Monday, August 11, 2014

A New Wine Shop Wants to Get Personal

By Luke Tsai
Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 4:42 PM

Remember when buying a bottle of wine from your local wine merchant was a task best suited for those with a golden palate — or at least thick, condescension-proof skin? Well, those days aren’t exactly over, says Stevie Stacionis, who, despite having worked in the wine industry for the past ten years, said she still gets attitude when she visits certain hoity-toity wine shops.

Thankfully, Stacionis and her husband, Josiah Baldivino — until recently, the head sommelier at Michael Mina — are part of a new wave of younger wine merchants who want to dial the stuffiness and intimidation factor all the way down. At Bay Grape (376 Grand Ave.), a new wine shop that Stacionis and Baldivino are opening in Oakland’s Adams Point neighborhood, the idea is to break down as many of the barriers in the wine world as possible.

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  • Bay Grape
For instance, Stacionis said she wants customers to see high-quality wine as an everyday product rather than a “luxury purchase” meant only for special occasions. So, the vast majority of the bottles at Bay Grape — sourced from around the globe — will fall in the budget-friendly $15-$25 price range. And, because Stacionis and Baldivino want to break down the disconnect that exists between wine drinkers and wine producers, they’ll focus on curating bottles of wine that “tell a story” rather than choosing a wine simply because it tastes like grapefruit or cherries or whatever. According to Stacionis, most customers don’t think about how one $15 bottle of wine was made by “a husband and a wife with a kid” while another came from a mass-produced, 10,000-case batch. She thinks they should.

Bay Grape will also focus on what Stacionis calls “low-key wine education.” The store has a big communal table where the proprietors will host very casual themed classes and tastings (for $10-$20) four days a week. In addition, the shop will carry craft beer, artisanal sodas, and a selection of packaged food items that go well with wine — cheese, charcuterie, bread, pickles, potato chips (because, as Stacionis put it, “potato chips and champagne is one of the best wine pairings in the world”), and so forth.

Even the wine club option will be more personal than your typical wine-of-the-month subscription. Stacionis described it as a "bespoke" wine club or a “personal sommelier.” Basically, a group of wine lovers can come in for a free consultation and set a budget, and then Stacionis or Baldivino will put together a customized subscription.

“It’s just about community, you know?” Stacionis said. “It’s just about people coming together and relaxing.”

Bay Grape is currently awaiting final inspections and should be ready to open soon — possibly as soon as the end of this week.

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