Rhubarb, it’s not just for pie.
Two Mainers say the crimson plant that grows prolifically in the spring makes the perfect elixir. In the former Rockingham Electric Supply Co. in Portland’s East Bayside, Pete Dubuc and Amanda O’Brien are making rhubarb wine in small batches using simple ingredients from Maine.
“It’s the new Moxie,” said Dubuc, a musician who started experimenting with ways to elicit wine from the plant, a ubiquitous, natural resource he grew up with in western Maine.
He tested out the tart wine on his former colleague, O’Brien and her enthusiasm opened the gateway for eighteen twenty, a soon-to-launch wine and cider company.
“We are over excited to have a good Maine-based wine. We’ve had wine professionals try it and they don’t think it tastes like a fruit wine, they think it tastes like a good white table wine. That is a major opportunity,” said O’Brien, who grew up on Peaks Island and is the director of business development at flyte new media in Portland. She calls their rhubarb vino “crushable porch wine.”
An urban winery is new for Portland. Sure there is kombucha across the street at Urban Farm Fermentory, mead up the road at Maine Mead Works and umpteen craft breweries on the peninsula, but wine-making is far from the norm in Maine. And rhubarb wine? Rarer still.
Made with rhubarb from Spiller Farm in Wells and Doles Orchard in Limington, this is new territory for the makers and the farmers. And therein lies the beauty.
“We don’t have any rules,” said Dubuc, who relishes the freedom of a new category. “It’s not like we are making chardonnay and have to be polite about it.”
New to the wine scene, Dubuc, learned the ropes by reading and experimenting. “There is no substitute for doing,” said the DIY-er.
He is also tinkering with cider to exciting results. One style called Ohm’s Law is aged in cinnamon whiskey barrels and will impress the snootiest cider snob around.
Their motto, much like their ingredients is simple: “Try it. Do you like it? Cool. Don’t like it? Ok,” said O’Brien.
When their tasting room opens at the end of the month, the public can witness the alchemy in action.
Eighteen twenty, 219 Anderson Street, Unit 1, plans to open Memorial Day Weekend.