JEFFERSON, Maine — The early 19th century cattle barn, though grand, is like one of many across Maine. On a rise above Damariscotta Lake, attached to an inn, it’s an inviting setting for a getaway.
In a former life, Yankee ingenuity dictated a 90-degree rotation because the animals inside were freezing because of chronic onshore blasts from the lake. But these days, the animals are gone, and the barn has a new purpose: Down in its cellar, two Mainers are busily putting the finishing touches on a unique, dry, blueberry sparkling wine called Bluet.
“Every wine reflects the people and place where it is made. From the barrens up in Appleton Ridge where the blueberries were harvested, from the barn here that dates back to the 1800s, the molecules from the environment are in the wine,” said Michael Terrien, a California winemaker who grew up in Cape Elizabeth and has been in the wine business since 1995.
Hidden beneath the broad floor and soaring former hayloft, Terrien and his childhood friend Eric Martin toil below in the granite cellar, which now shelters their budding winery.
“This happens to every Maine man — you want a barn. My dad wants a barn,” said Martin, moving bottles with deep purple juice from crate to table. “Now we’ve got a barn; it feels like the right place for a wine cave.”
The barn belongs to Terrien’s uncle David Lampton, who lives down the street and owns the attached Damariscotta Lake Farm bed-and-breakfast.
“My uncle collects barns. When we went down this path of making blueberry wine, he said, ‘Oh, do you need a place to make it in?’” Terrien said.
Similar to the conditions of the wine caves in France, this granite basement with low beams is ideal for blueberry sparkling wine. Well-known for his chardonnay and pinot noir made with grapes from Sonoma Valley, Terrien was ready for a change and new terroir. He found it in this stunning inland landscape. Making this one-of-a kind wine in a barn is not mere marketing.
“The barn is in this wine,” said Terrien, who returns once a month to check on Bluet, aging in barrels all winter.
This week, the second vintage was disgorged, corked and labeled for market.
“You really do want a cellar to age wine. The ground is always 50-some degrees, through the winter it keeps it warm, through the summer it keeps it cool, and that’s what you want.”
Martin, 47, and Terrien, 48, both went to Waynflete School in Portland and took divergent life paths. Martin is a novelist living in North Carolina, and Terrien lives with his wife and four kids in Napa. The quest to create a sophisticated, non-sweet Maine blueberry wine brought the friends together and back to their Pine Tree beginnings.
“Coming to Maine and making blueberry wine is a midlife crisis for both of us,” said Terrien. “Here we are in our 40s and life is more or less rinse and repeat. Here we are figuring out something beautiful to do that takes us back to what it was like when we were in fourth or fifth grade playing Capture the Flag and Legos, just making stuff. You create your world, and here we are creating something new a few decades later.”
Though they have both attained success, they still ponder, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
Bluet, which releases to stores across Maine July 4th, is one response.
“We have found a project that we love and a wine that we both love and a future that Maine will always be part of,” said Martin, who relishes the calm, agrarian setting.
And like the cows and sheep before them, they are leaving their mark.
“We’ve added to the history from all the blueberry juice that’s been disgorged in that corner over the last couple days and years to come,” he said.