Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wine In Extreme Northern Climates


So what's new on the wine trail? Maine. My girlfriend and I are taking a month in Maine to prepare for our upcoming journey through Italy, and I am surprised by the number of wine-related activities going on in the dead of winter. You'd think that a place that just got eighteen inches of snow wouldn't be the best for growing grapes - and while this is certainly up for debate - there are some Mainers who try. There are eight wineries that I know about, and some have experienced some success, particularly Bartlett Winery in Gouldsborough, ME. I am scheduling a tour at Bartlett's, and will hopefully give you an inside peak in a week.

But let's talk about wine shops. Maine has some great wine shops that truly come alive in the winter. Why? Because what else is there to do. Without the throngs of summer tourists, the wine-tastings and hors d'oeuvres become more prevalent in the Ellsworth, Bar Harbor, and Blue Hill area that I grew up. The shops, which include John Edwards Market, The Blue Hill Wine Shop, and the newest wine store in Ellsworth, Global Beverage Warehouse, are inviting and each have their own unique personality. The Blue Hill Wine Shop, which is located inside of a renovated barn, with cracked old wood and wine piled, stacked, and stood everywhere, like an arctic wine cellar, reminds me of a cross between a fisherman's shanty and an Italian vineria with odds and ends of wine everywhere.

Global Beverage Warehouse is one of the only stores north of Portland, ME, that features a wide selection of microbrews (and just so you know, ninety-nine percent of Maine is north of Portland) and I attended their wine tasting on the third Friday of the month. They noticed that few people wanted to purchase the more expensive wines that they offered during tastings, so they catered their selection by price: nothing cost over fifteen bucks. It was nice to see a few wineries represented that I'd tasted at, including Chateau St. Jean, Cline Winery, and Chateau St. Michelle, and this consideration toward price seemed a success: many people had a bottle or two under their arm. One thing that I must point out about Global Beverage Warehouse, even though they sound like a chain-store, they are not, and the service there is great.

So what does my month look like? Well, during the wine-tasting on the last Saturday of the month at The Blue Hill Wine Store, I'll talk more with Max about the Vinicola Savese winery, which is only a few miles from where we'll be living in Italy. They still use clay vessels to store and age their wines. Then, on the first Friday of the month, I'll enjoy the always impressive hors d'oeuvres, wine, and art offered at the John Edward's tasting. Then on the fourteenth, Atlantic Brewery, maker of the highly celebrated Bar Harbor Real Ale (a hoppy, full bodied beer), will be offering a tasting at the local coffee shop, The Maine Grind. Not a bad schedule for the dead of winter.

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