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Grape Juicery – LOST GEM

Grape Juicery – LOST GEM

316 East 84th Street
New York, NY 10028
www.Facebook.com/TheGrapeJuicery
Established: 2015

Marina Snetkova, the owner of Grape Juicery, is as smart as she is beautiful. Originally a model from Latvia, Marina came to the United States in 1997 when she was 15. She attended Georgetown University, worked on Wall Street until 2009, and then moved to California. There she went to pastry school and began her own business, Cookie Time Truck, a mobile bakery.

Throughout the years, Marina was also pursuing her personal passion for wine. She said that her research into the world of wine began in 2006 when she was dating someone who was very knowledgeable about wine. She was inspired to learn more, so she began teaching herself about the subject. While taking wine classes in California, Marina had an epiphany during a lecture on wines from Bordeaux. Due to her extreme thirst for knowledge, she became frustrated when she realized that the teacher was discussing her personal vacation to France, rather than the wine itself. It was then that Marina decided to cut out the middleman and organized a trip to France, Italy, and Spain with a bunch of friends. Though she initially thought that Italy would be a cliche destination, it ended up being her favorite place to visit. She found the tradition and technical skill in the wineries and vineyards to be fascinating and impressive. She touched the soil, spoke to vineyard operators, tasted grapes, and learned about the climate. Because she immersed herself in the culture firsthand, she can now spot someone in the wine world who is just reciting facts. Marina’s response is always, “I’m glad you’ve memorized it, but have you been there?”

In 2014, Marina returned to New York and opened the Grape Juicery the following year. She stocks the store solely with vintages that she has sampled herself. “I have literally tasted all of them,” she said, gesturing to 125 different types of wine. She is not only the owner of the store, but also a chief advisor to anyone coming in to search for a bottle. Marina is always assessing someone’s taste as they walk in, asking, “What are you eating, what will the weather be like, and what is your mood?”

Every inch of the store has been meticulously designed by Marina, and she is proud of the environment that she has created. Lining the walls are bright, colorful paintings depicting quirky stick figures enjoying wine.  The artist is Marina’s friend, Jason Kaufman, a painter and children’s book author who goes by “Anon A. Mister.” There are hand written descriptions on parchment cards with delicate flower designs accompanying every bottle, and outside the door, Marina keeps her “marker,” a signpost draped with grapes and twinkling lights. Overall, the effect is very cheery and welcoming, yet chic. When she saw Tom, our photographer, picking up bottles and looking at them, Marina exclaimed, “I really love when people can’t keep their hands off the bottles,” adding that she set up her store with the goal of inviting people to be “hands-on.”

On one side of the store, I found a section devoted to pairings. Handwritten signs indicate what wines go well with steak, sausage, pork, lamb, and tomato dishes. Right next to the row of bottles, Marina keeps an ingenious machine from Wine Well Chiller that can chill a bottle in three to five minutes. In the same area, Marina has created wine bundles named for different parks around Manhattan. For example, two bottles were boxed together as the “Carl Schurz Park 2 Pack.” “I try to be very local,” Marina stated. Though she admits that “being on a side street is challenging,” she loves being part of a neighborhood and admits that she is “not an Avenue Store.” Though she joked that she would love to reach the goal of being a shop with “avenue income but side street rent,” she has enjoyed having people discover her on a side street. Marina has used her store to host a variety of events and tastings. In 2016, when we visited, she had begun conducting wine seminars, something that seems to resonate well with the people in the area.