From sharing advice on “Getting Help With Wine Choices” in the Wall Street Journal to appearing in the pages of copious regional publications, both as the subject and as an author, it’s easy to surmise that Jessica Granatiero is a resource for all things wine and spirits. She recently published Notes to Savor, a journal that was inspired by her own love of writing – and sitting down with Granatiero, it’s clear the most natural thing for her to talk about is wine itself.
Along with her oenophilia, Granatiero’s genuine humility resonates – although it would be easy for her to boast about the circuitous path that led her from working in public relations in Washington DC to opening a boutique wine store that is now a premier destination for wine, beer, and spirits in New England. Granatiero’s long-standing passion for wine led her and her husband Nino to found The Savory Grape in East Greenwich, then a 600-square-foot store on Main Street centered around the customer experience. “We had a vision for a small wine shop, boutique in nature – we really wanted it to be about the experience and to create a culture around wine,” says Granatiero.
When The Savory Grape first opened 17 years ago, she thought of it as the “Starbucks of wine.” At that time, Starbucks sought to create a culture around the experience of coffee, and she wanted to do the same for wine. “We wanted people to be able to meander around the store, tasting wine. We started a wine of the month club where we’d feature a new wine, complete with details about the vineyard and tasting notes.”
Even the way the couple organized their bottles was unique: rather than by country or grape varietal, they categorized wines by body style, such as medium- or full-bodied. This encouraged customers to try different, lesser-known selections. “Oftentimes people would come in and say, ‘I like a light-style wine, like a pinot grigio,’” Granatiero says, “and we could direct them to an entire selection they might like to try.”
Although her formal study of wine was through The Wine & Spirit Education Trust, Granatiero credits the majority of her knowledge to the store itself, a “baptism by fire” where she learned from doing. She made a point to taste each bottle they carried so she could better describe them to customers. She also credits her expertise to her travels throughout Europe and the US. “Some people like to golf – I like to travel,” she says with a laugh.
She particularly loves the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. Seeing how wine is made in these small, family-owned wineries has developed her palate. “When you see where the grapes are grown and under what conditions, the process of how they’re picked and crushed, where they’re stored – you begin to learn that the way wine is made influences how it tastes,” Granatiero explains.
One of the most remarkable things about The Savory Grape – now a 10,000-square-foot store located in the East Greenwich plaza with Dave’s Marketplace – is that even with an expanded inventory, Granatiero and her team still make it a point to taste every wine. “It’d be doing our customers a disservice not to,” she explains.
Despite its changes and expansion, the focal point of The Savory Grape continues to be customer experience. Granatiero and her team are welcoming and approachable, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. “We enjoy working with clients – it makes us feel really good knowing we’ve helped someone find something they love.”
1000 Division Street, East Greenwich
886-9463 • TheSavoryGrape.com
Providing advice on pairings is one of Granatiero’s fortes, and she’s eager to share three of her Thanksgiving picks that will be featured in the store this month:
This very light red wine comes from the Beaujolais region of France, south of Burgundy. Made from Gamay grapes, it’s a fruit-forward wine without being sweet. “This pairs well with a myriad of dishes you’ll find on the Thanksgiving table,” Granatiero says.
No celebration is complete without popping open a bottle of this dry Italian sparkling wine from Mirabella winery, consisting of a blend of different grapes that is one of Granatiero’s favorites.
Always a classic choice, Granatiero recommends the Dr. G, a dry riesling with peach and apricot aromatics. “It has a tiny spritz to it, and really marries well with cranberry sauce and stuffing with sausage. It has a light fruitiness, but enough acid to cut through the fat of gravy.”
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