Maine Wine Tasting Results
From the left: Prospect Hill Winery, St. Croix; Breakwater Vineyards, Breakwater Blues; Breakwater Vineyards, Bees Knees Mead; Bartlett, Wild Blueberry Wine; Bartlett, Trio; Oyster River Winegrowers, Organic Cider; Oyster River Winegrowers, Morphos; Oyster River Winegrowers, Hoboken Station Cider; Cellardoor Winery, Urbane; Cellardoor Winery, Vendance; Cellardoor Winery, Ned Said Red; Blackcap, Maine Hard Apple Cider
The tasting was extremely diverse and included ciders, sparkling wine, wine from sourced grapes, wine from French-American hybrid grapes, fruit wines and sweet wines.
Note: The intention of this panel was not to berate or put down any of the wineries represented, but to instead showcase the areas in which these courageous producers are excelling. The business of growing grapes and making wine is not an easy one. In many cases, it’s truly a labor of love.
Here are our favorites in all the categories:
• Oyster River’s Organic Apple Cider and Hoboken Station cider were both reminiscent of Old World cider—something you might find coming from a famous Spanish cider region or just over the Pyrenees in Normandy, France. Tart fruit and hints of earth made these crisp, dry ciders very appealing.
• A cider from Breakwater Vineyards called Black Cap Maine Cider was a touch sweeter than those from Oyster River and carried with it a little less earth. Everyone agreed that this was a good, easy-drinking cider and thought it might be a good introduction for the novice cider drinker.
• The first estate wine from Cellardoor Winery, called Vendage, was a rosé made from four different French-American hybrid grapes. Vendage is made in the traditional method and hits the palate with a fury of effervescence. It was slightly off-dry, with lovely red fruit on the nose and palate. Truly a fun sparkling rosé that would be wonderful to serve for any occasion.
• Oyster River’s Morphos also created a buzz amongst the tasters. Morphos is a pétillant—a slightly sparkling wine that gains its bubbles naturally in the bottle. A bit of a wild card, Morphos is also made from French-American hybrid grapes. Wine drinkers who enjoy natural, funky, mineral-laced wines will fall in love with this wine from the first sip.
White still wines and a honey mead
• We found the Riesling from Cellardoor Winery to be very representative of the style. The grapes in this wine are sourced from Yakima Valley in Washington, and the wine itself is fermented in stainless steel. Aromas of stone fruit and honey filled the glass, while the wine was soft and elegant on the palate.
• Bartlett Winery’s Coastal White was the first fruit wine of the afternoon. It was crisp and clean, with a balanced acidity and a slight presence of sweetness.
• There is a large amount of honey mead production happening in Maine, and by no means did we taste them all. That being said, it’s worth mentioning Breakwater Vineyards’ Bees Knees Mead, which was full of floral notes, orange blossom and—of course—honey. Just enough acid was present in the wine to give it a good sense of balance.
• Blueberry wines from Bartlett Winery stole the show. Both the Oak Dry and the Oak Dry Reserve blueberry wines were wonderfully crafted, with an excellent acid and tannin structure. Bartlett wineries blueberry wines had the same acid, tannin and flavor profile of an old-vine Zinfandel.
• Much along the same line was Breakwater Blues, from Breakwater Vineyards. A bit lighter in color and with more reserved tannins, the wine presented itself much like a grape-based wine (consensus among the group was that a slight chill would elevate it to the next level).
Red still wines
• Coastal Red from Bartlett is a fruit wine made from Maine apples and blueberries that had a unique smokey quality to it, along with intense floral notes on the nose and palate.
• Ned Said Red from Cellardoor (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes from Clear Lake and Lake County in California) is a wine that spends 15 months in French, American and Hungarian oak, presenting flavors of vanilla, smoke and dark fruits, with a pleasantly high level of tannins and a balanced acidity.
• St. Croix from Prospect Hill is a hybrid variety, which gave the wine a deep ruby color and a nose filled with violets, red beets and cooking spices.
• Winterport Winery’s The Flying Dutchman is a blackberry wine, which featured flavors of coffee, chocolate and roasted nuts, with just enough acid to keep the wine from being too cloying.
• We all were in agreement that Treasure from Cellardoor was unique, and not surprised to find out it was mostly a blueberry wine with a touch of maple syrup. It was surprisingly dry, with interesting floral notes.
The general consensus? Maine fruit wines and French-American hybrid grape wines were the most well-balanced and enjoyable. It seems that the future potential for Maine wine would rest in these areas, thus moving away from 100% European grape varieties. Maine wine has come a long way in a short time, and it will be interesting to track its progress over the next few years.