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Wine Shops: Just Grapes

By Lisa Shames in Food on Jun 12, 2007 4:22PM

rsz_justgrapes.jpgChicagoist has a love-hate relationship with wine. We love slurping the stuff – hey, we’ve even managed the swirl-and-sniff technique without spilling… well, most of the time anyways – but we hate that we feel so intimidated, overwhelmed and just plain stupid at wine shops (is it us or are wine clerks getting younger and younger?).

Just Grapes understands our plight. According to Don Sritong, managing partner/director of wine education, the mission of this West Loop store is to make wine buying simple, fun and functional, and to feature wines from smaller, artisan producers that you’re not likely to find at other places around the city. And since he’s worked in the wine industry for 15 years, representing wineries from regions all over the world, we know Sritong’s grape cred is the real deal.

Enter the loft-like space, bear to the right and say “hello” to a wine novice’s new BFF, the Enoround Tasting Bar. The automated self-service wine tasting system – think a soda-fountain for adults – features 16 red wines that allow you to sample before you buy -- perfect for those with commitment issues – with the ounce-size pours ranging in price from 40 cents to 3 dollars. There are eight whites to try as well in the neighboring refrigerated case. The Italian-made dispenser, one of the first in the Midwest, uses a rechargeable card that you can reload at the cash register. Just put your Savvy Sipper card – just trying saying that five times after you supped your way around the Enoround – into one of two slots on the machine, position your glass under the nozzle and “Bottoms Up.” Like what you’ve tried? Just Grapes sweetens the deal offering a 10 percent discount on bottles of the featured wines. We were told that Just Grapes attracts quite the happy-hour crowd, especially on Mondays, when things get even happier when all tasting bar wines are half off.

rsz_justgrape2.jpgIf all this sampling has whet your whistle for more, stop by on Saturday afternoons for free wine tastings or check out Just Grapes wine courses taught by master sommeliers. Or join their wine club and get two bottles of vino chosen from their 300-plus selection by Just Grapes experts delivered to your home or work, which means snooty wine merchants are a thing of the past. Rude delivery people? You're on your own for that one.

Just Grapes is located at 560 W. Washington Blvd., 312-627-9463.