The Graham Wine Guys

Small-Town Spirits Shop Thrives in Downtown Graham

A room with wine bottles on shelves

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Businessmen Jason McCall and Michael Armstrong have made a name for themselves as champions for entrepreneurs in the Possum Kingdom Lake area, often using their industry knowledge and their passion for their hometown to offer advice to fellow business owners.

However, what these two retail experts are known for most these days is a little wine and spirits shop located on the downtown square in Graham that is part of a revitalization of “America’s Largest Downtown Square.”

Both men have dabbled for decades in the science of oenology, which is the study of wine and winemaking, and as market conditions changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they decided to put their vintner expertise to good use by opening Graham Wines. The independent retail store, which opened in 2021, specializes in craft wine, spirits and beer, and is located at 508 Oak St. on the west side of the community’s downtown square.

“We really wanted a quality place here so we wouldn’t have to go out of town to buy our wine and whiskey,” Armstrong said. “After talking about it and dreaming about what it could be, we figured we would do it ourselves and build the type of store that we never really knew existed but was the ideal place that we’d want to shop if we could create our own perfect store. Before we knew it, Graham Wines was born.”

For Armstrong, serving on the Graham Industrial Association board fueled his passion to improve the town’s economic profile.

“We want a vibrant downtown shopping district, and people need a reason to be downtown on Saturdays or after 5 p.m. during the week,” Armstrong said. “We work in a professional office on the square, and we see the demand for diverse businesses with hotels, entertainment, restaurants and specialty retail. The mix is what makes a downtown alive and prosperous.”

An eight-hour business road trip to Louisiana in fall 2021 gave Armstrong and McCall plenty of time to brainstorm the idea for Graham Wines – and to consider whether the concept would work.

The following week, Armstrong took a walk and peered into the vacant buildings that lined the square before dialing a number on one of the storefront windows to inquire about the space. The next day, he toured the buildings with the property owner, and it was then that he said he had an “Aha!” moment for a wine store.

On the way home from work, he stopped at McCall’s house to discuss his idea of partnering to open a wine store.

McCall’s reply was short and simple: “Let’s do this.”

A collage of different drinks

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The two men conducted market research to see if the idea was viable, but said they also relied on their business instincts, too. That’s where knowing wine, the culture of the Graham community, and operating a retail store helped shape their plans.

“The daily data we collect helps us focus our inventory assortment and price points,” McCall said. “We also know what our top-selling or slow-selling products are, and we use our expertise to create the coolest shopping experience possible.”

Three months after their store’s first sale of wine on the downtown square in Graham, the community held an election to allow full alcohol sales, which enabled Graham Wines to expand its inventory to full liquor and spirits sales. In addition, the business also operates as the local distributor to restaurants in Graham and the surrounding Possum Kingdom Lake area.

A person holding a bottle of alcohol

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Both Armstrong and McCall said their mission is to demystify the wine-buying process so that it’s not intimidating for beginners.

“There is an abundance of exceptional wine that isn’t expensive,” McCall said. “They are easy to drink and taste delicious, and you won’t find them anywhere else in Graham. In fact, we have many bottles that are $15 to $20, and they are fantastic.”

“I take pride in finding a delicious bottle of wine for less than $25,” Armstrong added. “Our inventory reflects that concept, with most of our wine ranging between $20 to $45 a bottle. It’s low risk to buy a $20 bottle to share with friends and discover something new that you enjoy.”

Both men said they are familiar with the wines their business sells.

“Every single bottle we stock has been intentionally selected,” McCall said. “We are hand-picking our inventory, and if we don’t know it, we taste it. We are picky, too. We may taste 15 different bottles and only choose one or two to carry in our store. Our high standards are what our customers expect and love from our store.

“Sometimes you want wine that pairs well with a rotisserie chicken you got from the deli, and there are tons of inexpensive wines just for that. But there’s probably also a nice bourbon that goes well with it, too.”

Inside Graham Wines, visitors can find well-stocked shelves and racks with tasting notes for each label, along with flavor and texture descriptions, including food pairing suggestions. Most of the brands aren’t well-known for casual consumers, which is where the additional expertise and guidance comes in handy.

Maps of different wine-producing regions also hang above the wall of wine, along with numbered stickers that refer to the wines below them. The maps serve double duty as artwork and instructional aids.

“I use the maps to teach customers about where a particular wine comes from and all the details that make a particular bottle unique,” Armstrong said.

He described the store as an “experience,” adding: “Our shoppers know when they first enter our store that they aren’t in a normal liquor store. We can explain how the products are made, show customers the wine’s origin on the maps, and then show them how to read a label so they can understand what they are drinking.”

Conversations in the store sometimes start with what general wine the customer prefers and how the wine will be consumed, or even what the customer might be planning to eat with it.

“We tailor our recommendations based on if you’re going to drink the wine with food, or if you’re relaxing with a glass by the pool,” McCall said. “We help customers who are brand-new to wine pick out something to try, or we can help an experienced wine drinker locate a special bottle.”

For more information, visit the store’s website ( or its Facebook page (, or call (469) 699-4639.