Mount Desert Island is perhaps the last place I expected to find a vineyard. This small island off the coast of Maine is close to the Canadian border in the north-east United States. Mount Desert Island is home to Acadia National Park, Mount Cadillac, the highest mountain on the east coast, and the fashionable touristy resort of Bar Harbor.
Lakes, ponds and streams cross the island and wild blueberries abound, their tiny sweet berries inviting walkers to pick and gorge on them.
Enrica Maffucci invites you to taste her Blueberry Wine in Bar Harbor Cellars tasting room.
Bar Harbor Cellars is having more success with its blueberry wine at present as their vineyard, first planted in 2003, is struggling to produce sufficient usable grapes. “Critters and frost are our biggest problem,” Enrica Maffucci told me. Her family own the winery and farm and Enrica is in charge of the friendly tasting room during the summer season. Summer is short here, not really long enough for grapes to ripen, but so far they have had little opportunity.
Even though earth is piled up over the base of the vines to protect them from the winter cold, some recent extreme winters have seen soil freeze solid 18 inches deep and many vines died. Their replacements then had all their leaves eaten by deer in the spring and some perished and last year, when at last it seemed they’d have a crop to vinify, raccoons devastated the grape bunches.
On top of all the natural problems the Maffucci family are voluntarily adding another challenge of a natural sort. They are farming organically and working towards gaining official certification. “It takes six years to get certified in Maine,” says Enrica, so the benefit of chemical sprays to control diseases and insect pests are not available to them.
Bar Harbor Cellars currently grow seven different varieties of native and hybrid varieties and are pinning their hopes on their recently planted Marquette. Marquette is a new hybrid variety released in 2006 that was developed by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station for cold weather conditions.
“It has a short growing season,” Enrica told me, “which is important since our summers are so brief.” The variety has a complex parentage that includes Pinot Noir and is reported to be able to produce a crop even after temperatures of -36° F (-38°C). Marquette is resistant to many vine ailments and, best of all, is said to produce tasty wines with complex flavours of cherry, blackcurrant, pepper, plum and spices.
Bar Harbor Cellars are currently making wine from juice bought from vineyards in Europe and America and are also producing a range of fruit wines. I tasted their Blueberry wine, made sweet for pairing with desserts. Of all fruits I think blueberries make wine most like grapes and Enrica told me that the berries were fermented on their skins which gave more depth to the wine “sort of like blueberry tannins.”
Bar Harbor Cellars Blueberry wine has a bright dark purple colour and a mild flavour with a tangy, slightly medicinal, finish. Not sweet enough, in my opinion for a dessert wine, however it makes a pleasant sipper on its own.
Bar Harbor Cellars vineyards and tasting room is on the right of Route 3 as you approach Bar Harbor from the mainland.
Bar Harbor Cellars
854 State Highway 3
(207) 288 3907
Disclosure: Bar Harbor Wine Cellars offers free wine tasting to every visitor every day.
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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.