Boise's Grape Escape to close after 20 years

doland@idahostatesman.comJune 22, 2013 

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Grape Escape.

KATHERINE JONES — Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesma

— Its last day of business will be June 30 for Sunday's Grape Jam and Eggs jazz brunch.

Owner Pug Ostling decided to close the wine bar after an investment deal to fund a remodel fell through a few weeks ago, he said.

"The completion of the deal just isn't in the cards," he said. "The Grape needs a complete face-lift in order to participate in the exciting future at 8th and Idaho. It's time to move forward to the next challenge."

Ostling has been part of Boise's restaurant and cultural scene since 1971 when he came from California to work at the now defunct Sandpiper Restaurant as a singer and manager.

He bought into the business a year later and eventually opened six others in Idaho. In 1980, Ostling opened a Basque family-style restaurant at 6th and Main streets that, by 1987, transitioned into an Italian restaurant, Noodles.

When the old Mode department store building at 8th and Idaho was renovated in 1994, Ostling moved Noodles into its second floor and opened Grape Escape below. At the time, it was the only wine bar in Idaho, Ostling said.

He opened a second Noodles in Nampa in 1988. Both restaurants have since closed.

The Grape Escape thrived at the corner of 8th and Idaho as part wine bar, part cultural institution.

With its wall of windows, cozy patio, friendly staff and a varied slate of wines and dishes it won top wine bar honors in "Best of Treasure Valley" several years in a row.

Ostling promoted the culture of wine in Boise by hosting dinners and wine tastings, and bringing in name wine makers when he could.

He founded cultural programs such as the community discussion series Fettuccine Forum — which continues today, produced by Boise State University's Center for History and Politics, and the City's Department of Arts and History; Verbose City a forum for writers; and the Starving Artists Corner, a free exhibit space for emerging artists where the artists kept 100 percent of their sales.

On the music side, Ostling produced jazz and classical nights, and for many years, the Gene Harris Block Party.

That corner will never be the same, said longtime Ostling friend and writer Clay Morgan, who sat at the Grape on Saturday afternoon.

"It's the place I come to think," Clay Morgan. "It's the center of the city for me. When I sit here, I can feel the city's soul."

"I am absolutely not sad," Ostling said. "All things have a life and a time, and we've had a great run. Now, it's time to do something different."

Ostling plans to do consulting for startup restaurants and pursue a many personal interests, he said.

"I have no intention of retiring. I don't even know what that means," he said.

Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland

Grape Escape, 800 Idaho St., Boise, will be open 11:30 a.m. to close Monday-Sunday until June 30. All gift certificates can be redeemed during that time. Call 368-0200.

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