Urban Grape / Photo by Philip Keith, OJ Slaughter
For many of us, wine is community. We tip our hats to these shops that go above and beyond to support their neighborhoods and chosen families.
New York City
Owners Pascal and Daneen Lewis were Harlem residents for more than 30 years when they opened their shop in 2016. It focuses on New York State and Black-owned wines but has other bottlings as well. Frequent tastings and a private back room for events draw members of the community in, and the friendly, educational environment makes them feel at home.
Former Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 honoree Derrick Westbrook’s “slashie” shop/tasting room hosts free events to share rare bottles. The space became a real hub of community when it opened up to nearby hospital workers during the height of the pandemic and has hosted pop-ups for out-of-work restaurant folks during shutdowns.
While this shop has always been focused on making wine and education friendly and accessible, a 2020 development took it to another level. Cofounders TJ and Hadley Douglas put up $10,000 of their own money and actively fundraised for more to create the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color. Recipients are fully funded to complete Boston University’s Certificate Program in Wine Studies, receive paid internships or externships in the industry, and have access to mentorship from TJ himself.
When a shop is crowdfunded to open, like Wilder Wines was, there’s an immediate sense of community ownership. Founder Sipha Lam does pop-ups with local bars and restaurants to further build on that, as well as to educate people about her purpose-driven natural wine selections. A three-tiered wine club makes exploration more affordable to reach a larger segment of the college town’s population.
Lauren Friel, formerly sommelier at two Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wine Restaurants, Oleana and Dirt Candy, branched out to create this wine community hub. Wild Child is a concept space that opened as a wine and book bar. The ability for bars to sell to-go bottles turned it into a retailer of both, too. In addition to hosting a wine and book club, Friel has opened up the space so that organizations in need can apply to use it for their events or meetings.