Wine Trailblazers Hadley and TJ Douglas Share Their Favorite Things
Cofounders of the Urban Grape, the shop owners are shaking up the wine industry—one bottle at a time.
It’s early June and TJ Douglas, cofounder of the South End wine shop the Urban Grape, has just returned from a beverage conference in Texas. He was the keynote speaker so his voice is hoarse as he proudly reveals that the store, which he runs with his wife, Hadley, is now rated number 16 out of the top 100 beverage retailers in the country. The store’s unique Progressive Scale—where wines are organized by their body rather than region or varietal—has helped put it on the map, but the Douglases say that Urban Grape’s success comes down to one core value: making wine access-ible for everyone. “The wine industry, for so long, has been so exclusionary,” Hadley says. “But we really want underrepresented groups to see themselves as wine drinkers, and to feel like they belong in the wine industry.”
With that impetus, TJ and Hadley launched the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color in June 2020. Now in its second year, the scholarship, internship, and mentorship program aims “to give brown and Black people a network, free education, and opportunity to help change the landscape of what the beverage industry looks like,” TJ says. But the Douglases haven’t stopped there: They’re also overhauling the retail experience through their revamped website, with options to browse by collections such as women winemakers and LGBTQ+ producers. “You can shop by what makes you feel good in the world,” Hadley adds.
Ahead, the couple share more of what makes them feel happy.
Top Shelf Cookies
We love a locally made cookie, and Heather Yunger of Top Shelf Cookies makes the best. Her Cookie of the Month Club arrives at your door at the beginning of every month, [but she also] just opened her own cookie shop in Dorchester. Look for her famous “Black & Gold” flavor or the “Green Monster Mint.”
South Side Cocktail
The mint patch in our garden is out of control, so we’ve been making a lot of South Side cocktails. More interesting than a mojito, the South Side is made of gin, lemon, mint, and simple syrup, shaken and then served up in a coupe glass. And of course, we use Bully Boy “Merchant” gin made by our JP neighbor Dave Willis.
Simply Julia Cookbook
Our constant obsession is choosing a bottle of wine to pair with dinner. Meal inspiration of late has been coming from all of Julia Turshen’s cookbooks, such as Simply Julia. It’s filled with easy, family-friendly recipes like her jalapeño popper chicken rolls and white pizza–style kale.
We stop by Allandale Farm every few days to hunt for plants, but we just found our current favorite, the beardtongue, at Sylvan Nursery in Westport—it’s 300 acres of plant-heaven-on-earth. We’ve slowly been teaching ourselves how to landscape our house, and recently installed a huge flower garden on the lawn around our front porch.
Virginia Wine Trail
We’re taking off, just the two of us, to explore the Virginia wine trail, with some pool time and spa appointments at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg. It’s still hard to find wine from that region in Boston, so we’re hoping to change that in the coming year.
What We’re Watching
We’re just about done with season nine of The Office, which we’ve been watching with our 14- and 12-year-old sons. It’s even funnier the seventh time around.
What We’re Eating
During the pandemic, we joined the Chestnut Farms meat CSA, which delivers us 30 pounds of farm-fresh, local meat every month. We can’t get enough of making Korean-style ribs, paired with spicy homemade pickles!
What We’re Listening to
Having been raised on classic hip-hop, our children are now returning the favor by making sure we listen to a lot of J. Cole, 21 Savage, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar.
What We’re Drinking
You might have expected us to name a wine, but these days you can much more regularly find tequila in our glasses. We’ve really been loving Tequila Komos “Añejo Cristalino” with soda and a lime.
What We’re Buying
We have a collection of vintage wine decanters that we’ve picked up over the years from the Brimfield Antique Flea Market. They are each so special and one-of-a-kind; spirits look beautiful in them, but they also serve a dual purpose as a vessel for flowers on the table during a dinner party.