Beyond Blueberries…

A few months back, I mentioned a Food & Wine Festival I attended in Kennebunkport, Maine and the standout wine of the event.

There were a number of great wines from around the globe being poured, but the one that really captured my interest was a Hermitage Blanc style wine from Cellardoor Winery.

Interesting though it wasn’t from the Northern Rhone, or even from France, but 150 miles up the rocky coast in Lincolnville, Maine. The natural association with a wine from Maine would be blueberries, where Mainers can always find a way to incorporate the blueberry into just about everything consumable and otherwise. Cellardoor does make a Blueberry wine – I passed on it, preferring my blueberries in a cobbler.

I finally had the chance last week to drive up the coast through Camden to visit Cellardoor Winery where I was happy to learn that Cellardoor produces wines from a number of traditional grapes as well as a few hybrids, but the emphasis here is clearly on the classic European varietals.

Founded in 2007 by a former Boston investment banker, the creative and energetic Bettina Doulton has transformed a centuries old barn and bucolic 68 acre farm into a dynamic and beautiful, fully operating winery, tasting room, restaurant and hospitality center.

While the winery does have a small experimental vineyard, it sources the majority of its grapes from Washington State. Not surprisingly, the Maine climate can create its own challenges even with purchased grapes as Bettina and the young and talented Winemaker, Aaron Peet, remember all too well when a rare, early-season Nor’easter bore down on Maine’s mid-coast last fall. Touring the winery and property with Bettina left me with the sense that Mother Nature had perhaps met her match. This was not a lady to be deterred by a mere October blizzard!

Of the eighteen wines produced by Cellardoor, I tasted six sitting in the beautiful Tasting Room at the Wine Bar. Of the three whites, my clear favorite was the 2010 Trilogy Blanc, the Rhone blend of Rousanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Winemaker Peet has crafted these Yakima Valley grapes into a beautifully balanced wine that would be a perfect match with summer salads. I found the 2011 Pinot Gris to be a refreshing alternative to the sea of insipid Pinot Grigio’s in the market today and the fairly rich 2010 Chardonnay with just a kiss of oak would be a perfect pairing to that other Maine staple – Lobster.

Next up was a perfectly chilled, deeply hued rose, the 2010 Rugosa Grande. A blend of 80% syrah and 20% grenache, this wine had me yearning for a bright sunny, wind-swept afternoon at a Mediterranean beachside cafe on the Cote d’Azur.  This is a classic French-style quaffer meant to drink while nibbling on a platter of local cheeses, slices of just baked baguettes and a mound of thinly sliced jambon ham.

Aaron Peet’s affinity for Rhone grapes is evident in my next two wines, the 2010 Grenache and a lighter treatment of a syrah labeled as Shiraz, which I didn’t quite understand, but both wines were delicious! All of Peet’s wines are well made and it’s obvious his time in Washington State has allowed him to establish a good relationship with farmers from which he sources his fruit.

I would certainly encourage wine lovers to journey to this beautiful corner of the country to visit Bettina and her knowledgeable and friendly staff. If you can’t get there, you can order their wines direct.  I’m betting you’ll be as surprised and pleased as I was to find a winery producing good-quality, value- priced wines in Maine!

To learn more about Cellardoor Winery, visit their website www.mainewine.com or give them a call @ 207.763.4478. Better yet, pay them a visit in the fall when the trees are a blaze of color.

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