This is part of an ongoing series on wine-in-context, stemming from the belief that not only does every bottle have a story to tell, but every winery and wine merchant.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in coastal Maine, visiting a a good friend who I met the first week of our freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College and has been a pen pal—with REAL letters!—ever since. (Heart eyes emoji.) On my last night, we stopped in at Maine & Loire, a curated natural wine shop in Portland which celebrates, as the owners put it, “alive and soulful” wines. This month, I really wanted to feature a red wine that would be delicious chilled, so Peter Hale, one half of the husband-and-wife team, directed me to this juicy, adult-fruit-punch kind of Sicilian wine that would be perfect on its own (as my friend and I enjoyed it), or paired with chicken on the grill and salads made from your garden/ farmer’s market bounty. Your call!
July’s Wine of the Month:
THE WINE MERCHANT: Maine & Loire | Portland, Maine
After years working in the New York City restaurant industry, Peter and Orenda Hale made the move from Brooklyn to Portland, Maine. When they started to settle in and saw the need for a wine merchant selling natural and organic wines, they decided to set up shop: In 2015, Maine & Loire opened its doors, with shelves stocked with wines that see no chemicals in the vineyards, are made from hand-harvested grapes and native yeasts, and receive only a light winemaker’s touch in the winery.
In just a few short years, Peter and Orenda have expanded and now run side-by-side businesses: Maine & Loire and a 60-seat restaurant called Drifter’s Wife, which was one of Bon Appétit’s Top Ten Best New American Restaurants in 2018 and offers a daily-changing menu of seasonal goodness, and, of course, those soulful wines.
THE WINERY: Il Mortellito
Found nestled between sea and land—kind of like coastal Maine!—in Sicily’s south-eastern corner in the Valley of Noto, an area prized for not only wine, but also almonds and olives, lies the small family winery Il Mortellito. After years of city living, Dario Serrentino returned to his roots to cultivate the land of his great-grandparents using organic farming methods. Initially, he sold grapes to natural winemakers, but since 2014, Dario has made wine under his own label. The family, which also consists of Valentina, Mario and Melina, makes a delicious olive oil as well.
THE WINE: ‘Calaniuru’ Rosso Sicilia 2018 | $26
White limestone soils, sea breezes and a Sicilian sun make for big, concentrated flavor and a soft lingering minerality in ‘Calaniuru’. The native grapes used in this blend, 80% Frappato (light and fruity) and 20% Nero d’Avola (spicy and deep), give their all, resulting in a fresh blend of cherry, cranberry, candy violet and even a touch of guava. It is AMAZING chilled.