Bryan Flewelling moved to Maine to teach, but finding teaching jobs in short supply, he turned to restaurants (his college-and-grad-school side hustle). The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport—a throwback white-linen-tablecloth restaurant—provided him with the mentorship to build his career in wine. “As long as I could find something that allowed me to learn, I’d stay in the business,” he says. “Wine happened to be that thing.” He’s been with Big Tree Hospitality group for six-and-a-half years, and he now manages the wine for its Portland restaurants. Eventide is a boisterous oyster joint that now has a location in Boston as well.
Tell me about your canned wine program.
Usually I do it in the summertime. Eventide is this bright, breezy, super high-windowed place that has these beautiful blue walls. In the middle, right as you walk in, there’s a giant rock. That rock has been hollowed out and a bunch of ice goes in it and we dump in fifteen kinds of oysters. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in. In the summer, I populate the ice with cans of wine, mostly sparkling. We do something where you can buy four cans for a reduced price and it ends up being a bottle and a half for the price of a bottle. People just crack cans, sit on the patio, and drink them a lot.
I noticed that The Honey Paw (another Big Tree restaurant) has wine on tap: the Channing Daughters Mosaico, the Charles Bieler Sabine Rosé and a Montevelini Sangiovese. What’s the response been to that?
We’ve done keg wine since the beginning of Honey Paw, which is in its third or fourth year. The Sabine Rosé is always on hand: It’s easy-drinking, inexpensive. People don’t ask questions about rosé. They put it in a carafe and drink the whole thing at $8 a glass; in the summer, we’ll go through two to three logs a week, just six barrels going, going, going.
The Mosaico is great because it’s sort of big, a little viscous, chewy, tropical and floral. It goes super well with the kick and the spice at the Paw. That’s been pretty well received. The reds don’t move a whole lot. People would rather get something off the list. If they do , they’ll get the house wine. They’re not seeking out keg sangiovese.
[Keg wine] is good especially for people dropping into a simple wine—if they don’t want their wine to do acrobatics of smells and tastes, they just want a simple glass of table wine. I’ve tried boxed wine in the past. That’s been a rougher go. There was a great picpoul in a box and it just moved too slow. People weren’t quite ready for it. But everybody likes a can now. Kegs are clean. It’s a win-win.
Your biggest new success at Eventide was the Field Recordings Dry-Hop Pét-Nat from Paso Robles. The Patrice Colin Pineau d’Aunis pét-nat also cracked the top ten. Why is this style selling so well?
That was probably a result of the staff loving it to bits and pieces. I enjoy a good, not-super-funky pét-nat myself, and I push them a lot at all three restaurants. I think the success has come from us pushing it into the public’s eye. And anything with hops in it does really well. You put hops in something and all the kids think it’s the greatest thing. Then there was the fact that it really tasted good. It was a flowery, bright, peachy pét-nat that was clean even though it had sediment, and it wasn’t ultra-funky. It’s dry-hopped, so it just gets the hop pellets. It’s not bitter; you’re getting green floral accents and pine and things like that.
I think the Patrice Colin did really well because it is a sparkling wine that has a slight copper, pinkish hue. You can get away with drinking red and rosé with your fish. It’s inexpensive, around $40 for the bottle. Plus, turbidity and murk certainly have a happy home in Maine, which oftentimes lags behind the rest of the country in terms of what it’s drinking. The murky, yeasty, slight sedimentation on the bottom is a pull for people, believe it or not. They have the sense that it’s more authentic because it’s not stripped of those things.
You note that a number of Sherries also sold well. Are some of them being sold as dessert wines, or is it the drier wines that move?
I have stuff on the back shelf for people who want something sweet. But none of those are sweet, actually. They work well because people are taking a turn to the oxidize-y, nutty, yeasty kind of wine in general. Also, Fino and oysters is classic. You barely have to sell it. People just do that. I’m about to run a little experiment with dry Rancio Sec and see how people respond to it. I don’t know how they’re going to go with oysters but there are some nice, light Rancios that I think are just as good as Sherry.
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