Growing grapes in Maine is not an easy task. Some would say it’s impossible because of the short growing season and myriad pests and weather issues. But while the hills may not be alive with Pinot noir, there are plenty of Concord grapes, which are one of the few fruits native to the U.S. They grew wild all over my father's property in Turner, along the banks of the Androscoggin River. Growing up, I would crawl around in their thick, craggy darkness and emerge purple-stained; the grapes are slip-skin and separate easily from the flesh, leaving behind sticky trails of juice. My step-brothers and I would pick them and then try to make grape juice. It always turned out strong enough to peel paint even after we added sugar. Lots of it.
Twenty years later, I have become a full-on wine freak. For me, it’s evangelism, fetish, and passion combined. I belong to two vineyard cellar clubs and have glasses, decanters, openers and, of course, bottles all over my place. I’m reading a 960-page book called “1001 Wines You Must Taste Before You Die” — because I must. I was elated to taste some of the wines being produced at Maine’s 18 vineyards (and counting) when I was home in March researching an article on micro-distilleries. While the majority were fruit-based, much of the fruit was native (a huge plus in winemaking circles) and every spot had a star … and some plonk. I came away amazed at what
Now it's mid-summer and prime time for winery visits from Casco to
Jessica Strelitz is a contributing writer to Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.