When I think about our visit to Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery, the image that instantly pops into my mind is that first moment, as we pulled into the gravel driveway and had our first glimpse of a sweeping view of field, forest, and mountains. The driveway itself is edged closely by both the road and the winery, as so many other old farms now are – pressed up against our modern roads.
The winery structure is charmingly, classically Maine. A pretty, shingled building that has been updated to combine traditional elements with other, more modern influences like the wraparound deck and railing. I found this combination of styles to be a theme throughout Sweetgrass – and it’s been executed so seamlessly that it enhances the experience without feeling too “perfect” or “untouchable.” Inside and out, from the restored old truck and the gleaming copper Alembic still to the classic, white Adirondack chairs on the lawn, Sweetgrass hit all the right notes. “Sweet” indeed.
One of the most appealing aspects of Sweetgrass for me personally was how integral Maine traditions and products clearly are to the business. I even feel the combination of the historic and the modern design elements and decor reflect this – generally speaking, Mainers hold on to a deep respect for the way things have been done for generations, while still moving forward themselves. For example, in addition to operating as a winery and distillery, Sweetgrass is still a working farm. They raise and sell Friesian and Friesian cross sheep for both meat and fleece; they have laying chickens and meat chickens; turkeys; pigs; and two cats. They grow some of the fruit they use in their wines and liquors, and buy the vast majority of the remainder from other Maine resources, and they also grow grass (hay) for feed. Sweetgrass sums up everything I felt about the experience there on their website, when asked about their philosophy: “to be a family run business preserving Union’s rich farming tradition, firmly rooted in the community, supporting local sustainable agriculture, local business, and donating 10% of profits to organizations which support families, children, and rural life.”
Philosophy and setting aside, the wines and liquors we had the opportunity to taste were exceptional on their own. While my favorite, by a large margin, was their apple wine – delightful and crisp and pairs beautifully with lobster – I also enjoyed the sparkling cranberry apple (after all, what could be more holiday-appropriate than this flavorful, bubbly treat?) as well as the rhubarb smash. Nick particularly enjoyed their renowned Back River Gin, which ended up being one of three bottles we purchased and brought home with us. During our tasting, we had the opportunity to chat a bit with one of the owners about the business and what they’ve strived to accomplish. I walked away understanding that vision, experience, and commitment have been critical to their success, which now includes an Old Port location and many accolades and awards, in addition to the Farm itself.
From beginning to end, this is a must-visit Maine winery. It was just our second of three winery stops during our cross-Maine trek from Crescent Lake to very nearly the Camden area, and it is the one I would most like to visit again. Next time, though, I’d pack a picnic lunch, plan to stay a while, and indulge my wish to sit in one of those Adirondack chairs, soak in the view, and sip a Sweetgrass wine.
That’s how I recommend you experience it!