Please note, the content of this webinar is suitable for those over the age of 21.
Learn how to taste wine with TJ Douglas, Founder and CEO of The Urban Grape in Boston and co-creator of the Progressive Scale, a unique way of organizing wine by its body, rather than varietal or region, as a way to help you pick the perfect wine for your palate
During this webinar, you’ll learn why the Progressive Scale was created and just how it can help you find wines you’ll love, while sipping along with wines chosen for you from our BIPOC collection. You may purchase any of the wines included in this bundle or attend for free and sip whatever is already in your wine rack.
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
Amie Stevens - Alright, good afternoon, everyone. My name is Amie Stevens, Deputy Regional Managing Director of First Republic here in Boston. Thank you all for joining us today to drink progressively with the Urban Grape. I have the pleasure of introducing our guests today, TJ Douglas, Founder, and CEO of the Urban Grape and co-creator of the Progressive Scale, a unique way of organizing wine by its body. TJ is also a local friend here in Boston to us. I am so excited to learn more about the Progressive Scale directly from the source TJ. If you'd like to submit a question to TJ during the webinar, please use the Q&A feature below, the recording of this webinar will be available on our website if you'd like to view it again in this week's time, with that TJ take it away?
TJ Douglas - Amie, I'm so happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me. And it's always so special to be involved in our First Republic events, both for clients and for your team. So hello all, I know we have a ton of people on today because of so many, we're going full on webinars style, and now we're going to have a lot of fun tasting some wine. Now, some of you were able to purchase some of the wines that we're going to be tasting, but also you can sip on whatever you have in your cellar or your wine fridge at home, because it is Wednesday and it's four o'clock here in Boston and it is okay to have a sip of wine. So I started the Urban Grape along with my wife in 2010, after a long time in the restaurant industry, as well as in the wholesale side, selling to stores and restaurants. And when I was in the restaurant industry, it was really hard to really be able to give clients or guests sitting at the table really honest answers from a very seasonal staff that I would have all of you I'm sure have been sitting at a table in a restaurant and you asked the server or the manager, "I'm thinking about this wine, how is it?" And they would reply with, "Oh, it's really good." Now for me, that answer really doesn't work because it doesn't hold any weight and there's no trust in that answer. And if you're out there to have a great dining experience, the experience has now been tainted because of the lack of a good answer.
So with my seasonal staff at the restaurant that I ran on Newbury Street, instead of trying to teach them about every single wine on my wine list, I created a progressive wine list where the lines were organized by their body, also known as weight, but really it's just the viscosity of the liquid in the glass. And creating this progressive wine list really helped them and gave them the tools to be successful servers and to give you a correct answer other than it's really good. Now, why this is important is because we eat as eaters and we drink as drinkers progressively. If you look at the last menu, whether it was hopefully in person or whether you ordered something online, menus are pretty much written in a progressive format from lighter bodied, higher acid, sometimes chilled, all the way down to like the big entrees of proteins and until desserts. So at this restaurant that I ran, I created a wine list on the left side of the food menu that went from light body to full body, just like the food. So if someone was having something at the top of the menu, chances are the wines at the top of the menu went really well with the foods because of acid levels, viscosity, sugar levels, all of the stuff that we need to know on the backend to get you a great glass of wine that's going to pair well with your food. So we're going to learn a little bit about that tonight or this afternoon.
So when I left the restaurant industry, when my wife and I were starting to have kids and I was doing about 90 hours a week as a General Manager, I took the system that I created and I moved it into a retail format in 2010, when we opened up the Urban Grape first store in a suburb of Boston called Chestnut Hill. Now, if you look behind me, this is my current store in the south end of Boston. And you can see these beautiful wine racks. I'm not really in my store, I'm in my dining room, a couple of miles away from my store, but this is there. So you can get a good idea of what this is, the wines they go from left to right, from light body to flow bodied for white wines and red wines on Urban Grape Progressive Scale of one to 10. So one is going to have a real kind of light bodied, skim milk, mouthfeel, light, fresh, watery, but none of that stuff is bad. I don't talk about flavor that much.
When you go up in the Progressive Scale to more of a medium bodied wine, like whole milk, where there's a little bit more of the scarcity on your palette, that's going to be a five on our Progressive Scale. And then if you can guess when you get up to the full bodied wines, like a lot of those super rich California Chardonnays with the big Shiraz or Zinfandels that's going to be a 10 on Urban Grape Progressive Scale, and then closer to the floor because we are a very dog friendly community and dog friendly wine shop, we have the lower price wines at the bottom. And at the top we have the more expensive wines. So at the Urban Grape, you can find your section or your number, and that is for your entire pallet. And it doesn't really matter where the grapes come from or so geographical growing region or grape varietal, what grape it is, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Zinfandel. But what it allows you to do is understand your own palette and the why's and the why nots of if you like something or not. And we've been very successful since then, we opened up our second store in 2012. And in order to focus on our second store, we sold our first store in 2016. And we've only climbed since then. I taste about 6,000 wines a year, I don't drink all of them. I taste them and we do about 3000 wines in the store. So there's always a constant flow of wines.
And we've created a really beautiful online experience, the urbangrape.shop, where you can shop by varietal, by price point, or you can even shop on our Progressive Scale. So we're going to taste four wines tonight, as I mentioned, some of you might have them, some of you might not, but feel free to pop anything that's in your wine for drawing your wine rack. I'm going to start off with white wine because it's kind of hot in Boston here and there, you know, in hot weather, I love lemonade, right? Think about what lemonade feels like on all of your pallets. And here's a thing about our palette, your palette's just your mouth. The hardest part about wine tasting is the terminology because all of you, even though I can't see you, you all have great pallets, but some of you based on your wine experiences might not have the terminology and that's what makes wine intimidating, okay? So the Progressive Scale helps take that intimidation out of wine. After all hot tennis match on a hot day in a hot month, in a hot city, you're not screaming for hot chocolate or heavy cream. You're screaming for light bodied, skim milk lemonade with beautiful high acid, you know, mouthwatering acidity, and really bright flavors. What I'm starting with is on a Progressive Scale, a two Ws so the W just stands for wine. And this is a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand which is in the South Island in a Northeast corner. And this, like all four wines that we're going to be pouring tonight are all producers of color, which you can also shop on our online experience.
And so we have four wines that are all made by black men and black women, and really proud to be able to serve these by-products wines this afternoon. So the first one is McBride Sisters. Now, Robin and Andrea McBride, they both are... They're twin, well, not really twins, they're sisters that look extremely alike. They had the same dad, but different moms. And the two moms didn't know that the other mom existed and one was in Southern California and one was in Marlborough, New Zealand. And when the sisters met later in life, they realized that we should do something because one we're sisters, we have a great story, we both have a passion for wine because one was a farmer in the wine industry, and the other one was learning how to make wine on the marketing side. So they created McBride Sisters, and they also created something, an offshoot of that called Black Girl Magic, which has really spun off. Now, what's great about these women is that they are one of the first black owned and female owned wine brands in the world. Now here's the thing where we are, and you know, in this time right now, is that there's a great focus on producers of color, in the wine industry, on supporting black and brown and female owned and AAPI businesses around our globe, right? And really just really create the sense of equity and give really more people a chance.
So for this wine right here, and this is if you don't have this, but you've had New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc before, when you smell this, it has this really beautiful lime and grapefruit and fresh grass notes to it. It's not that it grows next to grapefruit, but the same gene or same estes that makes a grapefruit taste and smell like grapefruit is also in the Sauvignon Blanc grape, and green apple is also in a lot of Sauvignon Blanc grapes and Chardonnay, and a lot of other white wines.
What I'm doing here, I'm swirling this, and this is just wine 101, but again, help take the intimidation out of wine and drinking. When I'm swirling this, we all know the answer of, oh, you know, we're letting the wine breathe, but what does that mean? Well, the alcohol, the liquid alcohol that's trapped in the grape juice at the bottom of this glass is slowly evaporating. That evaporation is carrying all the phenolic compounds that are trapped in the wine out and gives it some more smell. So when I swirl this I'm increasing surface area and I'm speeding up the evaporation of alcohol. So when I stick my nose in this, yes I'm smelling alcohol vapors, but like the really like nice way to say it is that I'm smelling the bouquet, but that's what that is. And when I smell the bouquet or the vapors go up through my nose and then down through the back of my throat, through my old factory, and then I can start feeling and the taste on my palette and that triggers something in my brain telling me that I need to take a sip. Now when I take a sip of this, I'm going to do the same thing in my mouth also known as my palate and create a larger surface area for the liquid to touch all points of my mouth.
Now, as I mentioned, we all have great palates, but here's the cool thing about all of us on this call, we all feel the same way. So if I take a sip and I feel like this really nice dryness down the middle of my palette, you're feeling that too, when I feel like lemonade acid on the roof of my mouth, and then my mouth dries out, and then my mouth starts to water, which makes me want to take another sip, you're feeling that as well. So what I'm going to do, I'm going to make this really annoying sound, but I'm going to amplify it just so you can hear it, and I'll tell you what this is. That annoying sound that you hear like sommeliers do all the time, what I'm doing is that I'm speeding up the alcohol evaporation process so I'm tasting more wine. Now, when I wait a second, this has such lip smacking acidity because so that the acid attaches your salivary glands in your mouth and makes your mouth starts to water. So this is what makes a great wine to pair with food. Now people say wine enhances the flavor of food, but the flavor of the food is already in there. You've already cooked it, you've already seasoned it, right? But when the acid in this wine opens up the pores in your mouth, what's actually under your pores or your taste buds. So that acid opens up your taste buds and allows you to taste more of the food that otherwise you weren't getting without the wine. So always drink wine with food. I really, really enjoy this wine a lot.
So this is a two W on a Progressive Scale, and it's a really beautiful wine. Now I mentioned skim milk, whole milk, and heavy cream. For those of you who were lucky enough to ever dine at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center in New York, that obviously went down on 911. When that restaurant opened up, I believe in 1976, until you know, the evening of September 10th, they were the number one house or building to sell wine in the world. Windows on the World sold more wine than any other restaurant on the planet. Windows on the World sold more wine than any retailer on the planet. And the gentleman who was the opening wine director, Kevin Zraly Z-R-A-L-Y has a great book called "Windows on the World" was the Wine Director there for 20 and a half years. And he wrote a book called "Windows on the World" and he wanted to make wine simple. And he said, "What's most important? Is it understanding this specific vineyard from this specific vintage, from this specific part of burgundy from this producer, or is it about mouthfeel and tactile sensations?" And so with the mouthfeel and tactile sensations, which is how you understand your palette better, and also how you pair wine with food better is skim milk, whole milk and heavy cream for the scale of body or weight. And then you have a lemonade and you have hot chocolate. That's the spectrum of acid, high acid and very low acid.
And I was listening to a podcast the other day, because it's now like on the 30th edition of this book, and a question was asked of him. He said, "Kevin, every year that you revise your book, or every couple of years of your revise your book with all the new information about why, and that comes out every year, what do you put, what do you add to your book?" And he goes, "I do the opposite. Every year, the more that I learn about wine, I reread my book and I actually take information out. I want to simplify wine because wine is already scary. Let me simplify it." So I tell you this story because I've read a ton of wine books, but back when I was in the restaurant side in the early 2000s, this was the book that I read and I said, "Oh, you know what? I understand this, this is the way that I think about wine. This is the way that I'm going to teach wine in this way that "Windows on the World" has taught some of the best pallets on this planet." And so that's where my Progressive Scale and thinking about this really comes from, and I've been doing this for about 16 years using my Progressive Scale. And yeah, it's really lovely. I'm going to move on to the next wine, staying with a black female producer. Now the only state that is 100% owned by a black family in all of California is Brown Estate. Now, Mrs. Brown and Dr. Brown, were living in the Bay Area, South of the Bay Area. And they were running a hospital down closer to LA. And it was a free clinic for people in the area. And they spoke like seven different languages to give free healthcare. This was back in the late '60s and early '70s, and it continued through the '80s, but he wanted some... He wanted a little bit of peace.
He wanted some therapy. He wanted a vacation home where he can turn everything off, get his hands dirty and learn something that he's never learned before. And he started to become a farmer and farming just happened to be grapes in Napa Valley. So the Brown family purchased a property on the eastside, over near Lake County on the backside of Howard mountain and Pritchard Hill and Napa Valley in the mid '80s and started farming and started apprenticing at other wineries and learning how to make wine. And since then, they've been making amazing wine, mostly Zinfandel based, and they've mostly been direct to consumer, but I've been able to get them into Massachusetts for a very eager clientele looking to support them. So Coral Brown, who is late '30s, early '40s, is the daughter. And as we know, and as we're taught in business and you know, the easiest way to get into a business, or basically the easiest way to create wealth is through inheritance. And for being a producer of color, there's not really any inheritance. And she is kind of an anomaly in this and that her parents did have a winery, but most don't the McBride sisters didn't, the next one that we're going to do didn't, so they were going to inherit this because they worked through this and they had free labor but also free education as they I grew up. But when Coral Brown wanted to get into the family business, she didn't want to rest on her family's Laurel she wanted to do her own thing.
And so her own thing is House of Brown Chardonnay. And we're jumping up on the Progressive Scale from a two to a seven W. So a lot of Chardonnay for those of you who have this and you swirl it and you smell it, this to me, this does not smell you know, okay, this does not smell buttery was what we think of for California Chardonnay. That style of California Chardonnay is only a style because most Chardonnay, for those of you who drink white burgundy, a lot of it doesn't have that buttery smell. So after you take the grape juice and you've opened the grape skin up and the sugar comes out, there's either yeast added to it or there's natural yeast in the air, yeast and sugar together starts alcoholic fermentation. The by-product of that formula is ethanol alcohol, sulfites, and CO2, and that's alcohol fermentation right there. There's a naturally occurring secondary fermentation and this, it sounds geeky but it's really not a naturally occurring secondary fermentation that changes and converts the acid style in the wine. And I've talked about asset a lot because it's important. The naturally conversion, the natural conversion is converting malic acid, which is like, what's in a Granny Smith apple, very, very tart, and naturally converts it into lactic acid, which is what's in dairy, okay? So think about lemonade, hot chocolate, that Granny Smith apple is super high acid that cup of hot chocolate is very little acid and that's the malolactic.
Now malolactic fermentation, most red wines go through malolactic fermentation and the reason why is that if it didn't red wines would actually be too acidic to drink. So they mostly all go through that, but most white wines do not, because if it does, it loses its acidity and the wine will taste maybe a little flabby. So there's a by-product of this conversion and it's ester called diacetyl, right? Don't remember diacetyl, but diacetyl is that buttery smell, okay? So when we taste butter or smell butter right off the bat, you know that this has gone through malolactic fermentation. Anytime you get flavors of vanilla or coconut or caramel that comes from the oak, okay? So if you smell those, that means that it's been barrel aged and it's gone through this malolactic fermentation, meaning that the wine is going to be heavier on your palette, creamier, maybe a little smoother and very, very, very yummy. So I mentioned, I don't smell any butter on this, and I also don't smell any caramel or oak on this, because this is an unoaked wine that did not go through malolactic fermentation. So this to me kind of drinks like a Chardonnay from the region in Northern Burgundy, Northwestern Burgundy called Chablis. Now Chablis, which some of you I'm sure most of you have had before is Chardonnay but it's not what we think of, of California Chardonnay. Coral's making this in a very Chablis style, but a lot of Chablis and the Progressive Scale is like a three or four. So why is this a seven? Because it comes from California. It comes from us a hot place.
And you've known if you tried to grow tomatoes in cool climate, they're really small and they take a long time to grow. But if you grow up tomatoes in a hot climate and there's more sugars, and you're working with photosynthesis to bring everything up, you get these really big, delicious, juicy, yummy tomatoes with a ton of sweetness to it. Grapes are exactly the same way. So if you're growing a grape in a hot climate, your grapes are going to be bigger, there's going to be a little bit more sugar. And in order to make that wine to ferment that wine dry, you need to ferment out the sugar, which is going to bring up the alcohol on the bottle. So this right here is, I wish they put them all in the same place. I think this is like 14.5% alcohol. If we're drinking the same wine, but from Chablis, It'd probably be about 13% alcohol just because it's cooler climate. So when I taste this wine right here, it doesn't have any of that butter on there, but it has a lot of like lovely, like almost like gingered apple, a little bit of a cold banana. So I'm going to share a little secret with just all of you right here. You can say whatever you want to say when you smell something, because it's your palette and it's your descriptor. And as I said, the terminology of wine tasting and wine notes, that's the hardest part, but if you smell this and this reminds you of something, you are 100% correct, because it's your memory and it's your descriptor. So when I say, I smell kind of like this kind of gingered apple, some of you would be like, oh yeah, gingered apple, but our brains aren't meant to pull out ginger apple from Chardonnay from California.
I also smell a little like this banana note to it. Mmh, and on the palate, it has really beautiful acidity, but it has this fatness, this richness on the mid palate, which is just the middle part of your mouth. And it's really, really lovely. I love this wine, we drink this often. I love this wine with like heavier salads, right? If you did like a Greek salad and like the Kalamata olives with a saltiness would go beautifully with this. This also pairs really well with a heavier white fishes. But you know what, you can also drink it ice cold, throw an ice cube in it and sit on your back porch and enjoy summer. So, our whole goal at the Urban Grape and my whole goal during all of my years in the wine and hospitality business is one I want to help build community through beverage. I look at our world really through the lens of the wineglass, but also I want to take the intimidation out of wine because it's scary. And when we're intimidated about something due to lack of experience or education we put blinders on, and when you put blinders on, then you're going to go back to that same thing every single time. And there's so much out there to explore, and to really increase your experiences. So I hope you like those first two wines. If you have both of them open, go back to the McBride Sisters, which is a two W and just feel, not taste, but feel how light bodied that wine is because the Progressive Scale has created a spectrum of light body, full body, medium bodied, and you can just play within that world.
And so next time when you go into a store or a restaurant, and you ask for a recommendation, you can now say, I like a medium body wine because as opposed to just going in and saying, I want a smooth wine, and I don't want anything too dry, and I don't want anything too sweet because out of the 760 wines that I have behind me over there, every single one of them is dry because they're not sweet dessert wines. And every single one of them should be fruity because it's made from fruit. So if you can change your descriptors a little bit, you're going to have a much better dining and wine buying experience, no matter where in the world that you buy your wines. So I always make the joke but it really... I tried to test this out this weekend when I was visiting my in-laws down in Rhode Island, I always make this joke of like when I get done with the white wine, okay now, as my father-in-law says, "Let's get into real wine, which is red wine." But it's not a joke. I tried to give him a glass of wine that happened to be white this weekend and he's like, "I'm not drinking that, pour me a glass of Cabernet," but before we get into Cabernet, we're going to get into Pinot noir. So I wish there was a way that I could see how many people have had the joy and the experience of visiting South Africa.
I've been to South Africa a few times. I went there on my honeymoon a long time ago, but I was also there, let's see, I think I add one year plus six months to COVID, so I was in South Africa two years ago in March, and I was lucky enough to do harvest there. And it's fascinating so think about South Africa, it's Southern hemisphere so the seasons are opposite. So we were harvesting in the very beginning of March, where here in the Northern hemisphere, we'd be getting kind of like September or so. And I was in South Africa in a very famous wine growing region called Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is like the Napa Valley of South Africa. Now South Africa is fascinating because with South Africa, they've been growing wine grapes for about 500 years. And there was a time that there was a lot of issues with vineyard, something called phylloxera back in the 1800s in Bordeaux, and some of the wines that were labeled as Bordeaux in the 1800s to keep these wineries afloat during a time where they weren't being able to grow good grapes, they were buying grapes and buying already made wine from South Africa, Portugal, Spain, and calling it Bordeaux. So the people in South Africa have a history of growing wine grapes, but until apartheid ended there wasn't a lot of education. So for me if I drink South African wine from the '80s, it wasn't good wine because they didn't have the knowledge, they didn't have the expertise. They weren't able, the people that live there, the brown and black people that lived there were not allowed to travel to the University of Dijon to study or UC Davis or go harvest in New Zealand to learn how to farm in the Southern hemisphere. They just made the grapes that were there and turned it into wine. But when apartheid ended, it allowed them to leave and go get educated, but it also allowed people to come in and educate. And since then, the wine has been a really fast uptick in quality.
And for any of you who follow currencies around the world, the south African currency is called the Rand. And just to show you the volatility of their currency and their economy, especially in the wine industry, when I was there for the eight days or so, it went from I think 12 and a half on the U.S. dollar to 14 and a half in one week on the U.S. dollar. What that means for someone with U.S. dollars and U.S. cash, is that there's unbelievable value in buying wine from South Africa, because it's $13 to our $1. And another thing is that South Africa, because of where it came from in Pangea, it has the oldest dirt in the world. And a lot of it is volcanic. So when we hear the French word terroir, which is more of like your microclimate of wind and sun and rain and the flora and the fauna all around you and the dirt, the soil, to be able to grow vines in the oldest dirt on the planet, it's pretty cool. So with South African wine, I drink a lot of South African wine for many reasons. I still love Napa, Napa and Burgundy are my kind of two favorite things that fill my cellar up. But right now, and has been for the last couple of years, South Africa is the most exciting wine growing region in the world for me. And I taste about 6,000 wines a year as I mentioned, and South African wines are fantastic. They're new to the education side, but they're starting to travel around the world and experience what wine is like in other regions. And definitely more classic regions like California or Bordeaux, or the Rhone or Burgundy.
And this next one, right here is called Kara-Tara. And Kara-Tara is from this amazing guys, is about six foot one big rugby player. His name is Rüdger van Wyk. And Rüdger van Wyk has studied and has apprenticed in a lot of wineries, and he's got a day job in a winery that pays his bills, but then he's got his own project. And this is how a lot of projects are happening in South Africa right now. And he's making a absolutely stunning Pinot noir. On our Progressive Scale, this Pinot noir, like the McBride Sisters, it's a two, but it's a two R, so two meaning red. So where red wine gets its color from, is from the skin. So when you're making white wine, most white wine is not made touching the skin, but most red wine is made touching the skin. So think about the last time you bit into a grape, or if you went into the grocery store and you took a green grape and a red grape, and you pulled the skin back, they're both going to be the same color on the inside, almost like a little like grayish, right? So when you make red wine and you have the skin contact called maceration, what it does it extracts not only the color from the skin, but it also extracts texture acid in the form of tannin.
Tannin is a dry acid that gives your mouth a dryness it's in tea, it's in walnuts and it needs protein to make it feel a little bit softer, but it also extracts a lot of phenolic compounds. So a lot of times red wine and why my father had said, "I want a real wine," it's like because there's more kind of stuff in red wine. But with that being said, red wine needs a little bit something extra to make red wine feel a little bit better on your palette and a lot of times that's food. So with this wine right here, this is a two R, in this section in two R at the Urban Grape, you have a lot of Burgundy, which also happens to be Pinot noir, but you also have a lot of Bourgogne also made from Burgundy, but from a grape called Gamay, you might have some red wines that are unoaked, which are light and bright from maybe the Basque region in Spain or some Portuguese wines, really, really fun things. We have a Barbera and Dolcetto from Piedmont in northwestern Italy in the two R section. So if you like those wines, you'll really dig this one. It's going to have some different flavors, but again, the tactile sensation, the mouth feel, a lot of us feel that that's more important than pulling cherry out of the glass, which this one actually has. So again, I'm going to swirl and you notice I'm not checking the legs, the legs really mean nothing to 99.9% of wine drinkers. For that 0.1% it's people that are sommeliers or trying to take some time kind of certificate course, and they're being tested. And he goes, what the legs do when you swirl as the legs dripped down, what that shows you, it shows you the sugar content. It shows you the ratio between alcohol and sugar, residual sugar.
If it's a long, slow tier, that's kind of fat and wide, that means that there's more unfermented sugar in this glass of wine than if it's long and thin, which means that there's very little sugar and therefore it might have higher alcohol, but the legs don't mean that you're going to like it or not. And when you're smelling it again, you're getting your pallet ready. And a lot of red wines have a very perfumey nose, but they're always going to be some kind of fruit, with a young wine, it's going to be red fruit, blue fruit, black fruit, purple fruit, right? And they all kind of mix in, but for those of you have ever aged wine, maybe something that's five or 10 or maybe 30 years old from like Napa or Bordeaux or something from Tuscany, the fruit tends to be a little bit more browned fruit, right? So you might have cherry notes, but it might be bruise cherry, or it Luxardo cherry versus like a fresh Bing cherry or a sour cherry. With this one right here I get this really kind of like sweet Cola cherry. The Cola comes from the wood a little bit because we see some wood contact. And this comes from in an area called the Western Cape. So for those of you, who've been to South Africa, there's Cape town, which is almost at the very southern tip of the continent where the cold Atlantic Ocean and the warm Indian Ocean meet. And so you get this great breeze coming up. They have warm summer months and cool winter months kind of like we have up here in New England, but the water is warm on one side and cold on the other. Redrick, I'm sorry, Rüdger sources from a couple of different vineyard sites in the Western Cape, which is just north of Cape Town. And when you smell this it has this kind of iron quality to it. Remember old soils, a lot of volcanic, there was a lot of iron and volcanic ash. And so that translates into the soil therefore it gets into the wine. Hmm, for those of you who love Northern Burgundy like Chavin Chavatan or , or even something like an Oregon Pinot from Willamette Valley, this wine is absolutely right up your alley.
But here's the cool thing, if this was wine from those two places that I previously mentioned, they'd would be two to three times the price of this wine, and this just shows so much quality. And Rüdger is an amazing guy. I did a long Zoom with him with a couple other black South African wine makers a couple of months ago. And it was really fascinating. If you all get the chance to visit South Africa, please do. It's a really wonderful time. The people are wonderful, especially in the hospitality industry there, they're so proud to have you in their home and to show you everything they have. And the wine region is fantastic. So this is a cool climate wine because of the... It's comes from the north of Cape Town, which is where the Atlantic Ocean is. But then the warm areas, because of the breeze coming up from the Indian Ocean. They do something with this wine called whole cluster fermentation. Again, it sounds geeky, but it's really not. For those of you who've been to a winery. I was just in Napa last week and I went to Opus One and they were talking about their optical sorting tables. So the grapes come out in bunches and then the grapes go through a Destemmer, and then it kind of knocks all the berries loose and takes the vine out of that. And then people move the berries out. And then it goes through this camera to make sure the only the best berries are in there, everything else gets discarded. If we didn't go through Destemmer and we kept the grapes on that bunch just like you would buy them in a grocery store or a farmer's market, you'd get those and you would actually start the alcohol fermentation process with the whole clusters right there.
You press them down, but you leave all the stems on there. And the reason that you do that, is because a lot of winemakers feel that that herbaceousness from the stems, like if you ever got like ate the core of an apple, it has like a little bit of bitterness to it. But if you have really ripe stems and ripe seeds in the grapes, what it does, it gives this really aromatic lift on kind of like the back palate. But it also makes the wine a little bit lighter on the back, but it gives it more kind of chewiness and texture all across the palette without having to manipulate it by keeping more sugar in the wine or adding extra oak. And so it's a really cool way that, I mean, really the Romans used to make wines like this, actually before that the Egyptians used to make wine like this, right? You kind of used everything and this is something that's coming back because people are trying to make wine now in a more natural way, not natural wine, but making wine with less makeup on it, making wine that really lets the old dirt really show what it is or for making sure that if you're on a white wine, that apple really is coming out and that it's not just killed well, with the touch of a human adding more Oak or adding sugar, or adding more sulfites or adding more citric acid to it. And this is a really minimalistic way to make wine by using current technology, but an old style of wine making, it's really cool. So, now let's get onto the next wine. And then we're going to have I think about 10 minutes or so for some Q&A. So if anyone has any questions or thoughts, please put them in the Q&A, and then we'll get those answered in a few minutes. So the last wine is a nine R on our Progressive Scale. This is the 2017 Klinker Brick Cabernet Sauvignon. And this comes from an area called Lodi, California, which is east of San Francisco and south of Sacramento. And they make a lot... They grow a lot of grapes in Lodi. A lot of wines that maybe have like a California accoladed designate on it, or just says, red wine of California or California on it, a lot of times a lot of the grapes are coming from Lodi. It is farm country out there, but because it's farm country out there, they're not the big, 20 and 40 and $50 million wineries that you would find in Napa.
A lot of these things were made in small garages, or it looks like someone's guest house and that's the actual whole winery. And they might use like a custom crush facility, almost like a wee work space or an industrious for winemakers. And you get really great wines out there. So this is a family, five generations old, and they were farmers, they're grape growers and about a decade and a half ago, they started making wine and they hired a young black man named Joseph Smith and to make their wines and a clinker brick is a, it's a type of brick that was used in this area of California in the 1800s where the brick was a much heavier and much more dense and actually had a dark color to it. And their winery and their house is made out of this clinker brick. And the clinker is it's the sound that the brick makes when you put it on top of another brick. So that's the story, the romantic story of it. But the wine it's 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a pretty warm climate. It's big, it's juicy. And for those of you who have it, you'll get like a lot of like cigar spice and a lot of like dark blue and black fruit like Blackberry and dark blueberry. And this is juicy for anyone who's ever had a wine, which is a blend, but like the prisoner, that big juiciness, this is where you get into the yummy factor. This wine is yummy and spends a lot of time in oak about 16 months. And it also, because it's a big red wine, it goes through full malolactic fermentation. So a lot of red wines, you don't really get that buttery smell in excepts, I always find it in the grape called Tempranillo, which you can find from the most famous region in Spain, near Barcelona called Rioja where it doesn't smell so much like butter, but it smells like fruit on the bottom yogurt. And it's a beautiful, beautiful smell. But most other wine, you can't smell the malolactic fermentation, but in this one, it just has this yumminess to it. And this gets to the style of heavy cream and hot chocolate. So when would you drink heavy cream or when would you cook with heavy cream or when would you drink hot chocolate?
You know, maybe not times of different months, but when you're eating it, right? because again, back to my progressive wineless, back in the day when I was in the restaurant side, this would be on the bottom of the menu next to the Osso Bucco and the ribeye and the lamb shank and these massive, massive, massive meals. And if you're a vegetarian, this would be a big like eggplant dish, right? Which is really, really meaty with a lot of mushrooms in it. And that's what this wine is made for. But it's also made for is that it's so big and so delicious and so yummy and mouth coating on the palette that it's kind of a meal within itself. So this is a great wine, you know what? I want to read a book or turn on a movie and I just want a big old glass of wine and I don't want to worry about food, go for a nine R. What else is in this section? A lot of Napa Cabernets, but Amarone, where they dry the grapes for a little while I've been Northeastern Italy in the Veneto, Zinfandel, a lot of Zin’s is in this area, Shiraz from Barossa Valley in Australia. These are all big yummy wines. One of my favorite groups from California called Petite Sirah. This is that in that world. So again, the idea with the Progressive Scale at the Urban Grape, it's, let's say you love $100 Zinfandel. Let's say you love some of the single vineyards from Helen Turley, but tonight you want something in the $20 range because you're just doing a barbecue and a bunch of people are coming over to hang out on your back porch. You'll come into the Urban Grape or you'll shop on our wine experience online. And you'll see the wines that you like that a $100 Zinfandel and then you just go down and you find something and yes, it's going to be from a different place. Yes, it's going to be a different varietal, but it's all for your palette. And that's the important thing about the Progressive Scale is that it's not about us, it's about you. And just to kind of tie this in to our relationship, both personal and my business with First Republic, it's not about First Republic, it's about you as the client. It's about me as the client. And with that, I think I'll turn it over to Sophia for some Q&A.
Sophia Smith - Hey TJ, thanks for that fantastic presentation. We have a bunch of wine lovers on the back end here asking a bunch of questions. So here we go. The first one here is, how can we use your scale to pair wine with other things like chocolates or Girl Scout Cookie?
TJ - Well, there's only one kind of Girl Scout Cookie in my mind, and that's a thin mint and they're always back ordered and out of stock. And no matter how quickly I pull up to that stoplight and jump out of my car and try to buy Girl Scout Cookie, those are always gone. But when you think about it like a thin mint, it's refreshing, there's a lot of acid in that as opposed to like the butter cookie, right? On that, so with like a thin mint, I would probably go something light bodied with higher acid that's not going to be too heavy because what you don't want to do, you don't want to overpower the cookie. But if you have something like the shortbread cookie, I said butter cookie but like the shortbread cookie, which has a really like butteriness to it. Like how great would that be with like a medium body white wine that went through a little bit of malolactic fermentation, which brings that creaminess out, and that's a great compliment. With chocolate, chocolate's tricky because you can have bitter chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate with a certain percentage of milk, milk plus chocolate, and there's so many different styles. I would always, always find the chocolate first and then try to pair the wine with it. So if I had a really, really rich chocolate, I would actually go with a really rich wine, like a Zinfandel or a Klinker Brink because those richness styles that sweet, that kind of a really ripe sweet flavor that you're getting, not sweet wine, but sweet flavor, it's almost like pork, and think about like pork and a really beautiful chocolate dessert or a piece of chocolate. What we did recently, we did a chocolate and sake tasting and it was absolutely fascinating because sake is all about the texture and the acid, but there's very little tannin with it and there's a lot of tannin and chocolate, so that works really well. But here's the thing for every one rule that I give you or that anyone gives you about how to pair wine with food, there's 100 that go against it because you should always drink what tastes good to you. And that's the most important thing. But that's a great question. I feel like I need to go find some Girl Scout Cookies. Sophia what do you have next?
Sophia - The next question here is what is the right temperature for California Chardonnay? We like it cold, but wine experts say we are missing out on the flavors if it's too cold.
TJ - Alright, so again, if I'm an expert and I say, I know that you like the way this tastes right now, but you're doing it wrong, that's not right, because if you liked the way it tastes there, drink it that way. That being said, if white wine is too cold, it masks a lot of the nuances, right? And if white wine is too warm, then it makes the alcohol evaporate at a faster rate. So then sometimes the wine can actually taste hot. So I'd say always make a wine cold, because it's easier to warm up wine and how you do it, you would hold it in your hand, right? because your body temperature at 98 degrees and you're warming it up in your glass. It's easier to make white wine warmer than it is to make it cold. So always start off cold, and then you can always what we call, bring it up to temperature. For wines that have texture and structure from maybe oak. I like them a little bit warmer. For white wines that don't have any oak and don't go through malolactic fermentation like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon blanc, or maybe a Chablis, I like them colder because I'm drinking them in place of drinking lemonade, right? I want them to be refreshing as opposed to cozy. Now for red wine, I like to drink my red wine a little bit cooler because again, it can come up to temperature, a red wine that's too warm masks a lot of the nuances and the alcohol tastes too hot. So the last time maybe pre Covid you ordered a glass of Cabernet from a restaurant, right?
You went to a steak house, you ordered a glass. It was like a good steakhouse, but not like a one-star or James Beard steak house. And their wine was on top of their mini fridges where they keep all the beer. And so all that heat is coming up from the back of the refrigerator and then you get this glass of wine that's like 80 degrees and it just doesn't taste good and it actually tastes hot. So I like to drink my reds, all reds in that kind of like 60 degree temperature. Now, if you have cellars, your cellars are probably hanging out at about 55 degrees, 58 degrees, so I like to let it come up a little bit, but again, this is your wine. You're grilling, it's hot out, it's a barbecue. Nobody's looking, drinking out of a red solo cup, throw an ice cube in it, right? It's your wine. Like the only people that make wine pretentious and make so many rules are the people that write about wine saying here are all the rules, okay? Drink what tastes good to you and drink how it tastes good to you, but also experiment. And I'll finish with this, never, you know, if you get a dish at a restaurant, so many people reach for the salt and pepper out of habit and salt and pepper the dish before they actually taste the chef's dish, right? So it's really easy to add salt and pepper after you taste it to your liking, but making it salty or making it peppery before you taste it, it's like adding ice to your whiskey before you taste it or making something super cold because that's what you think you're supposed to do, experiment. Great question though.
Sophia - I have definitely added an ice cube to wine before . So next question here is, do you have any suggestions Roses by black winemakers?
TJ - Absolutely, my favorite is La Fete Rose. La Fete means the party. So it's L-A and then F-E-T-E and you can get it on our website. It's a young black guy named Donae Burston and he worked for Moët Hennessy for a really long time selling Dom Pérignon and big like big cognacs and stuff like that in nightclubs in South Beach. And he saw that there was an opportunity, but there wasn't really good wine. So he created a brand two years ago called La Fete and he actually just got sold 49% of it to constellations in order for him to grow. But I love that you can find that on our website and that comes from St. Tropez from a really old family of growers and wine makers. And I think we sold it for maybe 25 bucks and it's absolutely fabulous. And it's Provont style, La Fete.
Sophia - That is awesome. The next question here is your Pinot noir looked very dark. Is it supposed to be a lighter color?
TJ - Yeah, it's a and it's so hard. You know what, I'm going to take my, let's see. Yeah, it's actually pretty light, right? It's a lighter color and you know, but it does some good amount of time at oak and because it's cool... And I'm glad you asked this question, because it's cooler climate because of the Atlantic Ocean, which keeps the wine cool at nighttime, right? Think about the difference of going to the beach at noon and then leaving at seven, at seven o'clock you're wearing a hoodie and it's cold. Same thing happens in vineyards. And, but if he's in a warmer vineyard with cold air, he can actually keep his grapes on the vine longer in terms of days or weeks, and the more time you can do that, you can get a little bit more concentrated, but if you have a wine from California, like Meiomi, that's a super dark rich. I think if we sold it, that would be on like a four or five on our shelf. But then you have really, really, really light cold climate. Like if you had anything from the Sonoma Coast where it's red wine, but you can almost see through it. But a lot of times the lighter red wines come from cooler climates because you're not getting the coloring from the skins as much as you would in a warmer climate. Another great question.
Sophia - A lot of great questions here. So another question we have here is have you found the 2020 California vintage to be drinkable tons of heavy, low smoke dressed before most harvest?
TJ - Yeah, so as I mentioned, I was in Napa last week and this was topic of conversation, every single place where we went even when we went over to Sonoma. So here's the thing, 2020 vintage, most people actually had their grapes already harvested because the fires of 2020 happened in October. So unless you were in a really, really cool climate, either proximity to the ocean or really high elevation, which is also cold, most of these people actually had their grapes off of the vine already. Some of them actually had their grapes off the vine in the beginning of September, because 2020 was also really hot, hence the fires. So, a lot of these winery owners and winemakers are really upset at the media because the media is saying 2020 is going to have tons of smoke and it's all this other stuff, but most of the wine is going to be totally fine. And the people that did have smoke damage didn't make wine because why are you going to cut your brand by putting out a wine that made this? So they actually sold bulk juice to people or they sold the grapes. And those are wines that go into the $10 grocery wines. But for fine wine, you either harvested before the fires came so there's no smoke at all, or they didn't make a wine that vintage. But if I think you're safe, I think you're safe.
Sophia - Will end on this question here, which I'm sure you'll be able to talk about a bunch. How did the pandemic change, how Urban Grape sells wine?
TJ - That is a great question. It really reinforced us to meet our customers where they are both mentally and both like physically logistically. And we had to re-imagine what the Urban Grape is and what it could be. People drank more over the pandemic, not only from retail, but just in general people drank a little bit more for many reasons, but retail across the country had an average increase of 25% in sales, just in wine. We were at 65% increase. And which was great because we went from one delivery driver and one van to four delivery drivers and four vans. So I bought three more vans and we kind of just stayed around our Boston area, but we go all the way to Cape Cod three times a week, we deliver an hour and a half west of the city, six days a week. And so we really met our customers where they were, but also we were very transparent in what we were doing. And we were extremely clear and we were keeping our customers, not only in our thoughts, but they're part of our business, if we didn't have customers, we wouldn't have a business. And we decided at the end of March, beginning of April of 2020 to close our doors for customers coming in, numbers in Boston were going up, vaccine wasn't available yet. And so we actually closed our doors for 54 weeks and we let our customers know that this is what we're going to be doing. This is how we're going to be able to service you.
We built a wine counter to put outside on our vestibule so that you can come masked behind plexiglass. We redid our entire website to make it more user-friendly and to understand the Progressive Scale. And we opened up about two months ago and customers were so happy to be inside of our four walls, but we're still doing virtual tastings. We're still delivering 30 miles west of the city every single day. And we were very intentional with what we wanted to do. And our customers are longtime customers and our brand new customers that only found us through delivery or from an article or something like that, they've become for lifers. We we sell a great product. We give great service, and we always play the long game. And we're intentional with that. We're in transparent with that. And then, you know what? Our customers were intentional with spending money with us, not only being a black owned and a female owned business with my wife, but being intentional because all of our customers just like all of our clients here on First Republic deserve the best service. And that's what we can do because if not, it's just wine. You can buy wine anywhere, but you buy from us because of the experience, the intentionality, the transparency, and the service. Thank you for that question.
Sophia - And TJ we'll end on this client on the back end here just said, TJ, your team did a great job during COVID from a Boston client. So I love that sentiment. We love you at the Urban Grape. Thank you so much for this webinar today. And thank you to everyone who joined and asked questions. And if you'd like to view the recording, it'll be available on our website in about a week. So TJ again, thank you so much.
TJ - Thank you so much, cheers.
Sophia - Cheers, everyone.
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