forward to trying recipes and wines for everything from the backstrap to the liver.

I realize that hunting isn’t for everyone, but I encourage you to try some interesting proteins besides beef or chicken. Savenor’s market has a great selection of humanely farm raised elk, venison and more. There are also several restaurants around Boston that serve exotic proteins. Try the strozzapreti with braised rabbit at Sportello, or boar meatballs at the Tip Tap Room. I also encourage you to get creative with your beverage pairing, try beer, cocktails, or even a full-bodied Sake with your new recipes!

Throughout this process, we have learned that there is no feeling like eating something you’ve had to work to bring home. I’ve also learned that you can cook elegant and elevated meals with game, pair world-class wines and be fulfilled knowing the animal you’re eating led a full, natural life until the end. Now, I tend to buy more quality ingredients, out of respect for the animal that gave its life to feed us. Our dinners feel more like meals, we take our time eating (partly because you may run in to fish bones or birdshot!), use the good plates and glassware, and talk about the experience getting this food to the plate as we eat. I have a feeling the more we try, the more adventurous our pairing will be as well. If you have any experience with hunting and game preparation, I’d love to hear about it! Come find me at UG and I’ll help you find the perfect beverage to round out your meal.


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The Gold Rush

November 19, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Last week, TJ and I went to Ward 8 in the North End (the former Nebo spot) for a drink and a bite to eat before a Celtics game. I will be honest and say that we had never even heard of Ward 8, and our expectations weren’t all that high. But the location was right, and we mostly just needed a halfway decent cocktail. 

Needless to say, the cocktails were killer, and the food was really, really good. We were so pleasantly surprised. This is the perfect pre-game spot. TJ got a variety of cocktails, but I spotted one called a Gold Rush and had to try it – Chappy was a “Gold Rush” Golden, so I felt a kinship to the drink even before the first sip. Made with Bulleit bourbon, honey, and lemon, it ended up being a cocktail that perfectly suited my palate. 

When we got home I sent a tweet out to Ward 8 asking for the recipe, but never heard back. Undeterred, this weekend I started googling recipes and hit the honeypot! This is considered  a new modern classic, despite first appearing just over a decade ago in New York. It is so simple to make, and can be batched for parties (or also easily turned into a punch with the addition of some sparkling wine). I’m so happy that I made two, but only drank one. That means I have one in the fridge as my reward at the end of this frigid day. 

Here’s the recipe – you definitely need to use quality ingredients! 

Gold Rush –  makes one cocktail

2 ounces bourbon (I used Woodford last night)
.75 ounces fresh lemon juice 
.75 ounces honey syrup (Mix one part honey to two parts water. You’ll see different ratios for the honey syrup all over google, but I think you need to be careful that it’s not too sweet as you don’t want it to overpower the lemon. Obviously adjust to your tastes.) 

Put everything into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a small martini or coupe glass (I think Ward 8 stirred theirs, it was creamier than mine). TJ thinks this would also be perfect as a fizz, with egg white added in. I served mine in a vintage martini glass from Farm and Fable – the smaller size was exactly right for this drink. Enjoy! 

Don’t forget to join us tonight for our Billecart-Salmon tasting at UGSE from 5-8. Billecart will be in Chestnut Hill tomorrow night as well!





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Spotlight Wine: 2010 Lail Vineyards “J. Daniel Cuvee” Cabernet Sauvignon

November 17, 2014 by: The Urban Grape


The family behind Lail Vineyards can trace its lineage back to the very beginning of wine making in Napa Valley – current owner Robin Daniel Lail’s great-granduncle was Gustav Niebaum, the founder of Inglenook in 1879. This wine is named after John Daniel, who managed Inglenook from 1933 to 1964 and was one of the major forces behind the development of the Napa Valley appellation. 

Today, you won’t find a nicer person in Napa than Robin Lail. She’s an amazing story teller, full of passion for her family, her vineyards, and her wine. An hour in her presence feels like a minute, thanks to her incredible energy and charm. Robin will be at the Boston Wine Festival on Friday, March 13th, and if you can get tickets to her dinner, she and her wines will not disappoint. 

The 2010 vintage of the J. Daniel Cuvee brings the same energy and charm to the table that Robin does. Parker gave it 96 points, calling it a wine with “gorgeous balance and tons of personality.” You’ll find a nose of cacao, blackberry, and leather that opens up into spicy cardamom. The wine has big tannins and body, but nothing is too overpowering, instead melding together into the perfect sip. Only 560 cases of this wine were produced, so inventory is extremely limited. 

Lail Vineyards makes some of our favorite Napa wines. Today’s spotlight would be a special treat for anyone who loves the power and nuance in a finely made Napa Cabernet. 

Regular Price: $175/bottle

15% per Bottle Discount: $148.75/bottle
25% four-bottle Discount: $525 ($175 savings at $131.25 a bottle) 
*That’s like buy 4, Get 1 Free! 



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Secco Italian Bubbles

by: The Urban Grape

This is the wine that TJ refuses to keep in the house because he says he’s afraid he will come home from work one day and find me surrounded by empty bottles, passed out on the couch. He’s probably right, although at only 5% alcohol, it would take a lot of bottles. 

Secco (a Charles Smith brand) has two Italian bubbles – one made from Chardonnay and the other from Moscato. I adore the Chardonnay (perfect for drinking on its own, and also a fantastic palate for bubbly cocktails), but it’s the Moscato that makes me weak in the knees. As they say on their website, “This wine is so flavorful, one glass is never enough!” 

This is a great wine to have around during the holidays for people that “don’t like wine.” It’s sweet enough to intrigue them and make them feel comfortable, but it’s not cloying or thickly sweet at all – making it a wine that everyone can love. I’m sure there are great food pairings for this wine (a pear tart, for example), but please, let’s just be honest. Pop this wine open on a tough day and feel the world melt away. Just make sure you clear the empties before your spouse comes home. 

Available in the South End and at The Street in Chestnut Hill. Enjoy! 


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Introducing Urban Affairs by Urban Grape!

November 14, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

At The Urban Grape, we live and breathe one fundamental principle: learning about wine should be fun. For us that means gathering with friends, turning on some music, popping bottles, and engaging in some lively conversation.

Our passion for teaching our clients about wine led us to create Urban Affairs, a division of our company devoted exclusively to in-home and in-office wine tasting parties. Led by our energetic and enthusiastic educators, these two-hour tasting events are the ultimate in-home and in-office entertainment. Perfect for cocktail parties, bachelorette parties, client events, and office celebrations, your wine journey can be crafted to fit the tastes and needs of your guests.

Some popular Urban Affair themes include:

• Drink Progressively (wines from lightest to heaviest bodied)
• Old World vs. New World (i.e., Bodeaux vs Napa)
• Sparkling Wines from Around the World
• Up and Coming Wine Regions
• Seasonal Selections (rosé, holiday, etc)
• Female Winemakers
• Not into wine? Book a beer or spirits tasting!

Our team can even work with you on your food selections for the evening, and have many caterers, food artisans, and restaurants that we regularly work with.

For more information on booking an Urban Affair of your own, as well as pricing, please contact our Urban Affairs Manager, Chelsea Bell.

Want to learn about wine but are not yet ready to commit to an Urban Affair of your own? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for information on our monthly Geek Out educational classes and quarterly Pop-Up nights in which we demystify the world of food and beverage pairing!


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UG’s Holiday Grand Tasting!

November 13, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Oh, we are PSYCHED for this Saturday’s Holiday Grand Tasting at both Urban Grapes. Here is what you need to know….

The South End’s tasting is from 2-5, Chestnut Hill’s is from 3-6. Between the two stores we will have over 60 wines and spirits open to try. 

We will be offering deep case discounts on wine. This is a great chance for you to come and stock up for the holidays. 

Case purchases receive free delivery. So if you’re walking by in the South End and want to place a big order, don’t worry. We’ll bring it to you next week. 

We’re pouring only the wines and spirits we know you will want this holiday season. Unlike other grand tastings around the state, you won’t have to power through the Cavit and Santa Margherita tables. We’re opening only our favorite bottles, at very affordable price points. These are unique, cool items that you’d be proud to serve. 

We’ll have all hands on deck (even I will be there, and you KNOW they never let me work the floor!) and the music pumping, so get ready to have some fun! 

Here are some examples of what we’ll be pouring at the stores (not all items will be poured at both stores): 

  • Dalmore and Jura Scotches
  • Michters Bourbon
  • Mozart and Pavan liqueurs
  • Bully Boy Distillers, including their new Hub Punch
  • Vintager Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Rotation Chardonnay
  • Kermit Lynch Coastal Chablis
  • Shafer Merlot
  • Secco Italian Bubbles – Chardonnay and Moscato
  • Roederer Rosé
  • K Vintners Viognier
  • Hypothesis Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Shebang Red Blend
  • Gramercy GSM Lower East
  • Loveblack Sauvignon Blanc
  • Zyme Reverie Valpolicella
  • Fausse Piste Roussanne
  • Pullus Pinot Noir
  • White Hart Chardinnay
  • Novy Gewurtztraminer 

And so much more!!!

Make a day of it, and head to the South End and The Street to shop in the unique stores that surround both Urban Grapes – brunch, window shopping, and wine tasting. What could be better? 



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“I’m Not a Beer Drinker, but…”

November 12, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

*Brendan is one of our newer staff members, having just joined us this fall after working at the Samuel Adams Brewery. I will admit that I have often uttered the “I don’t like beer” phrase that drives Brendan crazy, but have been on a beer kick as of late thanks to a store full of interesting beers just waiting to be tried. If wine is your thing, we can help you find beer that will get you excited as well – just ask! 

There’s a phrase that comes up from time to time, one that really doesn’t make much sense to me: “I don’t like beer.” It’s a surprisingly common phrase, and one I’ve heard in a professional capacity pretty regularly. And yet every time it confuses me. To dislike a category as broad as beer, to dismiss a hundred different styles with a wave of the hand… As a beer lover, it’s a strange thing to contemplate. I suspect, though, that part of the issue is simply that people don’t know how varied the world of beer truly is.

Of course, it’s only fairly recently that beer has had much variety for American consumers. Thirty-five years ago, the United States had fewer than a hundred breweries, and they were almost all turning out the same basic style: a pilsner variant, often with rice or corn substituted for malted barley. And even now, with craft beer booming and more choices than ever, that old style is still what many people picture when they hear the word “beer.” And while there’s nothing really wrong with that style, it is limiting. Imagine someone saying they don’t like wine when all they’d ever had was a pinot grigio.

With the rise of the modern craft beer industry, Americans have access to a wider array of beer than ever before. Big, citrusy IPAs; rich, malty doppelbocks; intriguing wild and sour ales; all can be had just about anywhere in the country by curious drinkers. It’s a grand time to be a beer lover, but that sheer variety can be baffling, even intimidating for people trying to find their way in this new world of single-hop pales and barrel-aged quads.

Fortunately, the intimidation factor can be reduced by remembering one simple fact: it’s just beer. No matter how fancy, how well-crafted, how richly hopped or spiced a beer is, it’s fermented grain and water that we drink to make the day’s end a bit less stressful. It can be much more than that, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s something I constantly have to remind myself working within the industry, because the temptation to put great beer on a pedestal and scoff at the less-good stuff is always present. But that just keeps people from trying the good stuff, and that stuff needs to be shared.

This leads, of course, to the quote I opened with, which was perhaps the most common thing I heard from guests during my time at the Samuel Adams brewery: “I’m not a beer drinker, but I really enjoyed…” People’s eyes would light up as they realized there was a beer they liked, or as they learned that most of the things they had thought about beer were wrong. An entire tour group of forty people nearly lost their minds when I explained to them that dark beers can be light in body. It had simply never occurred to them that you can enjoy a rich, roasty stout without worrying that a single sip will wreck your waistline or knock you off the barstool. Or that beer in a can is actually fine, and might even taste fresher than the bottled stuff.

The key, as with so many things, is keep an open mind and try something new. If you’re a fan of light, citrusy white wine, try out a Gose, a light wheat ale made with coriander and sea salt. If the red fruit and berry sweetness of a pinot noir is your thing, sip a Flemish red or kriek. Love the rich leather-and-tobacco nose of a well-aged barolo? Give imperial porters or barrel-aged stouts a try. If a sweet, round bourbon is more your style, an amber ale or a doppelbock might be the best step.

People have been brewing, drinking, and enjoying beer for well over 8,000 years. It’s one of our oldest traditions, and certainly one of our most fun. Grab a pint and enjoy!



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Spotlight Wine: 2001 Arpepe Sassella “Rocce Rosse” Valtellina Superiore DOCG

November 11, 2014 by: The Urban Grape


This past March, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov wrote a fantastic article on Nebbiolo from regions outside of the Langhe – the region in Piedmont most noted for production of this expressive grape. One of the regions he wrote about was Valtellina, an area in the Lombardy region, snuggled up near the Swiss border, where they call Nebbiolo “Chiavennasca.” While Valtellina was originally known for growing robust grapes that could stand up to the marginal weather, climate changes in the region have made this a perfect, if sometimes still challenging, place to grow Nebbiolo.  
A discussion about Nebbiolo in Valtellina has to focus around one producer in particular, Arpepe. For five generations, the Perego family has been as focused on showing their unique terroir through winemaking as any Burgundian producer. In the tradition of Italy’s oldest producers their wines are aged for long periods of time, with outstanding results. 
The grapes for the “Rocce Rosse” were picked in late November and early December, which is incredibly late in the harvest. This adds a dried fruit character to the wine that is enhanced by 3-4 years aging in Chestnut wood barrels, and a year of aging in bottle. This is not a wine that is produced quickly. Their patience is our reward. The 2001 has flavors of gingerbread, dried cherry, truffle and tobacco on the palate. To reach its full potential, this wine really needs another 3-5 years of cellar aging, making it ideal for someone who can bring a little more patience to this experience. 
The best wines can be transporting. This wine is a whole new experience for even the most experienced wine drinkers. Familiar, yet unique, this is the type of bottle that makes us realize there will always be more to discover about wine. 
Regular Price: $120
15% per Bottle Discount: $102
25% four-bottle Discount: $360 (a $120 savings at $90/bottle). That’s like Buy 3, Get 1 Free!  


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Uncorking the Holidays with Champagne Krug!

November 10, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

Last night we had an exceptional private event at UG, featuring the wines of Champagne Krug. This event was our  kick-off to the holidays, and also a chance for us to share the news about a new division of our company, Urban Affairs, that we have slowly been rolling out, but are officially launching this week (more on this to arrive in your in-boxes, if you are signed up for our newsletter, and on the blog later this week!). 


We tasted the Krug Grand Cuvée, the 2000 and 2003 vintages, and the rosé. I’ve always loved Krug’s big, bold style and am a particular fan of their rosé. I find Krug to be a very food-friendly, and actually food-enhancing, wine. It’s the type of Champagne that you can pour all the way through dinner, and never feel like you’re going to overpower what’s in your glass. 

This was the second time we tasted the 2003 vintage Champagne since it was released earlier this year. It has really settled nicely and was showing beautifully last night. It’s much more floral and evocative than the 2000. I tried to pin Yoko down for a favorite, and she correctly observed that they have different purposes – the 2003 would make a wonderful aperitif, while the 2000 is more suited to food pairings. They are both spectacular, and the fact that they are so different just reinforces the importance of vintage Champagne. 

This was a festive start to the holidays, and one we won’t soon forget (fun fact of the evening – Krug estimates there are 49 million bubbles in each bottle of their Champagne!).

Thank you to Champagne Krug and to the always awesome Boston Raw Bar for providing us with oysters for the evening. If you are thinking of having a raw bar at your holiday party, you will definitely want to book Mike and Jeff – they are honestly the nicest, most class act guys around. 



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The New Chile!

November 5, 2014 by: The Urban Grape

*As a company, we’re all loving the new generation of Chilean wines. Joseph explains what’s changed with Chilean winemaking in recent years, and gives some suggestions of how you can reap the benefits! 

The new Chile?  What does that phrase mean?  After all, Chile was inhabited by ancient peoples for over 10,000 years.  The land was colonized by Spain in the mid-1500s.  It was then the vine and winemaking were first introduced.  And, Chile has been an independent country for almost 200 years.  So, what could possibly be new?  Answer:  their approach – more specifically, their approach to winemaking. 

Chile has had the (not undeserved) reputation of producing only simple, value-priced wines.  To combat this perception, many winemakers are striving to elevate their art, producing wines that reflect the particular terroirs found in this thin strip of land squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. 

Some of the advancements these winemakers have made include:

-       Further dividing some of the fourteen wine growing valleys into three sub-zones from West to East:  coastal, central valley (between the coastal mountains and the Andes Mountains), and Andes.  This remapping highlights the differing influences on the vine from the cooler coast (due to the oceanic influences and the cold Humboldt Current), to the Mediterranean-like climate of the central valley areas, and to the vast temperature shifts between day and night found in the Andes.

-       Pushing the actual boundaries of traditional growing areas.  They are experimenting with planting further into the Northern desert where irrigation is a requirement, into higher elevation vineyards in the Andes, and further into the Southern end of the country.

-       Revival of overlooked grapes such as Syrah, and the original Spanish grape, Pais.

-       Formation of MOVI (Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes / Movement of Independent Vintners), a group of small independent wineries that aim to go beyond the more limited winemaking choices of the large established brands.

-       Formation of VIGNO (Vignadores de Carignan), winemakers who are exploring wines made from forgotten, old vine Carignan that is being dry-farmed to inhibit overgrowth that can result in diluted juice.

Recently the Urban Grape had a tasting event with six Chilean winemakers.  One of the most interesting finds was Casa Silva’s Sauvignon Gris – none of us had heard of it.  Sauvignon Gris turns out to be a less aromatic clone of Sauvignon Blanc and I think a great food pairing wine. 

Also outstanding was the Clos des Fous Cabernet Sauvignon from a group of winemakers “dedicated to finding extreme terroirs in Chile and then exploring those to craft unique wines.”

These are intriguing changes and I look forward to experiencing the fruits of these winemakers’ efforts.


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