Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bob Bartett of Bartlett's Maine Estate Winery, Is One of the World's Greatest Fruit Winemakers

Bob Bartlett doesn't know me from Adam. We've never met. He might not look at me if I fell in front of him. None of that matters. The really important thing to know about Bob Barlett, and Bob and Kathe Bartlett's fruit wines, is that they are among the best fruit wines in the world.

If Bob Bartlett was making his wine in France or Belgium he would be one of those star winemakers they seem to make documentaries about over there. He would be feted, celebrated. His opinion would be sought on important and silly subjects alike. He might be a favorite of Fleet Street, Paris Match, or Oggi. He might have been awarded a knighthood. No doubt in Australia or New Zealand he would already been a food and wine star. And he would deserve it. No matter who else is making fruit wines, no one, aywhere else in the world, is making anything better. And without question, he is undeniably among the greatest of fruit winemakers.

Barlett Maine Estate Winery wines are some of the most treasured in my wine cellar, and because of my distance from Maine, I tend to serve them to only the most discerning of wine visitors. I wish I lived closer.

His dry blueberry wine could pass for a light chianti. His pear and apple wines are delicate and delicious. And his stickies are wonderful, balanced sweet treats.

As the winery's website testifies, "As a top producer of quality fruit wines in the country, we've surprised a few people with the range and sophistication of our wines. When a local friend shipped a few bottles of Bartlett's Blueberry Reserve to France, the tasters refused to believe it was pressed from blueberries. Our aging process, which includes using French and American oak, creates wonderfully complex, open-palated wines sure to please even the most dedicated traditionalist. While grape chardonnays imply notes of apple or pear, our dry white wines are pressed from them! Our reds come from local 100% pure hand-raked blueberries that create a robust wine, evocative of the surrounding woods and Atlantic seabreezes."

And here's a small snipet from a local Maine magazine: _________________________________________________
Local Wineries and Breweries Favor the Berry
Written by Nick Gosling
Out and ABout in Downeast Maine, Thursday, 27 July 2006

Tucked away in the spruce forests of Gouldsboro lies Maine’s first winery. Bob and Kathe Bartlett, owners of Bartlett Estate Maine Winery, began their “small” winery in 1982, producing 600 gallons that first year and six different wines. Today they produce almost 14,000 gallons of wine a year, making them the largest winery in the state of Maine.

After moving here in 1975, winemaker Bob Bartlett soon learned that growing grapes in Maine was a fruitless endeavor. Instead, he turned to the Maine version of the grape — the blueberry — for inspiration and decided to stay in the area to produce high-quality fruit wines.

“I like the science and art of [winemaking],” says Bartlett. “It’s a creative process… There’s a lot of things I do that are different from other people.”

But before Bartlett could open his doors, he had to rewrite Maine State law to allow for the selling and tasting of alcohol at a winery. In 1983, the Maine legislature enacted the Farm Winery Bill and Bartlett paved the way for future Maine wineries.

Today, 80 percent of the fruit and all the honey Bartlett uses in his 19 wines — which include pear semi-dry, mead dry, blackberry sweet wine and blueberry oak dry wine — are produced right here in Maine. Bob and Kathe are the only year-round employees of their sylvan winery, where they give tastings of seven of their wines. Their tasting room, housed in a handwrought stone building, has as many as 700 to 800 visitors a day during the summer months.

Always experimenting with innovative tastes and fruits, Bartlett has some new flavors he’ll soon be adding to his selection. But in the competitive business of winemaking, he doesn’t want the secrets getting out before the wine does. Other plans for the Bartlett Winery include a new building they’ll be adding with a self-guided tour and another tasting room. Their current tasting room is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays, until mid-October and through the winter by appointment only.

I have served numerous people Bartlett's wine not telling them what it is. Like the story above, it's always a surprise people refuse to believe. Once, while in Maine, I poured the Dry Blueberry, and my host, my brother-in-law, an Italo and Franco wine-o-file, also refused to believe it was a blueberry wine from Maine.
All this goes to say that Bob Bartlett is an artist who ues fruit as his medium, and the magazines like Decanter, Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, and Gourmet should know who he is....and they should be telling everyone. In the meantime, I'm doing what I can.
And Bob, next time I come up, I promise to introduce myself.