Inside Grape Glass, the Grape Witches’ gorgeous new wine shop and lounge on Dundas West
When Nicole Campbell and Krysta Oben signed a new lease on their first space way back in March, the world was a completely different place. The duo, better known as the Grape Witches, was ready to translate their status as hip wine aficionados into a brick-and-mortar business in the former Milk Glass gallery on Dundas West. “Our initial idea was to make this our event space, because back in the olden days we held so many events,” says Oben. It felt like a natural fit for their popular tastings, educational nights and private parties. “We signed a lease, ripped the floors out…and then everything changed.”
It wasn’t all bad though—a month into the pandemic, Ontario began allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to go, inadvertently cracking open the demand for independent wine producers. “In the before times, we were always trying to find clever ways to connect people with these wines,” says Campbell. “A few months ago, people would have been able to taste all of these amazing bottles, but they would have had to buy cases if they wanted to take any of them home.”
As such, Grape Glass morphed into a clubhouse (so, a wine bar with an emphasis on community) and bottle shop. Patrons can taste or order glasses from a wide range of organic, natural and biodynamic wines from indie producers, like California’s Martha Stoumen and Austria’s Judith Beck. They can also pick up beer and cider by local favourites like Revel Cider. And in keeping with provincial law that states each alcoholic purchase must be made alongside food, there are snacks, ranging from 25-cent bags of Halloween candy to fancy conservas.
Grape Glass will be open sporadically for educational events until things get back to normal, at which point the duo’s popular tasting parties will resume on the regular. For now, the space’s sun-drenched patio (complete with spray-painted smiley-face drawings) will see most of the action.
As for the space itself, it’s a zany-chic mix of humble materials and quirky décor elements dreamed up by Company Company Projects, a design and fabrication agency helmed by Rachelle Leblanc. Leblanc built everything in the space from powder-coated steel benches to birch, plywood and laminate tables. The artwork and accessories are mostly by friends of Oben and Campbell, including Danielle Pothier, who papier-mâchéd a green polka-dot cat named Jonah, who acts as both a planter and protector. “We wanted it to feel like our beautiful home, but also wanted to keep the scrappy weird energy that is a part of us.”
Grape Glass is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12pm-8pm.