Maine Lobster Rolls - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Maine Lobster Rolls

The 2020 Retailer Challenge

“It’s in Ogunquit, a little village on the southern Maine coast, about a half hour south of Portland. There’s a place in Perkins Cove, a fishing community; it’s called the Lobster Shack. They’re on the third generation of owners and they get lobster off the boat twenty feet from their restaurant. Their lobster roll with their coleslaw. It rocks.”

Eventide Oyster Co.’s brown-butter roll was a favorite among retailers.

John McLoughlin heads there in summer when he can sneak away from Bow Street Beverage, his wine shop in Portland. It’s worth the trip for what he deems the quintessential Maine lobster roll—chunks of fresh lobster meat on a toasted bun with a touch of mayonnaise and a quick turn of black pepper. “Chilled,” he corrects. “Not cold. Not hot. Chilled.”

We wish we could join him there for the Wine & Spirits Retailer Challenge in Portland this year. We’d contacted five local retailers, planning to gather them around an array of lobster rolls, and have them bring their best bottles to pop—all under $20. That was until we all got hit with stay-at-home orders. So, we’re offering some DIY alternatives, until you can once again plan your summer vacation in Maine.

Staci Best of Portland’s Browne Trading Company is a fan of the homemade version: “Fresh lobster meat, some half-sliced lemons charred on the grill and a tiny bit of fresh tarragon added to your mayo mix. After the rolls are buttered and grilled, squeeze the seared lemon over the top.”

Ready for summer? I know exactly where I’m headed the first opportunity I get. As McLoughlin said, “We’ll be back up and running. We Maine people, as we like to say, we’re wicked rugged.”

Greg Norton, Bier Cellar

His ideal lobster roll and where to get it:
“I honestly wasn’t a fan of lobster growing up, but when I first had the Brown Butter Lobster Roll at Eventide, I was converted. With the brown butter and the steamed bun, it’s different, and one of those new takes, but it really lets the lobster shine.”

Best Pairings
Oyster River Winegrowers 2019 Maine Morphos Pét-Nat, $17
“A beautiful pét-nat from Maine winemaker Brian Smith. The carbonation and the acidity of this wine cut through the butter and bring the lobster to another level.”

Domaine de la Louvetrie 2018 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, $15
Craft + Estate/Winebow Imports, NY
“When I think seafood, I think Muscadet. This is a great example—vibrant, racy and zesty. It tastes a bit like the ocean that gave us the delicious treat of the lobster.”

Jacques DeVillier, Old Port Wine & Spirits

His ideal lobster roll and where to get it:
“Toast a hot-dog bun, shove it with lobster, mayo packet on the top. There’s a place here called Jay’s and the waitresses are surly and it’s not fancy and that’s where you go for the quintessential lobster roll.” Like Norton, DeVillier is also a fan of Eventide’s take on the lobster roll. “It’s three bites for me and it’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Best Pairings
Harken Wines 2018 California Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, $14
“People love that super-buttery oaky flavor to match that buttery quality of the lobster. This one isn’t over-the-top buttery but has the essence and a touch of oak.”

Domaine Pascal Bonhomme 2018 Viré-Clessé, $20
Weygandt-Metzler Imports, NY
“This sees no oak but you still get a richness that doesn’t overwhelm the lobster. It has lemon and pear fruit and the acidity isn’t so much that it tears apart the lobster.”

Staci Best, Browne Trading Company

Her ideal lobster roll and where to get it:
Best prefers her own homemade roll but she joins DeVillier and Norton in their love of Eventide’s brown-butter lobster roll. “It’s elevated and spectacular.”

Best Pairings
Herdade dos Grous 2018 Alentejo Branco, $11
Aidil Wines & Liquors, Newark, NJ
“Golden green in color, with intense tropical fruit aroma, this is rich in fruit, elegant, and has well-balanced acidity. This wine is young, bright and fresh, from nose to finish, and will accompany even the most decadent and nontraditional lobster roll. Curry lobster roll? Sure. Balsamic-vinegar-glazed lobster roll? It can complement that, too.”

Terras do Sado 2017 Península du Setúbal Branco, $11
Admiral Wines, Cedar Grove, NJ
“From Portugal’s Setúbal peninsula, this wine has a lovely citrine color and is fruity and fresh, balanced and persistent. An easy wine that will be appreciated by those new to wine, and wine enthusiasts alike.”

Portland’s rugged seaside landscape. Photo by Rachel DelRocco Terrazas

John McLoughlin, Bow Street Beverage

His ideal lobster roll and where to get it:
“It’s fresh-picked lobster, chilled, on a top-split hot- dog bun—not a side-split—toasted on either side. Because lobster meat is very sweet, the mayonnaise should be very light, as a binder. You can feel free to put pepper on it but you don’t need salt. It’s at the Lobster Shack in Ogunquit, south of Portland.”

Best Pairings
Nortico 2018 Minho Alvarinho, $15
Olé & Obrigado Imports, New Rochelle, NY
“It has bright citrus notes, crisp acidity and hints of saline and spring flowers. Coastal Portugal is not unlike coastal Maine—there’s nothing but seafood. Any kind of briny, rich fish or crustacean is going to go well with that salinity and really delicate fruit; you don’t want anything to overwhelm the lobster.”

Domaine Marcel Lapierre 2018 Beaujolais Château Cambon Rosé, $15
Savio Soares Selections, NY
“It’s bright and fresh, with pronounced acidity with hints of strawberry and raspberry. If someone doesn’t like white wine, I think rosé is a perfectly appropriate wine for seafood. It’s a little round and has bright fruit that isn’t going to overpower the dish. It adds a little bit of weight.”

Lindsey Murray, Grippy Tannins

Her ideal lobster roll and where to get it:
“I am a very-classic-lobster-roll fan—the basic toasted hot-dog bun, butter (has to be fresh), lettuce, wedge of lemon on the side, mayonnaise on the side for people who like mayo—I’m not personally a fan but it’s important. I love to go to Gilbert’s Chowder House, a little spot on the water on Commercial Street with a little deck. They make a proper roll where the lobster speaks for itself. I love the claw meat. I’ll trade my tail for two claws any day.”

Best Pairings
Steininger 2019 Kamptal Grüner Veltliner, $12
Artisanal Cellars, White River Junction, VT
“This wine is so bright, with this herbaceous minerality. It also has peppery and savory notes that really round out a lobster roll.”

Thymiopoulos 2017 Amyndeon Atma Assyrtiko, $19
Athenee Importers & Distributors, Hempstead, NY
“I love different types of wine for lobster that are similar in terms of weight and salinity—like assyrtiko. This is briny and salty and lemony but still has a richness. It’s from the north of Greece.”

is the former W&S Tasting Director turned freelance writer for the Vintner Project.

This story appears in the print issue of June 2020.
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