Vintage gated tables lined with tequilas and rums, while bourbons and whiskeys are abundantly shelved nearby. I am especially drawn to Jeff Marrons’ corner display of tequila bottles—both of the consumed and collected variety—gathered on a custom riddling rack table. The presentation makes the space feel personal and homey, as if this could be someone’s personal collection. So, I am not surprised to learn that fiancée and owner Mimi McLaughlin has a background in interior design and fashion retail, evidenced in her attention to the smallest details, down to the charming tags, framed signs and chalk drawings at the entrance.
Located directly across from the Westport Metro North train station at 40 Rail Road Place is Saugatuck Grain and Grape, an easily accessible and welcoming wine and spirit shop. Reinventing its ‘liquor store’ past, (it was previously the Depot Liquor) SG&G offers its own karmic charm. When you walk into the shop you immediately know you have walked into something special—there is no overwhelming abundance of big box labels, but a well-edited array of select artisan wines. You’ll want to take a moment to enjoy the space before letting their carefully selected offerings figuratively go to your head.
I immediately appreciate the presentation. Cool industrial shelves are neatly filled with wines grouped by country, region and varietals. Red and white wine are divided into two rooms, the latter of which is flanked by a nice selection of champagne and proseccos.
The couple has channeled their thirty plus collective years of experience and knowledge in the wine, spirit and craft beer market into an eclectic and compelling retail space. They were motivated to open the shop when the space became available and the timing was right. Kismet! A happy circumstance of a couple ready to impart their vast knowledge and expertise while contributing to the revitalization of business in the Saugatuck area.
Their interest and commitment in community is evidenced in their collaboration with local restaurants and chefs on special dinners, and close relationships with distributors and vintners who share their core values — often exposing the organic, unknown producers at the top of their game, creating products true to the varietals. Finding vendors who reflect this integrity and meticulous sourcing is what Jeff and Mimi aim to bring to their customers at approachable price points and it shows in an eclectic inventory.
“There is always something to learn in this industry, so much information, keeping up can be exhaustive,” says Jeff. But keeping up is exactly what Jeff and Mimi do. Interesting case in point is Jeff’s approach to learning the depth of a particular spirit or varietal of wine. He picks one and drinks it solely for a year. Currently, Jeff is having a year of spirits, specifically tequila. Ask him anything about a liquor and be prepared to listen to a thoughtful breakdown of the spirit and many suggestions with perhaps even a taste.
Their exhaustive knowledge and research can be trusted to offer memorable, less ubiquitous options, helping to expand their customers’ palate. If it seems impossible to house all of their vast knowledge and boundless energy within these four Saugatuck walls, it is. They already have plans for a customer-driven app to provide a database of favorites, ordering options, a co-op style venture made-up of mutually interested owners or even something as involved as a wine bar. Whether physically or virtually, the recurring theme of community and gathering at SG&G is clear.
Browsing around I am delighted to find a beer that had been elusive to me until now, an Ithaca Beer Company Cascazilla I had given up hopes of finding it. I also left with a Thomas Hooker blonde ale, an interesting watermelon ale as well as an Aprihop beer, to name a few.
Saugatuck Grain and Grape is an enchanted surprise a breathe of fresh air in and among the average wine and spirits stop, coming together in an effortless manner for a delightful shopping experience. Tastings take place on Friday and Saturday afternoons. They are also happy to consult for your next party, BBQ or special event. And the best part-they DELIVER! It can be intimidating to ask questions when you walk into a [wine] store but that’s exactly what you should do here. Bring your sense of adventure and think outside the bottle. No doubt you will walk away with a new favorite. I know I found mine for summer—a refreshing verdejo.
Saugatuck Grain & Grape is located in Westport, CT adjacent to the Metro North Railroad Station at 40 Railroad Place. Store hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Their telephone is 203.557.9120.
[Photography courtesy of Pam Zaremba]