It was a long road to get a liquor store in Barrington – one paved largely by Matt Amaral, owner of the recently opened Grapes and Grains. “It was my goal to change the way the game was played and to bring a different kind of liquor retail to Rhode Island. By doing so – it was three years for the Class A liquor license process – it gave me a lot of time to travel, and to study other retail. That’s how I came up with Grapes and Grains.” It was worth the wait.
The store, which sells carefully curated wines and spirits, is unlike any other you’re going to find. First, there’s the selection. Amaral credits Peter Andrews, the store’s general manager, for that; he’s responsible for choosing the wines. “Peter is a Johnson and Wales graduate with a certificate in Wine Specialties,” Amaral says. “He has an impeccable palate.” He points out a Winslow Family Cellars Cabernet from Napa: “It’s a $35 bottle that drinks like an $100.” The store also offers a $12 and under selection, and weekly specials that are on their website as well as in store.
“Peter is picking specials and switching them out every week. Some of the labels we’re putting on special are nonmainstream labels to encourage people to try something different. That’s our goal – to go in a different direction,” Amaral says.
Besides thinking creatively about wines, they’re also thinking creatively about how to use technology. In thestore’s reserve room (where private tastings are available to the Wine Locker Club), they hold Skype wine tastings with winemakers and beer brewers. In May, Amaral has Skype tastings planned with Cameron Hughes Wine in California, and the Craft Beer Guild. Can’t be pinned down to a wine tasting event? Four wines are always available to taste from their wine dispenser, which is the first of its kind in Rhode Island. “There are always four on tap,” Amaral says. “They’re set to one-ounce pours; you can taste them at any time.” And while ideally Peter is there to give recommendations, there is also a touch-screen kiosk programmed with the store’s inventory that will give wine suggestions based on your preferences. “The system will recommend what you should purchase,” Amaral says. “If you’re planning a menu, it will also make recommendations.”
Grapes and Grains is innovative for so many reasons, but it’s also just a nice place to spend some time sipping and browsing. After you taste some wine, you can enjoy a cup of coffee (on the house) and appreciate some art. The selection of artwork from Providence’s Gallery Z changes every few months. It’s the kind of place you could really learn a thing or two from, whether you’re a novice or a devoted oenophile.
24 Bosworth Street, Barrington. 401-245-2100, or follow them on Twitter.