The goal at Grapes and Grains has always been to support and respect the community through their fine wine and spirits program. After three years, they have amassed an impressive collection of tipples in the form of wines, spirits and craft brews. Resident wine expert, Marc Berry, and spirit specialist, Justin Garrison, share their thoughts on being a part of the food loving community, choosing the perfect wine pairing and their favorite cocktails.
How do you choose options for discerning beverage connoisseurs?
Marc: Teamwork. While each member of the management staff has their own hat to wear, we work together when it comes to choosing the right beer, wine, spirit or snack for the store. Sampling as a team and utilizing our various palates ensures that we have an eclectic mix of items for everyone to choose from.
Justin: Keeping our finger on the pulse of cocktail trends by following local mixologists helps us stock the shelves with unique and esoteric spirits for the cocktail enthusiast.
Is your passion for the local community reflected in the products you offer?
Marc: Owner Matt Amaral grew up in Barrington. His roots run deeply through the community and his passion for keeping Barrington relevant is a palpable part of our history. That is also reflected in our relationship with Hope and Main. Many of our food and non-alcoholic items have come from Hope and Main and other local sources. We also have local craft beers from all over Rhode Island and beyond.
Is seasonality something that should be considered when selecting beverages?
Marc: Seasonal and local availability is something that the food community loves to emphasize. You can find food trucks all over the state boasting fresh takes on seasonal favorites, and honestly, nothing is more fun than your first sip of a pumpkin beer in autumn. That being said, for beverages, local and seasonal availability are something to be considered. Your palate is going to be the best judge in the end, so why not experiment?
Justin: Sons of Liberty is doing great things in the world of craft spirits with creative and inventive seasonal whiskeys, such as the Pumpkin and Gala Apple.
Many will get that warm, fuzzy feeling as Valentine’s Day approaches. Can you recommend something to compliment the perfect date?
Marc: I would be remiss to not mention bubbly Rosé. Most romantic moments start or end with the pop of a cork. Valentine’s Day is for opening your heart to that special someone a little more than you normally might. A sparkling rosé like R. Dumont Brut Rosé is a lively, crisp, sipper whose pearl-like bubbles can easily be a metaphor for your spirit if you happen to have a certain question on your mind.
Justin: Nothing says l’amour like a classic brandy sidecar, and I like to use Marie Duffau Armagnac or one of the single varietal armagnacs from Artez because they make for a fuller and richer cocktail.
For someone who is clueless about wine, what are the three key things they should consider when looking for the right vino?
Marc: First, price is not always indicative of quality. Look at Portugal for the biggest value. Second, when pairing with foods, opposites generally attract: balance hot and spicy with sweet and light. Except for asparagus – then get a Sauvignon Blanc. Third, in a broad sense, new world wines (USA, Australia, New Zealand, Chile) will have higher alcohol and more fruit than many old world wines, mainly because of geography and terrior. Terrior is a major determining factor for winemaking. Soil, rainfall and sun exposure all affect the grapes differently. A tart red cherry California Pinot Noir is nothing like a Pinot from Burgundy where you will find more deep black cherry notes.
What are some of the events you host at the store?
Marc: Winemakers, distillers and brewers will visit the store occasionally. When we have advance notice of a visit we plan events such as dinners or in-store seminars. We also have events at the store Fridays from 5-7pm and Saturdays from 3-5pm, as well as hosting wine or spirit dinners at restaurants in and around Barrington throughout the year.
How do you feel about the influx of small batch and craft breweries setting up shop?
Marc: Just as we support the small businesses coming out of Hope and Main, we gladly support the brewers that have persevered and achieved their dream of starting their own brewery here in Rhode Island. Luckily for us, the beer has been really good.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
Justin: I love simple, three-ingredient cocktails and the prohibition-era Last Word is my favorite. I like to substitute Dolin Genepy des Alpes for Green Chartreuse because the lower alcohol lets the gin and the luxardo maraschino liqueur show through more.
Marc: If I’m not going to have a glass of wine, I like a Negroni: a cocktail of dry gin, vermouth and Campari. A Negroni is a perfect sweet, tangy and bitter drink. I always ask for Antica Formula as my vermouth.
When you’re not working, where do you go to enjoy a glass of wine, pint of beer or cocktail?
Justin: For beer, we love Chomp in Warren. Nothing beats a good craft beer and a delicious burger. The Revival Craft Kitchen and Bar on Water Street, also in Warren, has a fantastic spirit menu with great cocktails.
Marc: Simone’s has an eclectic selection of wines that pair magnificently with their expertly prepared meals.
Grapes and Grains
24 Bosworth Street, Barrington