By Nick Manteris · 0 Comments · Leave a Comment
The Grape is a wine bar, bistro and wine shop located directly across from the Rave movie theater in Town Square. This might – to someone that lives fairly close to Town Square with a love for both movies and wine – seem like an ideal location for a wine bar. In fact, excluding some factors beyond the control of the establishment and a couple other points that I will soon share, the location is not that bad and might under some circumstances be considered ideal. They really need some different circumstances though.
I’ve been to The Grape several times and on this visit one of the waiters even recognized us from the last time that we had been there to drink wine. We decided to sit outside since the weather was nice, but we may have chosen to sit outside anyway as there was a live band playing inside and the noise levels would have made conversation difficult. (Actually, the only time I sat inside was so long ago that they still had the old menu listing wines by “style.”) Once outside, the music from the surrounding bars battles the stuff that The Grape pumps out to their patio and neither emerges victorious. This is a perfect example of an outside factor that cannot be controlled…you can’t do much about your neighbors in a mall environment.
Our server – not the one that recognized us – seemed rushed and preoccupied and, as you can imagine, this didn’t really make us overly comfortable about hanging out. We ordered a couple glasses of wine and the New Zealand lamb chops with imported olives, cornichons, mint and a black cherry and port reduction. Cornichon is French for gherkin, in case you weren’t aware (I wasn’t) and the black cherry port reduction was a sauce on the side that also contained the mint. The lamb was over-seasoned and, according to my companion, “not even as good as the ‘bar-food’ lamb” from a nearby establishment. We mostly come to drink wine, so this is only the second time I’ve had food from The Grape, but on a previous visit one of my friends sent an item back to the kitchen and ordered another dish instead. In what I can only imagine is an attempt to cater to anyone that happens along, it’s also worth mentioning that their food menu is, to quote another friend, “all over the place.”
The wines were – just like every single time I’ve been, unfortunately – unexceptional. For this visit we tried a 2008 Arizona Stronghold ‘Nachise’ (23 out of 50) and a 2005 Mettler from Napa (21 out of 50). On a different occasion we tried a 2007 Calina Reserva from Chile (19 out of 50) and the 2007 Two Hands ‘Gnarley Dudes’ from Australia (score at right). The Gnarly Dudes wine was actually a lot better than anything else that I’ve tried at The Grape (ever!) and I’d like to believe that they have other comparable wines, though my (multiple) experiences provide plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Getting back to the location…The Grape is in a popular, centralized spot and the establishment itself is pretty nice, but it’s important to point out that the “location, location, location” maxim is for businesses, not patrons. They might survive as a wine bar and bistro purely because of the amount of pedestrian traffic, but wine selection is the most important factor for a wine bar, food is the most important factor for a bistro and both are lacking at The Grape. I can’t comment on the ‘wine shop’ part of the establishment since I’ve never purchased a bottle of wine there, but they would need a selection beyond what is available on the menu for that to even matter. I'm sure they'll get my business again – purely because of convenience – but they'd get a whole lot more of it with some better wines.
Reviewed Friday, March 26, 2010