After a multi-year wait, the Blue Lobster Wine Co. – whose wines have been for sale since September – finally opened its tasting room for business in April.
Located on Anderson Street between Eighteen Twenty Wines and Lone Pine Brewing Co., the small space has an industrial vibe, with barrels lined up against the walls and occasionally used as tables, but still manages to feel instantly welcoming thanks to the lighting and furniture choices. Owner Chris Gamble was on site when I visited, and his passion for what he’s doing was evident.
Blue Lobster’s mission statement is “making great wines accessible – small batch wines from exceptional vintners in go-anywhere cans cellared here in beautiful Maine.” The place delivers on that promise offering, at the time of my visit, four good wines (a Chardonnay, a rosé, a Zinfandel and a red blend) for $5.99 a can. I was told there are plans to release a new, unoaked Chardonnay, a rosé from Paso Robles and new blend, along with a limited release pinot noir, available in the tasting room.
My friends ordered a flight of all four wines for $6.50 and liked all the selections but preferred the Zinfandel and the Bayside Blend from Lodi, California – a mix of Carignane, Viognier and Roussanne. I went for that weekend’s special rosé cocktail, a lime basil fresca served in a mason jar for $8.75. It was light, perfectly balanced and utterly refreshing, and the owners were already hard at work on another special cocktail for the following weekend, trying to find innovative ways to mix fresh herbs and/or flowers with their wines.
The kind of place that’s directed at wine lovers, not wine snobs, Blue Lobster is a welcome respite in an otherwise beer-dominated part of town. In fact, its “About Us” table tent expresses its approach better than I could: “We are very passionate about the culture of wine, but one thing we can do without is the stuffiness …We are a no-frills, come as you are, friendly and funky place meant to join good people with good wine.”
The concept of the urban winery, a winery which is not connected to a vineyard, has been around for quite some time in cities such as Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and the “other” Portland, but it’s relatively new to Maine. Some argue that it’s less of a new concept than a resurgence of pre-Prohibition practices, when most American wines were made in warehouses in big cities. Whether it’s old or new, the urban winery in general (and Blue Lobster specifically) is a perfect fit for this Portland.
WHERE: 219 Anderson St., Portland
PHONE: (207) 956-7051
HOURS: Still in flux as the owners figure out the right rhythm, but as of now, 4-7 p.m. Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and 2-7 p.m. Sunday.
AMENITIES: Locally-cellared wines in to-go cans, kegs and on tap; local art for sale on the walls. No food for sale, but hoping to establish partnerships with some local food trucks in the future.
BOTTOM LINE: Perfect location for a stop while strolling Anderson Street, especially if you’re an unpretentious wine lover who supports the concept of urban wineries.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No