Maine's wine, spirit makers on the prowl

• From McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

CAMDEN, ME -- Maine wine and spirit makers face an uphill battle to win market share, but they are welcoming the challenge.

C.C. Peet of Cellardoor Winery in Lincolnville, Steve Linne of Blacksmiths Winery in South Casco, Bob Bartlett of Bartlett's Winery in Gouldsboro and Bob Harkins of Cold River Vodka in Freeport detailed the challenges of the wine and spirit business during a panel discussion ... at the 4th annual Maine Fare celebration.

Maine Fare's goal is to assist in preserving, protecting and sharing Maine's culinary history and resources. The event highlighted Maine products through panel discussions, tastings, exhibits and samplings. The wine and spirit panel was moderated by Jack Scully of Belfast's Easterly Wine.

All agreed that the key thing they have working for them is the Maine brand. Whether marketing wine or spirits, having a product that is made in Maine makes it easier to attract buyers.

"There is a tremendous loyalty to Maine-made and -grown foods," Scully said. "The possibility for growth in the wine and spirit field is terrific. I think the growth of Maine products both inside the state and outside the state has great potential."

All three vintners said that because wine has a certain "snob factor," it's difficult to convince buyers that wines made of blueberries and other fruits can match up with grape wines from France or California. Bartlett, who has been in the business more than 30 years, said some wine drinkers are reluctant to sample his wines simply because they are made from fruit. He said working with restaurants individually is one way of overcoming that problem.

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