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The Urban Grape Builds Community One Bottle At A Time

The urban grape opening producers

The Urban Grape isn’t coming to DC, it’s joining the DC wine community. Here’s why you should join them too. 

By Sedale McCall

 

The Urban Grape, a black-owned wine shop based in Boston, opened a new location in DC’s Shaw neighborhood this January. The shop is owned by TJ and Hadley Douglas and boasts one of the largest selection of BIPOC-owned wines around. But the organization is doing more than just selling BIPOC-owned wines. They are making sure to get involved in the community that they support in and out of the shop. The grand opening was just the beginning of the journey. 

 

About the Urban Grape

The Urban Grape started in 2010 in Boston, two years after TJ and Hadley spent time in the Italian countryside thinking about their future plans. Those plans not only prompted the store, but a new way of thinking about buying wine. Enter The Progressive Scale. 

The Progressive Scale is a spectrum that helps consumers find wines they like based on the weight, or body, of the wine. The scale goes from one to ten, with one being the lightest and ten being the heaviest in weight. For example a 1W is a white wine with the lightest body. These wines would include things like Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc and Vinho Verde. On the other hand, a 9R is a red wine that is heavier in weight, things like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The scale also includes rosé up to a 4P. 

Taken together, this scale allows consumers to not only find what they like, but explore other options as well. Think of it like a library. After finding a wine to try, the wines to the left and right will be similar in scale. 

This shop is doing things in a very smart, thoughtful way. It’s very exciting to see that brilliance come to DC. The grand opening revealed that the community had been waiting for this moment for a while. 

The DC Grand Opening

Entering the shop during the grand opening, the energy and excitement of the event was palpable from the very beginning. At the front of the building, there was a long table filled with all black-owned producers. The group included Boyd Cru Wines, and Ward Four Wines, both brands from the DC area. Justin Trabue owns Ward Four Wines and poured her 2022 Barbera alongside Leslie Frelow of The Wine Concierge

 

As you walked around the side of the shop, you ran into a very long line. At the end of that line was Donae Burston of La Fête Wine Company. La Fête is famous for La Fête du Rose, but now Burston and the company have a white blend La Fête du Blanc and a new red blend La Fête Rouge. More importantly, Burston is a DMV native himself, growing up in Randallstown in the Baltimore area. It was clear immediately how much The Urban Grape focused on bringing local black-owned brands to the area.  

The opening also included Ingrid Best from IBest Wines and Myriam Jean-Baptiste from LS Cream Liqueur. Both women credit TJ and The Urban Grape for helping them get their products into the market. 

Joining the Community

TJ and Hadley’s passion is joining a community and building their business within that community. Consumers and wine professionals can see it and feel it whenever they encounter The Urban Grape and its team. 

Comments on social media, like this reel from Will Ferguson (@queerwino), highlight how this shop has the most diverse selection of producers they’ve ever seen. And it makes so much sense. While BIPOC producers account for less than 1% of the industry, they are more than 20% of sales for The Urban Grape. It’s an incredible testament to the real business impact BIPOC producers can have on a business. 

Other wine professionals in the city have also taken notice of what’s happening and are starting to participate. 

“I shared their job description with Vin Vitalité members and they ended up hiring multiple people! It’s been incredibly cool to be a part of their journey since the beginning. It’s great for my own wine education as well,” said Tammy Gordon. Gordon is a PR expert and the founder of Vin Vitalite, formerly Women of Wine DC. The company’s ability to tap into the DC wine community and build from within makes it an incredible value to the city. 

But the shop isn’t the only place The Urban Grape will build community. The shop is working with local vendors for catering events. And most importantly, they plan to expand their internship and mentorship opportunities to their area by creating partnerships with Howard University. This not only expands their own talent pool but diversifies the industry itself. 

 

What’s Next for the Urban Grape

The Urban Grape is already successful, but will be a much larger success here in the DC area. TJ and Hadley, and the rest of the DC team, have all of the skills, passion and determination to make this shop one of the best shops in the city. I left the shop inspired to come back again and again!

To learn more about The Urban grape you can visit their main channel at https://theurbangrape.shop/. For consumers in the DC area, they also have a DC-focused page at https://dc.theurbangrape.shop/ where you can learn about upcoming tastings and purchase wine for pickup (shipping is coming Late February or Early March). You can (and should!) also follow them on Instagram @UrbanGrape

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