When it comes to wine, there are probably four groups of people out there (beware...this is a broad generalization): those who wouldn't know the difference between red and white in a blind taste test, those who have never strayed from their trusty $12 bottle of Merlot, those who understand why white wine is supposed to be chilled and served in a narrower glass than red and those who subscribe to Wine Enthusiast.
And if a Wine Enthusiast reader were to meet up with a blind taste tester to go wine shopping, chances are they'd get in a little scuffle. But not at Just Grapes.
The beauty of Just Grapes is its universal appeal, from the most knowledgeable winos to the utterly, laughably, ridiculously clueless among us. Keeping in mind that each additional square foot costs dozens of additional dollars, the largely barren floor space makes you feel you're part of high society; at the same time, the organization of the store even makes it easy for a beer drinker to find something he likes.
Wines are first categorized in a varietal progression, starting with sparkling wines and weaving around the store in a parade of fruity whites, blushes and austere reds. Each wine is assigned a bin number and your purchases are computer tracked, so if you want something a little fruitier than what you last tried, the wine experts are more than prepared to help you. Just Grapes solely offers boutique artisan producers, and their wines run the gamut from $6 to $400.
Even more splendor emanates within Just Grapes when you realize that 24 (16 red, eight white) of the store's 300-odd wines can be tasted in a self-serve wine dispenser. One of the few in the nation, the dispenser offers samples for between 50 cents and $5 that you fund through a rechargeable ATM-like card. Owners Don Sritong and Sharon Tulloch have a parternship with Wine Spectator and offer a handful of wine tasting classes each month, complete with online "coursework," in-store tastings and occasional guest speakers.
Centerstage Reviewer: Laura Brown