A shorter sprout of the Vine this week, as I’m finally starting to catch up at work and otherwise after our trip Down East in Maine. I’d once crossed the border of Maine briefly several years ago to be able to say that I’d set foot in the state (I’m missing only North Dakota in the Lower 48). This time around, I took my time, spent over a week there, and our vacation was nothing short of wonderful. To wit:
But this isn’t a blog for ramblings about my vacation. (Although if you want to see more pictures from the trip, go here.) Needless to say, I didn’t get a chance to do my weekly tastings to share with you. I do, however, have a few quick notes:
* Since we find ourselves personally panicked and paralyzed if we’re not able to travel with wine, we made sure that we picked up provisions along the way (especially with the new FAA “regulations” about liquids and such on planes). A must-stop if you’re ever in Portland, Maine: “Old Port Wine Merchant.” Excellent selections, great prices, and the proprietor, Jacques, is an absolute hoot.
* Wines we enjoyed on this trip, all falling into the Naked Vine Official Price Range: Borsao Rioja Tempranillo 2003, Domaine de la Mordoree Cotes-du-Rhone 2004, “Our Daily Red” 2005 (which is a very temperamental wine from Nevada, varying wildly from bottle to bottle), “Goats Do Roam” 2003 (South African), and Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2004. All of these were evening wines, or stuff we had with various snacks. I didn’t do tasting notes, but they were all friendly and sluggable.
* “Local wineries” in Maine. I didn’t expect anything along that line – Maine is best known for microbrewed beer (more on that in a minute). Two stood out. “Sow’s Ear Winery” in Brookville – we discovered this place while driving down to Stonington. They make fruit wines there – and I normally find fruit wines pretty repulsive. However, Sow’s Ear does dry fruit wines, rather than the syrup you’ll get at many places. The best of the bunch, in my opinion, was a dry white made from rhubarb and a surprisingly tasty blueberry wine. He also did a traditional sparkling wine with the rhubarb, which had a unique nutty, earthy flavor I enjoyed a great deal. When we pulled up, the proprietor was sitting on his porch, barefoot, reading. My kind of place.
Also, “Sweet Pea’s Farm” in Bar Harbor. Sweet Pea was, apparently, a very lovable cow. These Bar Harbor Cellars wines are also quite friendly, and relatively inexpensive. The winemaker (also associated with Atlantic Brewing Company) planted his vines a few years ago – but decided that they weren’t ready yet. Harvesting grapes too early in the life of a vine is the death of many a batch of wine. Many people who get into winemaking try to rush the process initially, so the quality suffers. This winery is doing it right. They made several very decent wines made from imported grapes, but the star of their current selections was an apple wine – but one that was well-balanced after being aged for two years. It reminded me strongly of a good Riesling.
* Microbrews. Mainers love their beer (and few things go better with fresh lobster) – and they do a great job making their own. There are several microbrewed beers from Maine that are available outside that corner of the country. If you have a chance to pick up some Shipyard IPA, Atlantic Brewing Company’s Real Ale or Blueberry Ale (trust me on the blueberry – it doesn’t taste like blueberries, and it makes a great version of a black and tan with Guinness called a “black and blue”), Geary’s Autumn Ale or Stone Coast’s “Knuckleball Bock,” you’ll be doing yourself a favor. And speaking of microbreweries…
* Pubquest. Possibly one of the most useful websites I’ve run across in awhile. (Hat tip to Vine Reader John E. of Cincinnati, whom we had dinner with in Maine. His wife made the world’s best seafood stew.) Go to the website – select your city, and the site will give you locations, maps, and links to all of the brewpubs in the surrounding area. Need a microbrew in Hastings, Nebraska? Pubquest will lead you to “Murphy’s Wagon Wheel.” You get the idea. An absolute must-add to your favorites.
And seafood’s awfully darned good when it’s just pulled out of the bay.
More wine recommendations next time around.
Until next time…keep your shell on…