Maine Wines, Winery Tastings and Tours and Maine Wine Festivals
Everyone thinks of Maine for its lobsters. But there is another lush delicious product, plucked from the vines instead of the sea in Maine. While Maine's wine scene isn't as distinguished as California, Oregon or Washington, it's worth visiting a few Maine vineyards and taking in a Maine wine festival or two during your time in Vacationland, and chekc out Maine's hopping beer brewing scene too.
There are now 24 wineries across the great state. Maine wines have evolved and improved, as wine should, over the years. Maine fruit wines were once the only drink you could find. Sweet blueberry, blackberry, pear and apple wines were the Maine stay. Now grape growers in Maine are having grand success harvesting grand cru wines from grapes of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot and shiraz, grown by the sea in the hills of Camden and Bar Harbor. Some vintners and wine tasters say you can taste the sweet salty air and the wildflowers in Maine wines, flavorful and fun. And like California, with over 3,000 miles of coastline, visiting Maine wineries is a great pastime, with beaches and lighthouse visits along the way, and bits of lobster rolls to cleanse the palate.
Cellardoor Winery has brought probably the most fame and notice to the wine scene in Maine. Largely because of the winery owner Bettina Doulton, who left Wall Street in 2007 to invest in her passion for wines. She throws lavish parties, Pop for a Cause fundraising events at her winery in Lincolnville, set on an incredible 68 acre property featuring a two hundred old farmhouse and barn. Cellardoor offers a beautiful tasting room in the restored 1790 barn, near Camden, where you can sample many of their wines. Cellardoor has had success handcrafting small batch vintages of Amorosa, Apple, Blue Lobster Blue made of 100% Blueberry, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cantina, Cayuga White, Chardonnay, DeChaunac, Fumoso Bianco, Pearro - a pear wine, Perfect Stranger, Queen Anne's Lace, Reisling, Sweetheart, Valentina and Vino DiVine.
A visit to one of Cellardoor's Tasting Rooms, in Lincolnville and Cellardoor at the Villa - a second tasting room in Rockport, and the latest Cellardoor at Thompson Point in Portland. If you get the chance to attend one of Bettina's Cellardoor Wine events during your trip to Maine, take the time to revel in the festivities. Cellardoor presents top bands and entertainers at concerts on the coast from Kennebunkport to Portland and Camden. Cellardoor also offers frequent wine and cheese tasting events, themed Maine wine dinners and cooking classes that are simply idyllic in this Maine setting near the sea in a grand old barn or a big top tent.
Bartlett Winery in Gouldsborough, east of Ellsworth, is off the beaten path but makes extraordinary Maine wines. Bartlett Winery has a tasting room, where you can sample aperitifs, reds, whites and dessert wines and sweet honey meads. The white wines are made from chardonnay grapes with notes of apple or pear. Bartlett winery reds come from local 100% pure hand-raked blueberries, putting a Maine twist on hearty but sweet red wine flavors. Bartlett Maine Estate Winery also makes Rusticator Rum that has fetched gold tasting medals.
Blacksmith Winery in South Casco, near Sebago Lake, has a tasting room in a charming old Blacksmith Shop. Blacksmith Wines was the first winery in Maine to produce fortified wines, both port and blueberry, and Maine fruit wines including cider, blueberry, cranberry, elderberry and raspberry.
Bar Harbor Cellars Winery at Sweet Pea Farm started in 2003, and now produces wine from European and local fruit (cranberry, blueberry and apple) including hybrid grape varieties. The Bar Harbor Farm Winery offers free tastings in a Civil War era barn, just outside downtown Bar Harbor on Route 3.
Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery – Union
Breakwater Vineyards – Owls Head
Sweetgrass Winery – Union
Tree Spirits Winery & Distillery – Oakland
At Maine's best restaurants, the wine list is primarily European and Californian, but a few bold chefs feature Maine wines on their menu. Particularly popular are Maine dessert wines and meads crafted from sweet blueberry, pear, and apple. Maine made whites go well with seafood, buttery lobster and shrimp or local clams and mussels. Hard cider and fruit wines are delicious with homemade Maine blueberry pie or apple crisp in season.
Maine Wine Festivals
Maine is host to numerous wonderful food and wine festivals, many of them charitable so you can feel good as you sip, or chug for charity. Kennebunkport Festival is now a decade old tradition in June, featuring Maine chefs, fine art and wine served by the river in this chic seaside community. The Kennebunkport Festival benefits Share our Strength, and all funds stay in Maine. You should reserve lodging now for this sell out event in Kennebunkport.
Portland's Harvest on the Harbor in October features Maine beer and wine to accent Maine's best chefs and music - all enjoyed by the waterfront in the Old Port. Bangor's Maine Harvest Festival in early November promotes farm fresh food with local wine and beer, plus music, endorsed by the Maine Winery Guild.
The Maine Wine Trail Passport is another great way to taste your way around 20 Maine Wineries. The Maine Wine Trail map, produced annually by Maine Winery Guild, allows you to be entered into a drawing, the more wineries you go to, the better the prizes include lodging and diner in Bar Harbor. Similarly, Maine has a Maine Beer Trail with over 50 breweries.
As you wine your way through the beautiful state and sample some Maine wines from salty to sweet, remember to drink and drive responsibly, or settle in to a bed and breakfast for the night in walking distance of your wine dinner. Perhaps Vacationland could be nicknamed VineyardLand... well, maybe not just yet. Lobster and Lighthouses still dominate the state as edibles and attractions.