Steven Grubbs loves a wine that tells a story.
Grubbs’ first restaurant job was at a busser at Five & Ten in Athens. More than a decade later, he’s a wine sommelier and the wine director at Empire State South in Atlanta.
When it comes to wine, Grubbs’ path contained more on-the-job training than classroom work. He completed the first level of The Court of Masters Sommeliers training program, but didn’t continue on. While he said he learned a lot from the class, he wanted to learn more about the cultural and human attachments that wine can bring.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years now. Along the way, that’s become the part that I love most – the unraveling of this incredibly complex topic by talking to people who live it, and visiting them and asking them a million questions.”
Grubbs’ new endeavor, Rising Tides Drinking Service, aims to make those wine stories more accessible. He started Rising Tides with his friend Laura Greiner Stasiowski, and that had a simple goal in mind: get people to drink better wine.
“It didn’t start with just wanting to be a retail shop,” Grubbs said. “It started because we noticed a basic problem that we wanted to dive into. That problem is that there’s too much good wine that goes unnoticed, and there’s lots of wine being drunk that isn’t very good.”
When Grubbs talks about fine wine, he doesn’t necessarily mean expensive wine – just quality, hand-made blends, as opposed to offerings from larger commercial establishments.
“That stuff overwhelmingly dominates the world of wine in the U.S.,” Grubbs said. “At the same time, there’s plenty of wine out there that’s so cool, and has great stories, and is so delicious … that flies under the radar, or it flounders in somebody’s inventory, and it ends up getting closed out. And I think that’s a shame.”
Because of laws that changed surrounding the sale of alcohol at restaurants during COVID-19, Rising Tides has a retail store where you can order and pick up wine located at Empire State South. But Grubbs said looking forward, he wants to try and expand the business into other venues.
“We’re able to sell wine through Empire State South,” Grubbs said. “So we were like, what if we just start like this and see which direction we can grow it?”
Grubbs talked about hoping to see Rising Tides partner with other local businesses in the future, whether they be movie theaters, music venues, or other restaurants. Part of the problem when it comes to wine, he says, is that people aren’t sure who to trust. He wants Rising Tides to change that.
“What if you could go into your local independent movie theater and get a great glass of wine that wasn’t expensive,” Grubbs said. “You walk into a little movie theater, and there’s a little thing that says ‘Wines by Rising Tides,’ and you’re like, oh those people! I’ve had their wines at wherever, and they’re really good. So I trust them to give me this weird little Italian wine that I’ve never heard of.”
Whether it’s through education, introducing people to new, obscure wines, or helping you start a collection of your own, Rising Tides aims to help wine lovers start drinking better and smarter. Different packages can be viewed online, and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.