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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: March 24, 2015

Dining Guide: 5 Portland-area wine bars to try

With all the current fawning over craft beer and cocktails, Maine wine drinkers might feel a little left in the dust. Not so at a wine bar, where there may or may not be a full menu, and lingering is encouraged. Each of the following, two of which opened in the last few months, has its own, distinctive personality.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

For full listings and more restaurants, see our searchable Restaurant & Bar Guide.

The North Point on Silver Street in Portland Ted Axelrod photo

The North Point on Silver Street in Portland. Ted Axelrod photo

The North Point

35 Silver St., Portland | 207-899-3778 |
Owned by brothers Dan and Noah Talmatch (who also own Timber Steakhouse) this cozy spot is one of the friendliest places in the Old Port. The decor is funky and highly personal, with much of the art on the walls by Dan and Noah’s late brother, Ezra. The wine list is not large, but well chosen and priced. On the menu, offered all day, you’ll find an array of snacks, salads and stuffed flatbreads. Monday nights from 6 to 10 p.m., all bottles of wine (except prosecco) are half price.

UnWined Lounge

569 Congress St., Portland | 207-808-8698 |
UnWined bills itself as “Portland’s first bar-less bar.” Instead, this Arts District newcomer offers table seating and leather couches for relaxing with your drink of choice, which could be wine or beer. Red walls, corregated tin panels and black accents give the long space a moody, modern vibe. The menu includes cheeses and charcuterie, as well as more substantial plates such as hoagie sliders and a warm Brussels sprouts salad. Free tapas are offered at happy hour, 3-6 p.m. Tuesday – Friday.

MJ's wine bar. Ted Axelrod photo

MJ’s wine bar. Ted Axelrod/Press Herald file


1 City Center | 207-772-1400 |
On the ground floor of an office building, bright and spacious MJ’s — named for owner and sommelier Mark Ohlson’s mother — is a true wine bar, not a full-service restaurant. The focus is on wine, a wide-ranging selection curated by Ohlson, with a large by-the-glass list available in 3 1/2 and 7-ounce pours. Beer is also served, but not cocktails. MJ’s has no kitchen, but its small menu includes an international cheese selection – sourced from K. Horton Specialty Foods at the Portland Public Market House. On Thursdays at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Ohlson leads tastings and discussions of four wines from a single category for $20.

Carpe Diem Wine Room

18 Yarmouth Crossing Dr., Yarmouth | 207-847-5222 |
Longtime friends Barb Brown and Robyn Barnes opened their wine bar on New Year’s Eve, 2014. In the center of downtown Yarmouth (where some may remember The Royal Bean used to be), the tastefully appointed, modern space with large windows facing the street has quickly become a gathering spot for locals. All wines are offered by the glass or bottle, and most are also available in flights of three. The food menu includes cheeses, meats, dips, nuts and olives, plus a few sweet items.

Owner Vinny Migliaccio at Conundrum Wine Bistro in Freeport. Gordon Chibroski/Press Herald file

Owner Vinny Migliaccio at Conundrum Wine Bistro in Freeport. Gordon Chibroski/Press Herald file


117 U.S. 1, Freeport | 207-865-0303 |
In the shadow of what Mainers know as “the big Indian,” Vinny Migliaccio’s “wine bistro” is somewhat under the radar. Its fans know, however, that Conundrum’s large and very well-priced wine list is just one reason it’s been a “best kept secret” for 15 years. Others are the warm atmosphere with lots of different places to settle in — the bar, cushy leather couches and an outdoor patio with fireplaces, as well as traditional tables — friendly staff and a wide-ranging menu. Affable and generous of spirit, Vinny himself is also part of the draw.


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