Monday, March 22, 2010

The Elusive Grape

The Elusive Grape is a warm, customer-friendly, neighborhood retail store/wine bar located in downtown Deland that serves as a gathering place for local residents and as a great book-end to Cress Restaurant (a wine-friendly Deland restaurant that will be reviewed in the future) for out-of-town visitors.  With an on-premises license, the Elusive Grape offers over 30 wines by the glass for its patrons pleasure, a substantial retail wine store, beer and artisan cheeses.

The Elusive Grape was founded on April 1, 2003 .  Bill, the owner, had previously operated two restaurants in the Deland area and had sold those to his partners.  His introduction to the wine business came while he worked with the Ritz-Carlton in Naples in 1987.  At that time Berns Bestaurant had conducted on-site sommelier training courses for Ritz-Carlton staff and Bill had taken advantage of that opportunity.  After leaving the Ritz-Carlton, Bill went to St. Thomas where he opened a liquor and wine store.

The Elusive Grape opened initially with 100 wines and with the intent of being a retail establishment.  The Volusia licensing authority had him put in a sink and make other improvements to the property and this led him to pursue an on-premise license.

According to Bill, while the Elusive Grape is the face of wine drinking in Deland today, there was a wine culture in town prior to it's arrival.  Residents procured wine but went over the bridge into Seminole (Pierre's) and Orange (Tim's Wine Market) Counties to do so. 

The Elusive Grape has grown tremendously since its inception even though, like most retailers, they have lost some business to the grocery store and the general slowdown in the market.  Customers,80% of whom are "regulars," can consume wine on the premises without paying a corkage fee.

In addition to drawing on the regulars who come in on a daily basis, the Elusive Grape takes advantage of the fact that Deland is the County seat for Volusia and betwen 26,000 and 34,000 people come into town each day to do business. 

The Elusive Grape does not prepare meals on the premises at this time but it has mutually beneficial arrangements with all area restaurants.  If a customer buys a bottle of wine at the Grape, they can take it to any nearby restaurant and consume it with a meal without paying a corkage fee.  If the customer wishes to remain at the Elusive Grape, food can be ordered from any nearby restaurant and it will be delivered for consumption at the Elusive Grape.

I was at the Grape on Saturday from a little before 2:00 pm to a little before 6:00 pm and saw a steady stream of regulars and visitors come onto the premises and order for on-premise consumption or take out.  They were cheerfully greeted by Bill and offered help if needed. 

Susie, who just passed her first-level sommelier's exam, was a stalwart behind the bar. 

This is a very comfortable environment and the regulars will welcome you with open arms. 

A must for any wine drinker visiting Deland.

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