The upward trajectory of Cellardoor Winery in Lincolnville has been full of challenges for first-time winery owner Bettina Doulton.
Among the first challenges when she purchased the winery in 2007 was restoring a 1790s-era barn into a year-round gift shop, tasting bar and test kitchen. Then came the challenge of expanding the winery’s offerings to 14 varieties, plus conceiving and implementing a busy schedule of cooking classes and tasting events. Then the focus turned to the grapes. Though Cellardoor buys most of its premium grapes from West Coast vineyards, Doulton is determined that within a few years the winery will grow at least 20 percent of its fruit on-site.
“It’s a tremendous challenge,” said Doulton. “I never would have believed that the vineyard would be the most difficult thing in a project that involved restoring a 200-year-old barn. It’s been a lot harder work than I thought it would be.”
But the grapes are planted, the barn is restored, and so many customers are pouring through the doors that they have forced the need for an expansion.
The Lincolnville Planning Board late last month approved plans for a new winery and warehouse across the street from the current winery and vineyard at 367 Youngtown Road. The new building — the construction of which will be started as soon as Cellardoor receives Department of Environmental Protection approval — will dwarf the current facility.
About 6,000 square feet of the new structure will house the winery equipment, namely stainless steel vats, oak barrels and bottling equipment. An additional 3,000 square feet will be used as warehouse space. The expansion will boost production from 6,000 cases in 2009 to more than 9,000 cases a year in the near future. Doulton hopes to open the new building by Aug. 1 of this year, welcoming customers for what she thinks of as the core of the Cellardoor experience: on-site tastings, tours and cooking lessons.
“We’ve been working hard on the guest experience,” said Doulton. “This expansion will provide for a denser and richer winery experience.”
The new winery will move winemaking from the cramped basement of the restored barn to a state-of-the-art facility with a large crush pad, high-quality stainless tanks, modern barrel rooms and a climate-controlled storage warehouse.
Christina Peet, one of Cellardoor’s wine experts, said the result would be more varieties of better wine.
“We are really excited about the potential, not only to make and store more wine, but also to explore different aging periods, permitting the wine’s flavors to develop further,” Peet said in a press release.
In 2006, Doulton was at the tail end of 21 years of managing mutual funds for a large firm. A bout of cancer came and went, leaving her wondering what she really wanted to do for the rest of her life. She had no background in winemaking, but the idea of buying Cellardoor was introduced to her by a friend. Besides providing a good drink designed to please the most discerning tongue, Doulton prides herself on the experience she provides her visitors.
“I did the capitalist thing for 21 years,” she said. “Above all, I want to give people a moment away from the rat race. I love doing that.”
Cellardoor’s products are available at several retail locations in Maine and at the Web site www.vinoshipper.com. The wine also is sold at the Lincolnville headquarters and at Cellardoor Winery at the Villa at 47 West St. in Rockport.