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Some Time with Justin

Q.) Tell me a little about yourself…Things you like to do.  If you are not from Atlanta, where are you from and how did you end up here?

I love to travel but we’ve been sort of waylaid by Covid-19. My favorite place to travel has been Portugal, followed closely by Australia. I’m an urban gardener, a golfer, a dart player and I love to watch a bit of footy (soccer). I’m originally from London, England and I came to America for college where I attended the University of Georgia. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the New Jersey, New York area which is where my family settled. I would travel between there and Georgia so I’ve lived in both places. My parents lived in Australia as well so I was able to explore and travel around Australia for a while.

Q.) What are some of your favorite things about Atlanta?

The landscape is fabulous and I love that it’s filled with trees and parks. It reminds me of London in that respect. I really like the neighborhoods and how they’re all interconnected, it’s a very dynamic city. It just really speaks to me as a London city boy having grown up in a much larger version of it. Some may say that Atlanta is becoming too overcrowded but I’ve always seen it as a smaller city that’s hurtling towards a greater future. To be in Atlanta, a smaller London with a better climate, has been something special.

Q.) Describe your perfect day and/or night?

Relaxing on the patio with a glass of wine. Enjoying a beautiful spring or fall day by taking a walk in one of the parks with the dog, and then coming back and grilling in our backyard. Having friends over to enjoy some good wine and some good food.

Q.) Beer or Wine?

In my past I was more of a beer drinker and also enjoyed whisky, but now I find it hard to drink any quantity of beer. I’ve learned that my past drinking habits were mainly driven by my financial constraints. You cannot compare the taste of an expensive beer to an expensive wine, it’s night and day. So I have to say if you’re asking me if I would rather have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer and you give me the choice of anything –  I choose wine . . . and then I want good whiskey later on!

Q.) What is the vision, mission, or goals of the business?

When we first opened we had large tastings of up to 30 customers in the shop you couldn’t help but to share a glass with someone new. Neighbors would be able talk to each other over a glass of wine and it created a meeting spot for wine drinkers. Since it’s not a bar it doesn’t have that bar feeling, it’s more personal. We would really like it to become a hybrid for both concepts; a place to find your favorite wine and also to meet your neighbors. The shop is a focus on Portuguese wine as it’s very unique and also very down-to-earth. We try to bring in as many things to capture that feeling and just to share a little bit of Portugal with the world.

Q.) What are some of your favorite restaurants to go have a glass of wine?

Ones that let us bring our own! We love restaurants that allow corking fees and we especially enjoy ourselves when we go to Dish Dive as they don’t have a liquor license so we can bring our own wine.

Q.) Where does your love of wine stem from? Which type of wine started it all?

For me it was my parents that helped me grow my love for wine. In England there’s a lot of French wine and that was my introduction. It wasn’t until I moved to Australia and experienced the emergence of their wine scene in the 90’s, that I started to really appreciate wine. While their more mass-produced brands were getting exposure in the U.S, over in Australia they were sitting on a trove of incredible reds and whites. My parents were really into wine at that time and had a good collection, so we would be drinking these big reds from the Barossa and the Hunter Valley. This was when I began to understand the effect of terroir on a grape.  My journey with white wines has been more recent,  I remember having an Albariño from the Rías Baixas area in Spain that is just north of Portugal’s border on the Atlantic ocean side. It is a complex, medium bodied white owing to the time spent on the lees soaking up the yeast and it making it fuller. In addition it has a lemon citrus note and then on top of that when it warms slightly it reveals a bit of the salinity of the Atlantic influence. It had so many amazing things that I never envisioned could be in a white wine. From this to white burgundy, tropical tasting sauv. blancs from Chile or Portuguese amphora aged whites, a whole new world of wine is now apparent to me.

Q) If you had to say red or white which would it be?

White wine from Rías Baixas or an oaky red from the Douro.

Q.) What would be your favorite dish to have with a glass of wine and what kind?

I really like the combination of seafood dishes with white wine. Dry wine that has a sherry quality really pairs well with shellfish and seafood from the Portugal region. In New Orleans there’s this dry sherry called Fina Sherry from the south of Spain that they have named Orleans because they ship so much of it to New Orleans. It’s a good food combo between that sherry and seafood, crawfish, or mussel involved recipes.  I also enjoy offset cooking on my Big Green Egg and have found that heavier reds like Douros, Syrahs and Malbecs really compliment the fattier, slow cooked meats.

Q.) Which wine do you guys often carry that you couldn’t live without?

Sexual Chocolate is a big seller as it’s from a unique vintner out of San Luis Obispo .  He started making wine in his garage sourced with grapes from all over, basically whatever grapes he was given. He started making gold out of these harvests and then started sourcing better grapes and now he makes all of these delicious wines with cool names and fun branding. I think of our Portuguese selections we have some Vinho Verdes that we couldn’t live without, Broadbent Vinho Verde is such a good sell.  This isn’t an easy question to answer though as we’re constantly searching for the next “can’t live without” wine!

Q.) What wine did you order that exceeded your expectations?

Portugal is a place of 250 great varietal grapes and so they have many wines that have amazed me from the Douro and Dao regions in the north down to the Alentejo and Lisboa regions in the south.  Malbec’s and cab francs from the South America have really hit my happy spot lately too.

Q.) Have you ever made your own wine and is that a goal that you might have in the future?

You know I’m not a great farmer and winemaking is definitely for farmers. You could also be the person that finishes the wine in the warehouse; you can blend the grapes, press them in different ways, you can use malolactic fermentation and then age them for varying times in a different purposeful containers. There’s growing the grape, harvesting the grape, crushing the grape . . . basically I don’t see myself doing any of that, I just see myself drinking the grape and sharing what I learn with others!

Q.) Is there anything else you would like to say in closing?

The meaning of our name Beijos is a kiss and Melissa has always maintained that having a good wine is like having a good kiss. We would always like to express how our neighborhood is very important to us and we love the fact that we are walkable for a lot of people. Our neighborhood has supported us and we are very grateful for that. We love the people that we have met in this journey so far. Also we would like to acknowledge our neighbor Evergreen, the bounty of delicious pastries, breads and meats have been a great addition to the area. We opened around the same time and some have even called that end of town the Kirkwood Renaissance. Our neighborhood is becoming a little more dynamic because of that, now you can come to Kirkwood and visit art galleries, retail shops, restaurants, bars, wine shops,  etc.