Book Your Holiday Wine Tasting with Urban Affairs!

October 8, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

If you’ve been a part of the UG family during the run up to the holiday season, you’ll know that I absolutely despise the pressure retail establishments put on us to starting thinking about Christmas before we’ve even gathered our Halloween candy. I started receiving holiday shopping emails from stores like Lego at the end of August, and honestly, it causes me physical stress to see a snow scene and a Christmas countdown while I’m sitting on a beach. Time is already going so fast, I resent being forced to race to the next big holiday instead of being allowed to enjoy my time getting there. 

So with all this said….I’m about to do the very same thing to you right now! Yup, hypocrisy at its finest. 

But here’s my reasoning – a lot of UG clients want to book our Urban Affairs wine tasting parties for their home or office holiday parties, and if you can believe it our calendar is already filling up with requests. So if you want Chelsea or another member of her wine education team to lead your guests through a fun and interactive tasting, you need to start the process ASAP. 


So what IS an Urban Affairs wine tasting party all about anyway? 

We start with a 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 holiday cocktail 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!

Chelsea and her 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.

Now that we’ve peaked your interest, how do you arrange for us to come to your home? 

The easiest thing is to pick a few dates, and get in touch with Chelsea with the details of your event. From there she will be in touch with pricing and the rest of the information you need. It’s that simple! 

And now, please return to pumpkin beer, turning leaves, chilly nights and warm days, football, and whiskey. 

*photo by Kiera Slye


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Spotlight on Chateau Quinault L’Enclos

October 6, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

SPOTLIGHT WINE: 2009 Chateau Quinault L’Enclos Saint-Emillion Grand Cru (Bordeaux, FR)

Chateau Quinault L’Enclos is the sister property of the world famous Chateau Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux. It was bought from Alain Raynaud in 2008 by Bernard Arnault and Albert Frère, who immediately changed the farming methods on the vineyard to organic production, as well as changed the style of the wine they made. Still a drinkable wine right out of the bottle, the new owners refocused on making an age-worthy wine that would compete with the best Bordeaux. 

The lush and elegant wine benefits from 50 year old vines that produce interesting and concentrated grapes. The 2009 vintage was spectacular in Bordeaux, and this wine shows all elements of bright fruit, complexity, and balance. The dark red color hints at the lush black fruit aromas. The palate has fruit, but also floral notes and great minerality. Nice tannins round out the experience. 

Today’s Spotlight price is a great one for any Bordeaux, but especially a wine from this vintage, made by winemakers of this pedigree. Drinking great now, but will age nicely into the future! 

Regular Price: $52/bottle
15% per Bottle Discount: $44.20/bottle
25% four-bottle Discount: $156 ($52 savings at $39 a bottle) *That’s like buy 3, Get 1 Free!


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Hammersley’s Roast Chicken

October 5, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

With the breakneck speed of school year re-entry, combined with an uptick in after school sports that overlapped with near nightly events at UG, I think it’s safe to say that TJ and I rolled into this weekend utterly exhausted. My dinners for the past few weeks have consisted of pizza bagels, grilled cheese, and something resembling meatloaf, but not really. When I saw the weekend weather called for a cold, rainy snap I couldn’t wait to fire up the On Demand movie channel, open the chimney flue, and get lazy with my people. 

What ensued was a weekend that made me remember why I actually do love my family (and probably why they love me too). I went from homework nag, chauffeur, and bedtime monitor to a real human being again. And I have the memories of cuddles in front of the fire to prove it. 


Feeling recharged and looking to show my thanks for a wonderful weekend, I conquered a recipe that I have wanted to try for years but that always seemed a little intimidating – Gordon Hammersley’s roast chicken. I always shied away from this recipe because the process seemed long and complicated, and the lure of heading over to Hammersley’s and having it prepared for me was just too strong. But without that option, it was time to dive in. And maybe I’m just a more confident cook than when I last looked at the recipe, but while time consuming it really wasn’t hard at all. 

It’s basically like two recipes. In the first, you make a marinade for the chicken and let it sit before roasting it. After roasting, it sits again for as long as you need it to. We were in the middle of watching The Hobbit, which made this the perfect lazy Sunday recipe. This element also makes it perfect for dinner parties where you want to prep ahead. 

After it roasts and sits, you break each chicken down into six parts. I think this is what used to intimidate me, but I’ve since found that if you cook a chicken correctly, you can basically just rip the thing apart with your hands. You just have to follow the bones and pull, especially for the thighs and wings. 

After breaking it down you broil it for about ten minutes to crisp up the skin. I totally gave up on this part. With bedtime looming, I threw it under the broiler for a minute but didn’t sweat this part. But it’s an element I totally would incorporate if I was serving this for a dinner party. Once the chicken is out of the oven you quickly boil down the pan juices, pour it around the chicken and serve. Honestly, it couldn’t be easier. 

I served this with simple roasted potatoes and peas. It was such a special dinner, and one that made the kids just as happy as we were (okay, there was some griping about the peas, but they loved the chicken). We served it with a Burgundy made by Closerie des Alisiares, in the Gevrey-Chambertin region. We started carrying this wine a couple of weeks ago and it is a huge crowd pleaser. It’s got a little more body than some Burgundies, with nice tannin structure, but it still maintains Burgundy’s staple characteristics. It’s $46 on the shelf, which is so reasonable for a Burgundy of this quality. A real treasure (it would be perfect for Thanksgiving!). 

Thank you Mother Nature for the respite from our crazy lives, and thank you Parkway soccer for canceling all the games this weekend. We are back to our insane schedules today, but with smiles on our faces that will last until our next lazy weekend! 



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Meet Zeus

September 25, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Pot Pie, Halloween Costumes, and Lots of Wine

September 21, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Tuesday’s Spotlight Wine of the Week!

July 14, 2015 by: The Urban Grape


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

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

Regular Price: $85/bottle

15% per Bottle Discount: $72.25/bottle

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


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Easy Entertaining Hack

July 1, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

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

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

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

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

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




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A Farewell to Urban Grape Chestnut Hill

June 30, 2015 by: The Urban Grape


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

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

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

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


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Global Warming and Wine

June 26, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

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

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


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

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

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

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



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Castello Romitorio

June 24, 2015 by: The Urban Grape

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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