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Oyster River Winegrowers in Warren Maine

September 16, 2010

We drove east today from our lovely cottage on Quahog Bay all the way to Ellsworth on Penobscot Bay. The day started out like a picture postcard, with sunrise across the bay, not a breath of wind nor a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day to drive down the coast, sightseeing, shopping and visiting some of our favorite places on the coast.

On the way home, I called Allie Smith at Oyster River Winegrowers, in Warren to ask we we could stop in. Allie suggested that stop in at their new tasting room in Thomaston, about 3 miles from their vineyard (the corner of Route 1 and rt. 131) so we made our way to Thomaston. We found Brian outside with a couple of guys working on some new trellises for recently planted vines in an “ornamental garden” that Brian intends to use to enhance the tasting room’s appeal. The location itself is what looks to be a 100 year old building that originally served as the central facility for a group of small camps. Anyway, the setup appears to be perfect for it’s new use.

Brian asked us to join him in the tasting room and we got a chance to try all his current 2009 offerings, including his village white, village red, merlot, Petit Syrah and a dry Rose. We left with two cases; a case of the Petit Syrah and 1/2 case each of the Merlot and the Village White.

The Village White was more subdued than the 2008. Still lots of fruit (a heritage of Seyval Blanc from upstate NY, Chardonney from Long Island and a couple of others I couldn’t pin down) . What the white lacks in fruity intensity, however, it makes up in complexity and balance.

The Merlot is likewise fruit forward but round and well balanced with the right levels of tannins. It should drink well for several years. I stopped by too early for Merlot last year so it was new to me but it’s a great effort.

The Petit Syrah continue’s to amaze me. Last year’s was a powerful, concentrated wine with an amazing level of in your face fruit, an admittedly high alcohol content – 15% – and real structure. I’ve still got about a case in the cellar and it’s going to be fun to watch the 2008 age.

The 2009 has the same powerful nose and fruity concentration but it’s clearly more subdued with both a lower alcohol content – 14.5% – and more balance. Brian admitted he likes the 2008 better but I’m not so sure. We’ll give them both some more time in the cellar and do a comparison.

I remain convinced that Brian is an incredibly talented winemaker who will likely produce the first breakout wines in northern New England. He’s brought an enormous amount of knowledge with him from Napa Valley and even though his vines need at least one more year to produce any fruit (and likely two years to produce commercial quantities) he’s sourcing grapes from upstate NY, the north fork on Long Island and from some of his old employers in Napa. Clearly his winemaking skills are being put to good use and I can’t wait to see what he does with his own grapes.

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