Mission Grape brings wine distribution to the Upstate

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Mission Grape is the only wine distributor based in the Upstate. Photo by Will Crooks / Upstate Business Journal.

Mission Grape is a go.

Aptly named, the relatively newly formed Mission Grape is the only Upstate-based wine distributor delivering imported bottles and cases to some of Greenville’s most popular restaurants and retail locations.

With a 4,000-square-foot, truck-accessible, climate-controlled warehouse housing at least a thousand cases of wine from 75 or more international producers less than 10 miles from downtown Greenville, Mission Grape is poised to do what other Charleston-based distributors can’t.



Here’s a common scenario: It’s Saturday afternoon, three popular bottles sold at The Community Tap are out of stock, and co-owner Ed Buffington needs to fill those spots or lose sales. For a small business, even a small loss can impact profit margins significantly.

Enter Matt Tebbetts, founder of Mission Grape, who can retrieve those bottles from his warehouse and have the Tap’s shelves stocked in less than two hours. The same applies for Jianna, Larkin’s by the River, Husk, and others who buy wine from Mission Grape and need same-day service.

“That happens if a restaurant sells through their wine,” Tebbetts says. “They not only want a good wine and a relationship, but they also need to have quick response.”

Matt Tebbetts has combined his love of wine and sheer hustle to bring unique wines to the Upstate via Mission Grape. Photo by Will Crooks / Upstate Business Journal.

Buffington calls the wine distributors he works with at the popular North Main community bar “unsung heroes,” qualifying that “hero” might be too strong of a word, but without them wine wouldn’t get on shelves and in glasses.

“Distributors are the nuts and bolts of the beverage industry,” Buffington says.

And Tebbetts, a longtime Community Tap supporter, has kicked the distribution game up a notch in terms of locale, leading to quicker response time.

Local and regional distributors work with importers and then sell bottles or cases to restaurants and retail outlets.

In South Carolina, distributors are most often based in Charleston, but with Greenville’s growing restaurant scene and expanding palate for a wider variety of wine, there is a need for a local distributor, Tebbetts says.

After years of appreciating wine more seriously than the average imbiber and multiple conversations with a couple of interested friends, one of whom had started a similar business in Colorado seven to eight years ago, Tebbetts acted on those casual talks in 2017 and formed an LLC.

The goal: “Doing something a little bit different. Not just bringing wine to market but developing relationships and working with certain producers that we thought would work in Greenville,” he says.

Tebbetts then partnered with importer T. Edward Wines in New York City. Through their relationships, he has traveled to France and Italy to meet producers to learn about and select the wines he includes in the Mission Grape portfolio, which is kept strategically small and includes bottles in the $40-50 range to remain accessible.

The vice president of marketing for Greenville Federal Credit Union, Tebbetts continues his full-time day job while hustling for Mission Grape, arriving at the warehouse by 6 a.m. most mornings before work and running around after hours delivering wine to his accounts. Mission Grape has recently expanded to add both full-time warehouse and delivery employees and is looking to hire its first sales reps.

“We’re growing much quicker than expected,” Tebbetts says.


Where to find Mission Grape’s wines and what bottles to buy:

The Community Tap:

  • Ti Amo by Monte Bernardi: 1 liter organic Italian red blend and under $20.
  • Lise Jouset: (French) Exile Rose Pet-Nat. Very popular bubbles, just slightly above $20.
  • Anne Pichon: (French) Grenache Noir. Juicy red with nice fruit and under $20.
  • Anne Pichon: (French) Vermentino. Crisp and refreshing and under $20.
  • Domaine Jean Fournier: (French) Burgundy Pinot. $35 and drinks like a $60 bottle.

Husk:

  • Cerbaiona Rosso di Montalcino: (Italian) Cerbaiona is a “unicorn” wine producer of Brunello and served by the glass. Very affordable for one of the hardest wines to find in the U.S.

Jianna:

  • La Palazzetta, Rosso di Montalcino. Italian red with a lot of red fruit and very affordable.

Larkin’s on the River:

  • Domaine Fichet: (French) Burgundy white.
  • Chateau Bonhoste: (French) Bordeaux rouge.
    Both are being served by the glass.

Additional locations include:

  • TR Tasting Room
  • WineXpress in Five Forks
  • The Chocolate Moose
  • Sushi Go
  • The Lazy Goat
  • D’allesandro’s Pizza
  • Bouharoun’s Fine Wines & Spirits
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