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A Small Peachtree Corners Business Making Big Waves Among Wine Enthusiasts

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Margo Grbinich-Hunt in Croatia this past September

Grbinich Wines has been thriving in Peachtree Corners since 2019, serving over 50 accounts primarily in Gwinnett County with others in North Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb. Margo Grbinich-Hunt began the business after a successful career in the medical field as the owner of Sunrise Health Management.

She had retired and was “enjoying life” when her travels started her on a new path.

Returning to her roots: Živjeli! (Croatian for Cheers!)

Though her father spoke Serbo-Croatian fluently, the career Army officer focused on becoming all-American, putting his family heritage on the backburner in favor of assimilating. Curious about her European roots, Grbinich travelled to Donja Kupčina, her father’s birthplace, as an adult, in search of the long-lost relatives she’d always heard of.

While she delighted in connecting with her paternal kinfolk and soaking up the beauty of Croatia, she was struck by the phenomenal natural resource in their grape cultivation and the world-class wines they produce. She emerged a wine adventurer.

“A big part of my vacation was spent enjoying the wines and varietals throughout the country. When I came back to Atlanta, it was disappointing that wine boutiques didn’t carry wines from the Balkans,” she shared.

Seemingly, the rest of the world began to discover Croatia’s charm with its 1,104-mile-long coast lapped by the crystal waters of the Adriatic Sea, just as Grbinich did. Today, several Croatian ports are popular tourist destinations. Grbinich was drawn to the picturesque, central-southeastern European country and the warmth of its people who remain grateful for America’s support during the Balkan war of the 1990s.

Encore career: the birth of a wine diva

A few more trips and sips and Grbinich delved deeper into the world of Balkan wine production. Unique terroirs and microclimates characterize the diverse wine regions of Croatia.

The northernmost Istrian peninsula produces modern whites and rich reds. The islands and mountains of Dalmatia gifted the world with high quality white and red wines from vines growing on treacherous slopes, as well as the dignified Dalmatian dog breed.

Grbinich-Hunt exploring wineries in Europe to import to the states.

Inland Slavonia’s continental climate and fertile soil produce light, crisp, mildly aromatic white wines. The island of Krk is known for its dry white wines and domestic reds. Hvar produces fruity whites and bold reds.

Once she discovered this hole in the American wine scene and realized there was fun to be had in the world of wine distribution, her second career was born. 

“I’ve always had a lot of business acumen. I love starting businesses, realizing where there are certain market niches to fill. I went from one type of medicine to another, in some respects,” Grbinich chuckled.

Grbinich Wine’s small, efficient staff covers sales, operations, deliveries, bookkeeping and advertising. The company seeks to satisfy retailers with the right price point and products for whatever customers request.

Building relationships

Though Grbinich holds a license to import international wines herself, this lady boss prefers to work closely with local importers concentrating on distribution to restaurants, wine boutiques, liquor stores and specialty European markets. Her product line has expanded to reflect the multicultural city of Atlanta and diverse communities like Gwinnett County.

Today, Grbinich is the largest distributor of Romanian wines in Atlanta. Wines from the Republic of Georgia, located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and West Asia, make up her second largest product by volume. Croatian wines comprise her third largest-selling category.

Curiosity and attentive customer service have Grbinich branching out to carry wines from all over the world, in addition to those from former Yugoslavia that started it all. The wines and spirits she stocks from other Balkan countries include products from Bulgaria, Bosnia, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine. Vendors also demand wines from France, Italy, Turkey and South America.

In-person meetings keep Grbinich abreast of her customers’ needs. She relishes guiding them in their buying choices and customizing inventory to satisfy them. Hosting educational events and tastings on site or in her warehouse tasting room also proves to be beneficial for her retailers.

The price point of Grbinich Wines is approachable, with bottles retailing from $10 to $40.

“I try to purchase wines that are reasonable, especially in today’s economic climate. People are buying down. They want a fine Cabernet but instead of spending $30 for a bottle, they’re looking to spend $15 to $20,” Grbinich added.

Tastings

When it comes to wine degustation to familiarize customers with her exclusive products, Grbinich recommends a maximum of six: a mix of whites, rosés and reds.

“Everything will taste good after the sixth one, including Boone’s Farm,” she laughed.

Or one might choose to do a tasting of all reds, all whites or all dessert wines. “It’s easier for consumers to notice variations within one kind,” she said. 

Training your palate to identify different notes of a wine, flavors and spices, is comparable to training your ear to hear different notes when you’re playing an instrument, according to Grbinich.

“Once you start on that journey, it’s really fascinating,” she smiled.

Map of Croatia and the regions Grbinich has toured for new wines.

Don’t balk at trying Balkan Wines

You’ve never heard of Balkan wines? All the more reason to try them! With 2,500 years of wine production history, vehement vintners who’ve been perfecting their craft for centuries, taking great pride in maintaining European winemaking traditions and countless indigenous grape varieties, one would be amiss not to try these wines.

Whether you’re a wine aficionado or someone who appreciates an occasional glass with a nice meal, it would be a shame to limit your exposure to just a select few grape varietals commonly appreciated in the United States.

“You could probably name on one hand each of the reds and whites we customarily enjoy. In Europe, there are dozens of grape varietals that I was totally unfamiliar with and yet they’re so delicious, refreshing and pure,” Grbinich expounded.

Also worth highlighting are the health benefits of more organic, natural wines from small-scale, family-based European viniculture prioritizing a love of the land, immediate consumption and enjoyment of the fruits of the earth as they are harvested.

In contrast, millions of barrels of one varietal mass-produced in the United States necessitate manipulation and not-so-natural processes to preserve the wine.

Besides those seeking wines from their homelands, more and more Atlantans and residents of surrounding areas are craving something new.

Grbinich describes Atlanta as a “wine city,” evidenced by an explosion of wine boutiques. Coaxing people into testing their comfort zones and trying new vinos is Grbinich’s mission, “Life is too short to get stuck on one or two favorites!”

Margo Grbinich-Hunt, owner of Grbinich Wines in Peachtree Corners, supplying Corners Fine Wine and Spirits with a selection of Balkan Wines.

Difficult to say, delicious to drink

The most beloved red wine along the Adriatic Coast comes from a grape called Plavac Mali which is genetically linked to Zinfandel. Zinfandel, known as Tribidrag in Croatia, is thought to be a California born grape. However, it was introduced to California during the Gold Rush in the 1850s from Croatia.

Plavac Mali is known for producing flavorful, deep red wines ranging from medium to full-bodied, high in tannins, alcohol content and minerality resulting from rocky, coastal growing conditions. Its characteristic aromas span from sour cherry, red plum, licorice and spices to figs and dark berries.

If you like Zinfandel, you’ll love Dingac Plavac Mali, available upon request by retailers. Although most Croatian wines aren’t meant to be aged, Plavac Mali ages well.

Ukrainians make an incredible Cabernet: Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon. Find it at Buford Farmers Market. It’s full-bodied, aromatic and affordable.

Sauvignon Blanc fans would love fruity, Malvazija with its surprising floral aroma. Ask for Vina Laguna Malvasia from the Istrian peninsula at Corners Fine Wine and Spirits in Peachtree Corners.

Grbinich’s newest Piazza Mistrichi Italian Proseccos are coming soon to Italian restaurants with impeccable taste near you!

Do you fancy German pilsners? Try Romania’s Timișoreana, a golden, well-balanced lager with hop aroma dating back to 1718. Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits in Doraville carries it.

The stylishly packaged Hafner Premium X.O. brandy from Austria with notes of dark vanilla, caramel, molasses and a hint of tobacco is kosher, organic and vegan.

Break the rules and pick a wine you like! “If you want a red with your trout, that’s fine! If you want a nice white with a steak, it doesn’t matter. It’s your money,” Grbinich stated.

Cork or cap?

Nothing can replicate the ceremonial uncorking of a bottle of wine nor the popping perfection of that celebratory sound but contrary to popular belief, a cork doesn’t necessarily denote a higher quality bottle of wine, according to Grbinich, who carries both cork and screw cap bottles. In fact, since corks are porous, they can invite spoilage.

A twist top doesn’t require special equipment to open, so Grbinich finds them less intimidating. Plus, transporting an opened bottle is easier with a cap. Wineries are turning to screw caps and looking to make them more environmentally friendly. 

Hobby to hustle

Grbinich’s formation included frequenting a number of wine schools to train her palate. Broadening her own knowledge of wines better enables her to guide others in enjoying them without insecurities. You don’t have to be a cork dork or understand the complex science behind winemaking in Grbinich’s view — it’s fine to simply enjoy it!

Patrizia hails from Toronto, Canada where she earned an Honors B.A. in French and Italian studies at York University, and a B.Ed. at the University of Toronto. This trilingual former French teacher has called Georgia home since 1998. She and her family have enjoyed living, working and playing in Peachtree Corners since 2013.

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Food & Drink

Sucré: New Orleans-Style Luxury Pastry Shop Opening in Peachtree Corners

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Opening this fall at The Forum Peachtree Corners

Abney Harper, co-owner of the luxury New Orleans brand Sucré, shares her journey into the culinary world. Sucré recently opened its first location outside of New Orleans in Woodstock, Atlanta, marking an exciting expansion. Abney hopes to create a beautiful, magical experience showcasing handcrafted, complex pastries while ensuring quality and consistency. The Forum Peachtree Corners will open this fall, 2024. This interview by Rico Figliolini

Podcast Timestamp (where to find it in the podcast):
00:00:00 – Abney Harper’s Journey
00:01:44 – Sucré: New Orleans-Style Luxury Pastry Shop
00:03:37 – From Law to Pastry: A Serendipitous Journey
00:06:16 – Expanding Sucré’s Presence in Georgia
00:08:09 – From Restaurants to Pastries
00:12:47 – Navigating the Challenges of Scaling a Business Across States
00:15:18 – Navigating Regulations and Expansion Plans
00:17:22 – Expanding Sucré Brand Beyond New Orleans
00:20:08 – Discovering A New Orleans Passion
00:21:24 – Bringing the Essence of New Orleans to Atlanta

Podcast Transcript:

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New dining experience opens at Hilton Hotel

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Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch // Photo by Bruce Johnson

Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch offers southern-style fare and easy entertainment

Just in time for the summer season, Hilton Atlanta Northeast has launched a new dining option, Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch.

The casual dining experience brings understated luxury to an easy, breezy setting with comfortable patio furniture on a spacious outdoor deck, a full bar with top-shelf spirits and an impressive wine collection. The cuisine is Southern style and utilizes regionally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients.

“You really can’t ask for an easier setting or a more comfortable way to unwind,” said Andrew Stegen, executive vice president of operations for FullG Capital, the hotel operator. “In the old days, hotels had restaurants for the travelers, and the locals came occasionally. Now, it’s the other way around. You have to appeal to the people who live here.”

At a press preview on May 15, Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch was unveiled for the first time.

Dahlia’s plans to offer weekend buffets, sports viewing on the patio and family-friendly cookouts.

Photo by Bruce Johnson

“Dahlia’s is a great addition for our hotel guests but also for the local community! We are most excited about our new porch, which is the perfect place for happy hour spritz, outdoor dining and future programming,” said Mike Roling, general manager of Hilton Atlanta Northeast. 

The food is led by executive chef Robert Chafflin, who said he likes to bring an approachable yet flavorful take on southern culinary staples. For the preview, guests were wowed with shrimp and grits, braised beef short ribs, mushroom risotto, shrimp po’boys, cheesecake with caramelized peaches and a whole lot more. 

The beverages were just as tantalizing – from the signature Black Dahlia to the unexpected Southern Dandie to an array of seasonal spritzes. 

“We are excited to bring a newly renovated restaurant space, brand new porch, and refreshed menu to our property,” said Roling. “We welcome the public, both locals and hotel guests alike, to come join us for a dining experience elevated by our southern hospitality.”

Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch also has a private dining area and a lounge area—perfect for relaxing after a busy day, grabbing a sumptuous meal with the family or meeting friends for lunch or dinner and drinks. Dahlia’s also provides catering for hotel events. For more information, visit dahliasrestaurant.com.

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U&ME Coffee Bakery & Wine Celebrates Grand Opening In Peachtree Corners

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Mayor Mike Mason and members of the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA), business professionals, and community well-wishers recently celebrated the opening of U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine, a new establishment in Peachtree Corners.

The event was marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by friends, family members of the owners, Paula Gil and Pablo Vicens, who are married, and their dedicated staff.

Left to right:  Paula Gil & Pablo Gil, Owners

U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine, a local family-owned business, focuses on creating a welcoming space where families can gather, students can study, and friends can hang out.

This establishment offers free high-speed Wi-Fi, weekly specials and a cozy environment for all.

Paula Gil emphasized the importance of offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that cater to various tastes and needs.

Family and Friends, Staff, Pablo Gil, Paula Gil, Mayor Mike Mason, Lisa Proctor PCBA Board, Suzanna Martinez PCBA Board, Donna Linden PCBA Board, and Audrey Boyce PCBA Outreach.

The goal is to deliver the highest quality specialty items at fair prices.

“We are excited to bring our blend of coffee shop, wine bar, bakery, and diner spot to Peachtree Corners,” stated Paula.

U&ME Coffee prides itself on using 100% Colombian Medellin Coffee and ensuring all baking is done on-premises to guarantee freshness and quality.

Further distinguishing themselves, Paula and Pablo have incorporated homemade empanadas, pizzas, and pastries into their menu, all made from scratch to offer a unique taste experience.

In addition to their dine-in services, U&ME Coffee caters to those on the go with their to-go orders and provides catering services for special events.

Mayor Mason, alongside PCBA Board Members Lisa Proctor, Donna Linden, Allison Reinert, Suzanna Martinez, and numerous local business supporters, expressed their delight in welcoming U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine to the city.

“The city council and I are delighted you chose Peachtree Corners for your business location. We are pleased to have this new specialty restaurant available as part of our business-friendly city,” Mayor Mason remarked.

Contact:  U&ME Coffee Bakery & Wine
Telephone: 470-359-6972
Facebook:  Facebook U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine
Located at 3433 Medlock Bridge Road, Peachtree Corners

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