Just over a year ago, Femi Oyediran and Miles White opened their wine shop, Graft, in Charleston’s uptown district. Their shop joined a handful of newly opened stores, but there was something noticeably different about what they were doing. First, there was a wine bar in the middle of the retail space, a not-so-subtle hint that you’re invited to sit down for a glass of wine while you shop. Second, there were albums all over the place—on the shelves, at the countertop for signing receipts, on the turntable—and there was music playing, asking you to stick around and bop your head along to, as well. The idea was to make the shop feel like a living room.
“Miles and I became close when we were working at Charleston Grill, because we had similar tastes in music,” says Oyediran. That was ten years ago. White was raised by a dad who, to this day, reads Rolling Stone cover to cover, doling out music advice to his son, and who always had a new album to show off. And Oyediran was a music promoter and DJ in Charleston for years, creating music events like the city had never seen. The two clicked easily.
While Oyediran and White took their own circuitous wine journeys before reconvening to open Graft, music has always played a role in their friendship and today, it plays a significant role in their business. “Obviously, we had to pinch a lot of pennies because we’re doing this on our own,” says White. “But we were like, ‘The wine needs to be really good, the glassware needs to be really nice and the sound system needs to be nicer.’” The two joke that they originally wanted to have fancy Zalto glasses, but forfeited those for a better sound system.
“Sommeliers are always trying to get people to be fanatic about wine. I mean, come on, who wants to wear a Riesling t-shirt? It’s never going to be mainstream” says Oyediran. “Music is an ice breaker, it's something everyone can participate in. Everyone can say that in their lifetime they’ve had a great time drinking wine with friends and putting on records or watching a band. The only difference at Graft is that the wine you happen to be buying or serving is curated by two dudes who actually really care.”
This is not some hokey music and wine pairing situation; it’s more that the two have realized that music can disarm the pretentiousness people often feel wine has. “When you walk into the shop, you’re inundated with album covers of hip-hop throwbacks. There’s A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders and De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising, and there’s Fela Kuti’s Aphrodisiac. People walk in and they see the vinyl on the shelves and they’re no longer thinking, ‘oh, I don't know anything about wine,’” says Oyediran.
And sometimes, it really works—and the whole bar starts dancing to early 2000s R&B hits, like on a recent Friday night. “I wish that happened every night,” says White. “I don’t want there to be any limitation to what we listen to.”
Here are a few of Oyediran’s and White’s current favorite bottles to jam out with at Graft:
2016 Peay Vineyards La Bruma Estate Syrah ($50)
For Oyediran, La Bruma is “escapism” syrah; you can't help but get lost in the whirlwind of flavors tumbling around in the glass. “It's a Syrah that maintains a gorgeous purity of fruit but also has a wild, savory character,” says Oyediran.
2016 Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Le Point du Jour Rouge ($29)
Philippe Tessier makes some of the most charming wines in the Loire Valley, according to Oyediran. Le Point du Jour, a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, has layers of exotic aromatics. Oyediran recommends drinking it with a chill.
NV Vadin Plateau Renaissance ($50)
“I drink this at home probably more than anything else,” says Oyediran. “It’s an exceptional bone-dry champagne, made from 100% organically farmed Pinot Meunier, that anyone can enjoy—especially your geeky, Champagne-obsessive friends.”
2015 Dominique Belluard Les Alpes Gringet ($40)
Gringet, a rare white varietal found only in the Savoie region of France, is delicate, fresh and aromatic. “The first time Femi and I had this wine together was at Le CouCou in New York City where my mother, Callie, took us for lunch right before we opened Graft,” says White. “We had an extraordinary meal and this wine sung with every course.”
2016 Chambeyron-Manin Cote Rotie Syrah ($85)
This tiny estate, in the southern end of Ampuis, produces this smoky, dark-fruited Syrah from just one acre or so of vines. “Someone had just given us Main Source’s Breaking Atoms on vinyl so we stayed at the shop way past closing to drink this bottle and listen to this record on blast,” says White.
2014 Antica Terra "Botanica" Pinot Noir ($95)
Last summer, while working the harvest at Antica Terra in Oregon, White’s love of wine and music collided outside of Graft. “We listened to Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music on repeat. He had just released the album before harvest and it helped us get through the longer days,” says White. As it turned out, the album went perfectly with Antica Terra’s Botanica, a lush and sappy Pinot Noir.
See the full list of 2019 Sommeliers of the Year.