You like eclectic? I like eclectic and Maine restaurants can do eclectic. These were all by the glass, IIRC all in the ~$10 – 14 price range. And Maine restaurants do generous pours.
2018 Domaine Pas St Martin Anjou Chenin Blanc – I love Loire Chenin, but typically with some bottle age, which this is sorely lacking. Faint tight aromas of melons and cilantro. Medium bodied on the palate with good texture and balancing acidity, but the flavors just ain’t there. Over half an hour, with warming and coaxing, a little more develops, but what a shame to be serving it at this age. Rated 82 at first sip, 87 at last, but this will probably improve at least another 2 – 4 points with 2 – 4 years of bottle age. I know nothing about the Estate and the wine, but know that this was way too young.
2018 di Giovanna Nerello Rose – That’s more like it, paler than I expect for southern Italy, but hits the spot. Despite the faint color the aromas are intense with a mix of grapefruit (?!?), which I normally hate in a wine, but twined with cherries, raspberries and flowers. The palate is feather light and as intense as the aromas; the flavors reprise the aromas, there is excellent balance but not as long a finish as I had hoped. Rated 88.5, drink up.
2017 Giunco Vermentino Sardinia – Faint aromas feature lemon, something floral and something a little spicy, maybe coriander seed and white pepper. The palate is a little more open, the texture is medium bodied and very fine, with precision, balance and some density at the end. If this had a little more intensity of flavor, it would be excellent and I think it could improve over another year or two. Rated 88.5.
2015 Tricollis White Hungary – That’s what the wine list says, along with Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc… Where do they come up with this stuff in Maine??? Good for them! Fresh, subtle aromas have Riesling flowers, Gewurz spice and Pinot Blanc minerality. There’s also something earthy, the panoply and cornucopia of aromas are outstanding. The palate doesn’t disappoint, but doesn’t surpass the aromas. This is medium bodied, from the aromas I was hoping for some more density, but the balance is excellent. Earth and minerals now more than flowers and spice, but some nice lemon, with almost a honeydew note at the end. Rated 90.5, ready to drink but should hold at least another year.
2017 14/27 Rose Xynomavro Greece – Again, a lighter color than I expect for a Greek Rose, but everything else is singing. Zingy red raspberry fruit, with something smoky and something green herbal (oregano?) in the aromas. There is almost electric minerality in a palate with intensity to burn, herbs to savor and fruit to satisfy. For those who only want the freshest Roses, I can’t imagine this was that good a year ago. Rated 92, fully mature.
Not from a wine list in Maine:
1999 Mount Eden Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountain Estate – Ridiculously dark for 20 year California Pinot, but that’s the Santa Cruz Mountains for you. Powerful aromas are fully secondary, with fresh black raspberry, conifer and pronounced minerality. I can sometimes mistake SCM Pinot for Burgundy, but not this time. Medium to full body with powerful black fruits, cherry as much as raspberry, and if black strawberries existed, they would be there too. Densely laced texture, fireworks intensity, if there was subtlety beyond the black fruit and mineral and earth touches, this would be a candidate for perfection. Rated 96, fully mature.
On another topic, some Maine restaurant notes, starting with a sad one:
Conundrum Wine Bistro, which I’ve shamelessly touted here even though they never bought my wines, has closed. About 5 years ago Vinnie opened El Jefe Taco Bar next door and it cannibalized his original restaurant. I don’t know any more, although at some point I’ll walk into (but not eat at) El Jefe and ask Vinnie what became of his cellar. My guess is that he, his family and his Mom are drinking it, but I’ll ask.
Non-commercial post: They have bought my wines in the past.
Local 188 in Portland remains a deeply classic, down-home Spanish restaurant with excellent tapas and a fine wine list, everything reasonably priced. It’s big enough and far enough from the tourists that you can pretty much walk in without a reservation. Comfort food, comfort service, comfort ambience, comfort location… overall I’d say it’s deeply comfortable.
Non-commercial post: They have bought my wines in the past.
Hot Suppa Portland – Don’t know why I don’t go here more often, have had dinner 3x in 15 years. It’s a bundle of contradictions… a southern restaurant in Maine, justly famous for breakfast and lunch despite the name. Just had my first breakfast here. Big WOW! My guest said it was the best breakfast she ever had and she just had cornbread and bacon (and she’s had breakfast with me in a Michelin * restaurant). I had an egg scramble. Spectacularly good, ridiculously good. Now I’ve gotta try lunch, and then dinner again. Didn’t look at the wine list, but last time I saw it, it was good, cheap and eclectic.
Primo Rockland – OK, this place is famous with 2 James Beard awards, earned, not bought. Not farm to table, as they put it it’s a restaurant at the edge of the farm. Lots of people visit the farm first, we’re talking separation by 100 yards of parking lot. For the dining room, you need to reserve well in advance. They open at 5 and you can go upstairs, reservations not accepted. It’s a different menu, but you can get the restaurant menu upstairs on request. The first people upstairs get tables, the rest get the bar and after that it’s catch as catch can. Superb sophisticated Italian-inflected food. Not cheap, but not NY prices either. Short, thoughtful glass list, reasonably priced. Extensive bottle list, reasonably priced but a little heavy on off vintages. Go for the food, not the wine, although you won’t have trouble finding good ones at reasonable prices.
Fresh Camden – This was the surprise and the star of the trip. In the crowded port area, it’s comfortably modern. My guest’s roasted beet wedge was her favorite dish on the coast. I had moules frites, really excellent, but an interesting presentation in a slanted oval bowl with the mussels on the bottom, the fries on the top. This meant that during eating many of the perfectly crisp fries fell into the broth, after which they were no longer perfectly crisp. Otherwise an impeccable, strongly herbed dish. We split an Indian duck, the two leg quarters tandoori style, excellent albeit a little chewy if you’re used to confit. The lentils alongside were the best thing I ate on the whole trip. The wine list is excellent… the Tricollis and the 14 / 27 came from here. I also had a glass of good Oregon Pinot, but don’t remember name or vintage; it was good, not memorable.
Maine is not an undiscovered food and wine destination… Portland was Food and Wine’s restaurant city of the year. But there’s an abundance of stunning surprises all over the state.