There’s always so much to learn about wines. Just when you think there can’t possibly be anything else new and exciting to delve into, you embark on a whole new category of wine made from — guess what? — not grapes! Okay, some of you are rolling your eyes and saying, “Where have you been?” In Hawaii, pineapple and guava wines are all the rage. To that, I say, “I know. I’ve tasted them.” I’ve also had the pleasure of tasting blueberry wines, pear wines and many other non-grape wines from the beautiful state of Maine. My Hawaii and Maine experiences led me to do some research on non-grape wines. My article this week is devoted to the non-grape wines of Maine. Future articles in this series will look at other non-grape wines.
The hero of this story is Michael Anderson, winemaker, brew master and owner of Winterport Winery, near Bangor, Maine. Winterport Winery crafts wines from apples, pears, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries, as well as some grape wines, and blends. Michael describes his family-owned and operated business as “a hobby on steroids.” Not only do they craft specialty non-grape wines, they have an on-site brewery, ice creamery, restaurant-event center, and art gallery.
Today, Michael can barely keep up with local business. His success wasn’t overnight, however. He started in the 1980s making wine at home, and opened Winterport in 2001. “It’s been an uphill battle,” according to Mike. “There’s a saying that once Prohibition started in Maine, it wasn’t until 1980, when Bartlett Maine Estate Winery owner Bob Bartlett was able to get a law passed to loosen up licensing rules, that it ended.”
Thankfully, the last 30-plus years have seen a lot of growth in the Maine wine world. Today, there is a Maine Wine Trail featuring 24 wineries that produce “grape and fruit wines, distilled spirits, meads and fortified wines.”
Winterport Winery and the other Maine winemakers focus on making wine from locally available crops that flourish in the coastal Maine environment.
If you’ve had an opportunity to try Maine wines, or other non-grape wines, please share your experiences with us.