Oyster River Wine Co.
DRINK MAINE-January/February 2012
By Sophie Nelson | Illustration by Eric Hou
Brian Smith, on Oyster River Winegrowers:
“I didn’t realize that a person could make wine for a living until after college. I got a job at a vineyard and winery in Vermont and ended up working there for three and a half years. Afterward, I studied winemaking and viticulture at Fresno State University. My wife is from Maine and wanted to come back, so here we are with our own company. It’s on a 57-acre property on the tidal section of the St. George River. Two and a half of those acres are planted in grapes, and we’re hoping to receive a small commercial-sized crop next year.”
What sets Oyster River Winegrowers apart?
We now do all of our cultivation in the vineyard with draft horses. As of spring of 2011, I decided that I never again wanted to run a heavy tractor through the vineyard. It had always been a fantasy of mine to take it to the next level. I hadn’t worked with draught horses before, and I didn’t have the time to go and train with someone, so we just jumped right in. Luckily, we found a really nice, well-trained horse. That’s Don—he’s basically an extension of my mind. We also have a small vegetable garden, a few dairy goats, chickens, and various critters.
Are you enjoying making wine in Maine?
We love the midcoast area. We’ve found a good community of like-minded folks around here. And I like working with grapes because I believe that consumers care more about the quality of grapes than they do about any other agricultural crop. This gives us reason to continually strive to make higher quality wines.
What is your favorite Oyster River wine to drink in winter?
Our petite sirah at 16.5 percent alcohol is a real heart warmer, but I tend to drink our dry riesling all year long. I also drink quite a bit of homegrown sparkling wine—which is not yet for sale to the public—and hard-apple and hard-pear cider.
When will the sparkling wine be available to purchase?
Hopefully, we will release the first batch in the summer of 2014. In our cold climate, we can only grow grapes with low sugar and high acidity—these are qualities that lend themselves well to a sparkling wine. Without chemically manipulating things too much, I believe that this is the best kind of wine we can produce in Maine.