If you guessed correctly it would take the end of the world for Ontario to loosen rules around selling alcohol, we owe you a drink (purchased from a bottle shop, natch). But long before the pandemic forced a legislative update, the Grape Witches were on a crusade to bring good wine to the masses.
"It's so commonplace now, but four years ago we couldn't find interesting grapes or things open by the glass that we were excited to try," says Nicole Campbell who, along with Krysta Oben, forms the female wine duo.
After attending Raw Wine Fair in New York and witnessing a rare enthusiasm among novice wine drinkers, they wanted to bottle that passion for great grapes.
Forgoing stuffy $100-a-head bordeaux tastings, the ladies began hosting parties and education hours to teach outsiders in a fun, approachable way. As their popularity grew, the Grape Witches needed a permanent H.Q. to host their natural wine agency: a 700-square foot space at 1247 Dundas St. W. beckoned.
What Campbell and Oben envisaged when they signed the lease in March and what transpired in their first year may have diverged considerably, but it did have some upsides.
"Essentially, it allowed us to open this wine shop that we never thought would be allowed. We are really trying to also support other restaurants and companies by doing collaborations," explains Campbell.
Since wine-to-go must be sold with a food item, Grape Glass might offer snacks from Korean restaurant Uncle Mikey's, fish from Portugal — or just chips for those who want to reserve all their money for wine.
Natural wine started in Europe, so it's no surprise that things tend to skew international, with many exciting and exclusive imports on their roster, with orange wine high on the agenda. However, Grape Glass is keen to represent Canada and its harder-to-get expressions.
"There's a B.C. [wine] revolution happening, which is cool to see," says Campbell. "We're just waiting for a release from Pinard et Filles, which is this very exciting Quebec winery, and we always have cool sparkling from Nova Scotia."
Small group tastings and sipping wine on their back patio feels miles away, but for now at least, organic, biodynamic natural wine is conveniently available for delivery or pickup.
The Grape Glass: Everything you need to know
Virtual wine tastings
"One of the reasons for having the space was to offer more education," Campbell laments. So the Grape Witches are now offering virtual tastings. A session might include a can of fizz, plus four pours of wine to sip as you learn on Zoom.
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It's not all about wine
"Orange wines and pét-nats tend to taste like lambic or sour beer," says Campbell. "So, you have a lot of beer drinkers that are falling in love with natural wine." As such, they stock brews from Burdock, Sonnen Hill and Matron in P.E.C.
Bottles are available, but Grape Glass has created delectable packs if you're looking for a great gift. Choose from the likes of Off the Beaten Bubbles, or Cozy Sweater Reds, which will change your whole lockdown perspective.
1247 Dundas St W, M6J 1X6; grapewitches.com