The owners of a downtown Grand Rapids wine and jazz bar have much to celebrate this month.
Shatawn and Nadia Brigham said Tuesday, Feb. 1, the second wine in their GRNoir Collection — The Red Monk, a semi-sweet blend of gamay, pinot noir, malbec, cabernet franc and merlot grapes — will release later this month in store at GRNoir Wine & Jazz. Online orders also can be placed for pickup or shipment throughout Michigan.
Additionally, the couple are marking their one-year anniversary of being open for dining at 35 S. Division Ave. in Grand Rapids and celebrating Shatawn Brigham’s elevation to level 2 certified sommelier and being named the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 2021 Newsmaker of the Year in the beverage category on Jan. 26.
The Brighams said all of their good news coincides with Black History Month and furthers their mission to make wine more accessible to people of color. The couple is working with the Michigan Wine Collaborative to increase diversity in the state’s wine industry.
“Growing up, I always thought you had to look a certain way or have a different socioeconomic status to drink wine,” said Shatawn Brigham, who, as far as he knows, is the only Black male sommelier in Michigan. “When I look at my past work in social work and education, and now looking at the work I’m doing in wine educating people, it’s all the same. What we’re creating at GRNoir is a space where people who look like us, and all others, can discover that wine is approachable.”
Shatawn Brigham earned his elevation to level 2 certified sommelier with Wine & Spirit Education Trust through Napa Valley Academy. The intermediate coursework involved learning to identify the major grape varieties, regions and wine theory, as well as blind tasting to assess a wine’s quality and characteristics. A two-minute video of Shatawn talking about his journey is available here.
“I want to be the very best I can be,” he said. “When I’m tasting now with my wine reps, I’m tasting a little more intentionally. I want to make sure I apply the knowledge that I learned about what I’m tasting and what I’m looking for.”
The newest addition to the GRNoir Collection is named The Red Monk in homage to the late jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. It’s being rolled out two months after the collection debuted its Select Harvest Riesling, also created in partnership with Chateau Chantal Winery on Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City.
Brian Lillie, director of hospitality and distribution for Chateau Chantal Winery, said he’s eager to see what GRNoir customers think of The Red Monk. The Select Harvest Riesling was received very well, and Lillie said he is pleased with the partnership between his winery and GRNoir.
“Creating this Select Harvest Riesling and now The Red Monk for the GRNoir Collection was a wonderful opportunity for both of us,” Lillie said. “The partnership between people who love to make outstanding wine and a sommelier who loves to serve it is a special relationship. We want to congratulate Shatawn on attaining his new status as a level 2 certified sommelier.”
The couple said they designed GRNoir to be a place where guests from all backgrounds can “celebrate the complex and colorful connections between American and global cultures through wine and jazz while learning more about both.”
“Our business model is about people exploring something they may not have come in contact with, whether that’s jazz or wine. And I feel like we’ve been successful in doing that,” Nadia Brigham said. “You see the generational divide being bridged. You see elders and college-aged students here to watch the young jazz players, people pulling up in everything from scooters to limousines. This is community.”
Over the past year, the Brighams have offered live jazz music and an extensive wine selection and variety of small plates. The club brings in jazz artists every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, hosts a “Vino & Verses” spoken word event the first Thursday of each month, and puts on a “Vino & Vinyl” night featuring a live DJ the third Thursday of each month.
Wine and food orders for curbside pickup are available by calling (616) 719-1191. The club is open from 3-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
People can make reservations, join the GRNoir Wine Club, sign up for updates on virtual wine tastings, and ask about private events and wine tastings at the GRNoir website.