My third and final installment in the Wine in Maine series is here!
When people think of wine in Maine (anyone who’s flipped open a Maine-based magazine, at least), it’s highly likely that Cellardoor is the first thing to come to mind. Glossy advertising will do that, especially without much noteworthy competition in the state. Having now visited Cellardoor in person, it is easy to see the appeal of this winery – it combines a picturesque view with quality wine and an atmosphere that, at least on the surface, is representative of the great state of Maine with rustic touches, coastal elements, and a general sense of welcome.
On the day of our visit, as we wound our way from Union to Lincolnville, I was filled with anticipation to see the business that has been clearly established as the preeminent Maine winery and wine destination, down to their very website URL, mainewine.com. In many ways, I was not disappointed. The visual experience both indoor and out at Cellardoor is stunning – a beautiful facility with a smart and attractive selection of merchandise, combined with a sweeping view. I struggled with writing my review of this winery because I recognize how many of my readers, and consumers in general, may love the Cellardoor experience. I simply didn’t – something was missing for me.
I struggled even more, having read the Cellardoor website and chatted with the staff, because it is clear to me that the business owner, Bettina Doulton, is deeply committed to sharing her love of Maine and has played a leadership role in advancing and promoting the Maine wine industry, founding the Maine Wine Guild and its statewide Maine Wine Trail. Undeniably, these contributions are heartfelt, genuine, and critically important to the state’s wine tourism industry. I admire her mission, what she has accomplished, and the business she’s built.
So what was missing for me? It’s hard to put my finger on. It is some intangible combination of the people, the wine, and the atmosphere that gives those businesses that capture it a very special quality and deeply resonates with their customers. It feels natural and unrehearsed. I love those special Maine businesses that feel deeply authentic even to the point of imperfection. Cellardoor was stunning – so stunning and manicured it struck me as somehow more suited to Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard than Lincolnville, Maine. I was reminded of how I felt during my college tour on the Furman University campus – rather like a bull in a china shop, as they say – certain I would break something in all of that pristine beauty. So, candidly, it could be just me. I am confident the vast majority of patrons enjoy every moment at Cellardoor and reminisce about their experience with family and friends. And while I am charmed by the meaningful history behind the Cellardoor logo, I simply found Cellardoor to be somewhat… remote. It was beautiful. The wine was good. Our server was friendly and personable. It just didn’t feel like the small businesses Maine is known and loved for, where the owners are omni-present, the employees are more ambassadors than mere workers, and the appearance and experience may not be flawless, but it is human and warm.
Having said that, I do want to share what I did enjoy. First, I was really impressed by the merchandise Cellardoor chooses to stock – it is a classy and appealing mix of glasswork, art, pottery, books, and wine and kitchen gizmos. Where some wineries dip dangerously close to chintzy, cheesy gift items, Cellardoor has a selection that would have me stopping by just to shop for something beautiful and unique. Second, the wine was certainly well-crafted, and made from grapes grown across the country as well as Maine, which enables Cellardoor to offer varietals that more people are familiar with (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Syrah, among others). This is a smart business move and, very likely, enables the owner and winemaker to craft wines they themselves already love. I particularly enjoyed ‘Ned Said Red,’ a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with a naming back story.
The facility includes a restored barn and farmhouse (the tasting room is located in the restored barn), as well as a state-of-the-art winery across the road. It has been beautifully redone with high quality finishes, and in combination with the view, would be an incredible and romantic setting for a wedding or other type of event.
If I visit again, my advice to myself is to appreciate Cellardoor for what it is, grab a glass of wine and a seat on the porch, and soak in the beauty of Maine.