By Noah Austin | Photograph by Paul Markow
Grapes is appropriately named. For a place that revolves around wine, that might seem obvious. But just like its namesake, this Jerome restaurant took a while to achieve its final form. “Before this, we were the Jerome Brewery,” says chef Michelle Jurisin, who owns Grapes with her husband, Eric. “We decided that with the way things were changing up here — the [Verde Valley] wine country, all the tasting rooms starting to open — it was time to change our concept and start pairing wines with food.”
Several years later, Grapes has become another successful endeavor for the Jurisins, who also own Jerome’s Haunted Hamburger and other area destinations. For Michelle, the success comes down to a simple but winning formula: spectacular food that’s expertly matched with local and regional wines.
“We really liked Postino and some of the other places in Phoenix that were doing a wonderful job with tasting menus and bruschetta,” she says. The target audience, she adds, is “people who are just trying to get to know wine.”
Another good fit for a restaurant built on vintages: It’s housed in one of Jerome’s many vintage buildings. This one dates to the early 1900s, when it was a telegraph office. Subsequent tenants included a machine shop, a Shell service station and the town’s volunteer fire department. The Jurisins bought the building in the mid-1990s. It now sports a cozy, trattoria-style interior, a nod to Michelle’s Italian heritage.
That heritage also inspires an extensive menu of affordable dishes “crafted the way my 98-year-old grandmother taught me about really simple, basic Italian cooking,” Michelle says. They include the caprese chicken sandwich, served on grilled focaccia and topped with prosciutto, tomato, basil, mozzarella and pesto mayo; and the Mediterranean salad, which includes grape tomatoes, goat cheese, roasted red peppers and a cabernet sauvignon vinaigrette. Burger lovers shouldn’t miss the sourdough zin burger, which is drizzled with red zinfandel and topped with bacon, provolone and herbed mayo. A bruschetta board, a build-your-own pasta bowl and pizzas are among many other options.
For wine novices, each menu item includes pairing suggestions. The wine list has several Arizona and California selections, along with a few from Australia and South Africa. And in 2011, Michelle began offering regular dinners that feature four courses paired with a selection of wines.
In short, visitors to Grapes, whether they’re locals or just passing through, won’t have trouble finding a lunch or dinner worth raising a glass (or two).
“I try to beat their expectations when they’re traveling and they think they’re going to stumble upon another tourist trap,” Michelle says, “when they’re really getting some of the best food they’re going to have on their vacation.”
Grapes is located at 111 Main Street in Jerome. For more information, call 928-639-8477 or visit www.grapesjerome.com.