Wine—and a little whining—at The Grape
Thu, Sep 4, 2008 (midnight)
Photo: Jacob Kepler
That sucked!” I say, pushing my way out the doors of the Rave Theaters at Town Square. I’ve just watched the computer-animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which finally completes the Star Wars franchise’s 31-year transition from childhood treasure to childish trash.
Fortunately, I’m with my friend Luan (pronounced “Lawn”), who for 20 years has shared my enduring devotion to, and increasing disappointment with, George Lucas. Geek outrage like this needs a non-judgmental ear, and Luan’s got both of his in town for Labor Day weekend.
Descending what seems like 38 flights of stairs from the theater, we find ourselves in the back-most portion of Town Square—an area designed for the aftermath of movie-going experiences just like this. There is not one, not two, but three bars tucked away in this remote corner. Yard House—the beer bar—is a little too packed and rowdy for our inevitable dissection of sci-fi minutiae. Blue Martini—the cocktail lounge—is a little too clubby, and I can’t risk that my newly single friend won’t hold back references to clone troopers and Hutt larva if he’s within earshot of women in their hottest clubwear. But the third place—the newly opened wine bar, The Grape—is just right. It may only be because the bar has only been open for two weeks, but compared to the two neighboring watering holes, The Grape is comfortably under-populated.
Inside, the first thing that catches the eye is a wall lined with wine bottles, reaching all the way to the end of the room and then continuing along the back wall. More than 120 varieties are offered, but only 70 are available to be poured at the bar (to ensure that the most expensive bottles don’t go to waste on a single glass). The wines are classified into 10 categories, from “1.) Light body white wines with a just-picked fruity flavor” all the way to “10.) Outstanding light, medium and full-body red wines for special times.” Additionally, the classifications are color-coded to make choosing wine easy for any novice imbiber. I’ve spent the last year studying wine just to garner the vaguest understanding of what’s what, and suddenly, The Grape’s version of the Dewey Decimal System has rendered all my work obsolete.
Luan and I circle around the island bar, grab a couple of stools and peruse the wine list. For $15-$18, we can sample a three-glass flight of wine, and we opt for that. The more glasses the better. Between the disappointing Star Wars movie and this weekend’s closing of the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton, it’s been a sad day for us sci-fi nerds. While I swill my selection of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and Luan does likewise with his Pinot Noir, Black Eye Zin and Shiraz, we commiserate over Anakin Skywalker’s ill-conceived padawan apprentice.
“What kind of Jedi cuts up droids in a mini-skirt and tube top?” Luan protests.
“She had spunk,” I point out. “But I hate spunk.”
The bartender begins to notice our conversation, and self-consciousness sets in. We take a break in our film review and comment on the bar’s décor. The color scheme is right out of the Joker’s wardrobe—purple on one side of the room and green on the other—which fits with the whole color-coded wine thing. There are rustic paintings of bottles and glasses on the walls, surrounded by sleek frames, but we can’t decide what we think of the wall-sized mural of contemporary people in the country drinking wine. So we just decide what actors and actresses the people in the painting resemble, and we proceed to make fun of them. Ah, it’s just like high school again.
On occasion, The Grape has live jazz or acoustic-guitar performances, and on Sundays the bar draws people in with wine and chocolate pairings—exotic chocolates with a hint of chipotle or wasabi or … bacon? (Apparently it’s their most popular seller). But even with nothing going on on this Monday night, the bar begins to fill up, presumably with people from Yard House and Blue Martini who are looking for the same thing we are—a quieter, more comfortable place to chat at normal volume.
And that makes The Grape a welcome addition to this corner of Town Square. It’s a place for good wine, good conversation and good gripes about how Anakin and Count Dooku shouldn’t have fought in The Clone Wars movie because in Episode III, they clearly indicated that they hadn’t seen each other since Episode II!
… Of course, it’s entirely possible that we’ll be the only ones to make use of The Grape for that last purpose.