Jim Traver has come a long way from the basement?metaphorically, at least. For years, he fine-tuned his winemaking experience, working as a high-school math teacher during the day and enjoying crafting wines as a hobby in the basement of his home. When he eventually began bottling, labeling, and selling his wines, he had long since perfected his technique, which he now applies to a whole portfolio of wines crafted onsite at Traver Home Winery. These wines range from the super-popular Dog's Breath Red, a light and fruity wine, to the jammy Marechal Foch with notes of blackberry, currant, and meandering guitar solos.
Grown sustainably on Augusta’s verdant hillsides, the fruit of Mount Pleasant’s voluptuous vines has soaked up a slew of accolades. Wine 101 classes in tasting, food pairing, and cork firing edify duos of aspiring aficionados with a one-hour onslaught of grape-centric wisdom, along with a complimentary souvenir wine glass. Students will learn to pair wines with cheese and chocolate and practice trapping even the wildest varietals in bottles. Indulge in a selection of delicious sips while honing the five S’s of proper tasting—seeing, swirling, sniffing, sipping, and savoring—before honoring instructors with the optional sixth S: snuggling.
Clothes and furniture find new life at Red Racks Thrift Stores. Through donations, the staffers at the store's 13 locations fill their racks and shelves with thousands of second-hand items for kids and adults, including name-brand garments from the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, The Loft, and Donna Karan New York. They also stock furniture and other miscellaneous goods, such as books and home décor.
And something odd happens when these items arrive at checkout—the register doesn't ring up any sales tax. That's because Red Racks is a nonprofit organization, and all proceeds go to benefit the Disabled American Veterans, an organization that has advocated on behalf of veterans for more than nine decades. Red Racks' altruistic mission has proved successful so far—the inventory of each store typically turns over every 3–4 weeks.
There's no entrance exam for Vino Cellars. As the wine lounge's website puts it, "No one will care if you can't say cabernet correctly. So go ahead and ask." And that level of accessibility runs throughout the entire shop, from the comfortable open seating to the complimentary tastings to the notes that describe every bottle's weight, palate, and mouth-feel. Such touches help guests find their way through the 150 varietals—imported from boutique-style producers across the globe—so they can pick the right pairing for a steak or the right milk-substitute for a bowl of Cheerios.
Pairing is a theme that runs through almost everything at Vino Cellars. Themed wine dinners match up five wines with four-course meals. The regular menu's small plates of shareable flatbread pizzas and sliders can also be mixed and matched with different libations. But Vino Cellars doesn't stop with wine and food. The shop spreads its gourmet knowledge to house-made bottles of flavored olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars.