A Grand Crew Indeed

What happens when an inordinately talented, dedicated and thoughtful set of writers and performers forge a friendship over wine, in tandem with burgeoning careers in entertainment? Years later, there’s a show based on it. “Grand Crew” is the new comedy on NBC about a group of friends who gather at a wine bar where they work through life’s ups and downs. It is literally art imitating life. And what a life it is! I’ve been lucky enough to have known “Grand Crew” show creator Phil Augusta Jackson for some time, having both frequented the watering hole that started it all: Bar Covell. There are myriad joys of being a Covell devotee , and getting to befriend other regulars like Jackson is part of that. There could be no better place to dig into how “Grand Crew” came to be. Walking into Covell I was pleased as punch (a sangria perhaps?) to see Jackson had rallied two others to contribute to the conversation. Holding court with Jackson from the corner banquette were Carl Tart and Lamar Woods, who act and write on the show. They were, and still are, part of the original Covell crew the show is based on. Seeing the three of them there together was a sight that gladdened my heart. I nabbed a glass of Mourvèdre and settled in get the intel on how their “wine downs” became fodder for a network show. And possibly finished their potatoes whilst doing it but what can I say? Journalism makes me hungry. PS: Them gathering there was not because of me…independently of each other they’d been messaging each other about hanging there that night. And Phil happened to be meeting me there anyway so…wine synergy! PPS: At time of writing this, I’m four episodes in to watching “Grand Crew”. I’m thoroughly invested in the characters. And totally invested in laughing out loud. It’s a beautiful thing. I digress. Their wine hangs origin story harkens back to 2014, when Jackson directed and coached Woods and Tart's improv group The Big Team, formerly known as White Women—a group made up of all Black men. I must tell you; they’re tremendous. Betwixt performing and work, it was the Bar Covell wine sessions that secured the friendship. Granted, none of them were particularly into wine before. But Bar Covell was a welcoming place both to nurture friendship and to develop wine appreciation. “I’d only had wine at work events when I worked in advertising—or like parties that had box wine, so when I got here, and they didn’t have a menu, they’re just like ‘what do you like’…I think we all started to find our way,” Jackson explained. It was a landing spot for them to ground themselves and grow. Woods recounts when he and Jackson were working on major network shows—where a writers’ room could bring the most cheerful person down on a bad day—and “every time I had a rough day in the room, I’d come to Covell, and Phil would get my confidence back up. I’d go back into the room the next day and start killing it.” When Jackson started developing a show with Dan Goor, whom he was working with on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, they’d gather to brainstorm new show ideas, but Jackson’s recounting of Covell gatherings seemed to keep coming up. The intrigue ante was upped said Jackson, as “It takes place at a wine bar. It’s a place you don’t necessarily first think of when you think of a group of Black guys hanging out. So, it seemed like an interesting territory for a show.” I was curious if turning time at Covell into a job enhanced or detracted from their time there, and they universally agreed it only made their time together there more valuable. They still gather there to reflect, and the fact that they are currently reflecting on the show birthed from those gatherings only makes them more special. “To put it plainly, this is the place we come to figure s#@t out. Being a Black person in Hollywood, the support system’s not always there, so once I found these guys…we keep each other accountable,” said Jackson. As someone who’s been in Hollywood for some time, to know artists keeping true to themselves, not jaded, still appreciating the wells they draw from…my goodness I love to see it. So, as they forge forward…what are they drinking now? Woods is into orange wines ; he likes the funky ones, and also, they look good in Instagram pictures he joked/not joking? But he’s also into Prosecco . Syrah and Malbec are Tart’s current favorites. Plus, he’s a member at Tolosa Winery , and particularly into their “Salaal” blend. Jackson is drinking Theopolis Petite Sirah , which you’ll see featured on the show as he made a point to feature Black winemakers. It’s now one of his favorite wines. In addition, he’s excited about a Mexican natural wine, Bichi , as well as being into Gibbs Cabernet . Whatever they drink and do next, I look forward to seeing. They do in fact make a grand crew. Oh! Last thing, “Grand Crew” airs Tuesdays on NBC, of if you are me and lack proper tv, airs on Hulu the following day. Pour some natty orange wine and get into it! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Resolutionary Wine Lit Wine Perfect Pie Pairings Samhain Sips Goth Rosé You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With John Taylor Wine Situation Final Five! With Anush O’Connor

Château Pech-Ménel

Saint-Chinian Syrah Blend

Everything by this winery is textural perfection that speaks both to wealth and lithe limbs. Wine that knows how to be rich but not rude. Indeed it is silk and soigné — 2 years ago

Paul, Daniel P. and 8 others liked this

Bodega Luigi Bosca

Gala 4 Cabernet Franc Malbec 2015

Omg didn’t expect to feel enthused and I am at least enthusing. It’s got that good ripeness but is ohhhh so fresh in an unpretentious way like it is en pointe but it took it til age 16 for madame to approve it for pointe (not projecting real life nahhh) so it says “elegant red and black fruit with undercurrents earth” but ”oh hi I’m so ripe cause like, The sun is hot!”. Ugh I adore this didn’t expect to and I do. Egads. — 4 years ago

David, Jody and 16 others liked this

"Odedi" Influencer Badge

Nice wine 🍷
Ellen Clifford

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@"Odedi" I was surprised how much I enjoyed it!

The Meadow

Lodi Rosé Blend

@Dan White this has been my favorite thing of late but so far I have only been getting it at Covell, and I'm thinking it would be at Silver Lake wine but if you see it available anywhere outside California grab it up! Grab two. It's so good:) — 8 years ago

Dan, Chris and 2 others liked this
Dan White

Dan White

@Ellen Clifford awesome! I'll keep an eye out. Thanks!
Ellen Clifford

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@Dan White yes, do! Sorry the photo is so gnarly here--bar lighting! But hopefully it's clear enough to keep an eye out for:)
Dan White

Dan White

@Ellen Clifford no worries. I'll find it. 😉

Mas Olivier

Faugères Mourvedre Syrah Rosé

All I could ask. Acid cuts in the dance between candied strawberries and spices. Keeping it all relentlessly fresh ans refreshing. A reel not a waltz. — 2 years ago

Daniel P., Bob and 8 others liked this

Shalauri Cellars

Kakheti Rkatsiteli Mtsvane 2018

When I say I want an orange wine—this is what I want. It is clean, it is tannic, it is complex and it conjures up the mystique rightfully accompanying a wine aged in qvevri buried in this crazy planet we call Earth. It tastes of bitters, but also honey, and an resinous substance—let’s call it myrhh. Note to self: replenish incense stocks and refresh sense memories of such things. The tannins may manhandle you a bit but think of them as leading the dance, not cutting in where they aren’t wanted. — 3 years ago

Trixie, Daniel P. and 12 others liked this

Château Les Arromans

Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend 2013

Covell first drink of the night. High on the grapefruit with say, a lily pond growing in it. Very refreshing and fragrant. — 7 years ago

Bill, Paul and 6 others liked this


Sauvignon 2017

It’s skin contact and you’ve taken the training wheels off but your dad may be trotting behind to make sure you don’t fall. It smells more...challenging? than it is on the palate. Interesting, complex, welcoming. — 3 years ago

Paul, Trixie and 15 others liked this

La Spinetta

Il Rosé di Casanova Prugnolo Gentile - Sangiovese Rosé Blend 2017

Terrifically mineral and just-underripe strawberries. A beauty of a wine with beast on the bottle. Taken down in the sidebar at Covell. Proper wine for cheers-ing to chosen family. — 5 years ago

Severn, TheSkip and 14 others liked this

Theopolis Vineyards

North Coast Petite Sirah 2013

Petite girl, petite-Er sirah? Note this wine has curves in all the right places. SF Wine Competition winner for best petite Sirah, I garnered this bottle from “helping” at the double gold tour. It deserves the hype. It’s just a perfectly balanced mouthful. Like the bite from a plateful of sides (the cranberry sauce! The potatoes! The stuffing and wtf some green veg!) that somehow combines it all. I only wish I’d brought this to Thanksgiving. It does have some elegant cranberry acid cutting into the cassis. A plush texture with an acid that cuts through it all but you don’t think about unless thinking “how’s the acid?” And then there is an undercurrent of cocoa. The tannins for a petite sirah are remarkably chill and knitted together. Like a gravy that has melded with your potatoes. God I’m into this wine. I’d never found a petite sirah before that held court with such elegant and tantalizing aplomb. — 6 years ago

Eric, Jason and 15 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Fruit forward?
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher yes, for sure, it’s a new world wine. But balanced from fruit to acid to tannins. But they are plush tannins...