I’ve struggled to write this blog post with each attempt – multiple attempts made over multiple months – and I don’t know why. Here, today, I’m forging ahead and doing my best to introduce you all to Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery, a truly unique winery experience that can be found in Union, Maine.
Perhaps my struggle to find the right words is borne of the very nature of Savage Oakes. At its core, this is a family farm that represents the proud history of local farming and continues to raise pork, beef, and chicken today. But beyond the core, necessity has driven Savage Oakes’ owners to find additional revenue opportunities, a situation many local farmers can relate to. Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery is the ingenuity borne from necessity – a new business line at the family-owned operation that is still known as Barrett Hill Farm.
Both businesses are owned and operated by Elmer and Holly Savage and their two sons, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to try any of their meat products, I have enjoyed two tasting room visits to sample a variety of their wines. My first visit was on a chilly, early winter day complete with a dusting of snow, as my mom and I dashed in during a day trip that also included a stop at the nearby Morse’s Sauerkraut.
I found myself charmed by the farming roots of the business and by the sheer authenticity of the experience. This is the type of winery you ought to find in Maine – and not in Napa. The tasting room (although a new one is now under construction) was warm, with polished plank walls, and decorated with pieces of the farm’s history, such as an old yoke once used for oxen working the land.
The wines were refreshingly authentic, too. While the varietals may be unknown to many, I was familiar with the cold-hardy grapes they’d chosen to grow, many of which have been developed by the University of Minnesota. These wine grapes are meant to grow in cold climates, like Maine, while still producing flavorful, appealing wines (so don’t mind the wine snobs who turn up their noses). Many of their wines have clever names, also tied to the farm’s rich heritage, such as General Knox (a white wine from LaCrosse grapes) and Come Spring (a light-bodied red wine that is a blend of estate grown Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, and St. Croix grapes).
I enjoyed both the Barn Red and Come Spring during our winter visit, and when we returned just last month with my husband (who I knew would appreciate the dual agricultural and viticultural focus), I was pleasantly surprised by how much enjoyed their white wines. First Kiss, which is now sold out, was very good, as was Georges River.
These wines are different – you need to allow your palate time to adjust, as they won’t (and shouldn’t) taste like the French varietals we are all so familiar with. Once you learn to appreciate them, you may even find you prefer these wines and the way they complement various dishes.
But all differences aside, Savage Oakes has done an excellent job of blending Maine tradition with new business opportunity, and they’ve created an atmosphere that is both welcoming for locals and unique for tourists. I certainly recommend a visit and a tasting, and if you have the time, check out the final event in their Summer Concert series. Cheers!