There are a few reasons why wine is primarily made from grapes. They have a higher sugar content than most fruits, leaving their fermented product with a higher alcohol content; grapes also don’t have as many pesky acids to contend with, tame, or otherwise mask; and there’s simply more demand for grape wine than alternatives. None of these reasons, however, has discouraged husband-and-wife team Keith and Constance Bodine of Maine’s Sweetgrass Winery from making wines, spirits, and ciders from unexpected fruits—not a grape among them.
After earning a master’s in Food Science and Enology (winemaking) from the University of California, Davis, Keith moved to Constance’s home state of Maine in the early 2000s. Instead of lamenting the fact that most traditional grape varieties didn’t perform well in Maine’s climate, he resorted to other means in crafting the fermented drinks he’d hoped for.
To date, Sweetgrass Winery has produced a Cabernet Sauvignon made from Maine blueberries, a brandy made from local cranberries, an Apple Sangria, a rhubarb liqueur, a maple syrup brandy, a Blueberry Apple hard cider, and more. Sweetgrass’s apple wine won Best Wine in Maine at the 2010 Eastern States Exposition Wine Competition. Their Back River Gin uses Maine’s blueberries as one of the botanicals (they’re careful to mention that it’s not a blueberry-flavored gin, though they do make a cranberry-flavored gin using Maine cranberries).
Sweetgrass has tasting rooms in Portland and Kennebunk, but their winery in rural Union may offer the most picturesque views with which to sample the Bodines’ unique and hyper-local offerings.