The Grape Merchant

The smooth jazz sets the tone. The bartenders keep their distance, approaching only when called. And the wine is taste-tested before it's added to the list. It's little things like this that make the Grape Merchant a necessary stop if not the perfect spot for date night. If you know what you're doing, own that list, order a glass, swirl it, watch the legs grow, and impress your date. If ordering straight from the list isn't your handle, get a couple of tastes, savor each one, and then choose a winner. If you want to learn, go with the flights. These allow you to choose sips from several wines, be it by variety or region, so that you can analyze the characteristics of each. By asking for a flight, you're tacitly telling the bartender that you're there to learn and he or she will stand by to answer questions. But if you're there to just have a drink and chat, that's OK too. The music is clearly audible but just enough to mute the conversations around you, giving you license to talk freely. Service is prompt, and the chow (a variety of cheeses and spreads) is small and served quickly, so it works out if you're stopping in for a glass before dinner or a movie. The bar area is spacious, with fancy and cushy stools that spin so you can turn and face your company. But the plush couches in the back offer yet another level of intimacy. The folks of Love 94 WLVE-FM host the Tuesday Swirl, which usually brings in local and national jazz acts. Come in for Friday's happy hour of sorts and get $5 glasses from 5 to 7 p.m. But make sure you check out Wednesday's winetastings. There's a $15 cover, but at the end, you get a $15 bar credit (not to mention hors d'oeuvres!).

 
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