Maine has a legacy of hardworking laborers known for their humble pride. Here, lobstermen pull traps from the icy Atlantic, construction teams build houses in the snow and students in the state’s northern reaches take “potato recess” to help their families harvest.
For winemakers, that determination has driven them to seek out fruit that can withstand the harsh winters. While local wineries account for just 2% of the state’s wine sales, hybrid grapes like Marquette, Frontenac and Cayuga are doing their part to boost numbers.
Less than 75 acres planted
31 wineries participate in the Maine Wine Trail
The average annual temperature in Maine is 45.65˚
Chesuncook, a coarse loam left by the glaciers, is Maine’s official soil
“The good news over the past 10–15 years is the progress on these hybrids have allowed the vineyards in Maine to become much more productive than years prior,” says Bettina Doulton, owner of Cellardoor Winery. “Several of us have also planted L’Acadie Blanc, which does incredibly well in Maine.”
Along with Cellardoor, Dragonfly Farm & Winery is using hybrid grapes extensively, as well as making wine from cold-weather-loving Concord grapes. Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery has also found success, with 10 grape varieties and hybrids, and it’s getting innovative in its use of co-ferments with other fruits.
Maréchal Foch, Léon Millot, Cayuga
Corot Noir, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris
Marquette, St. Croix, La Crosse, St. Pepin
Run by a husband-and-wife team, Elmer and Holly Savage, Savage Oakes was a farm for 200 years before the pair got into winemaking. Elmer takes advantage of both the rich soil and his agricultural degree to produce 90% of their wines from estate-grown fruit, mostly grapes and blueberries.
“I believe that wine from estate-grown fruit does give you a bit more sense of place than fruit sourced elsewhere,” says Elmer.
Wineries to Know
Bar Harbor Cellars, Cellardoor Winery, Dragonfly Farm & Winery
Eighteen Twenty Wines, Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery
At Eighteen Twenty Wines in Portland, Owner Amanda O’Brien found that rhubarb wine has been well received, given its subtle rose-like notes. Plus, it’s easy to grow.
Winemakers in Maine may have individual approaches to the perfect glass, but they arrive there in the same trial-and-error fashion.
“Each winery is run so differently, but one thing is for sure: They are all run with grit,” says O’Brien.