Bar Guide: What’s On The Old Port Sea Grill’s Award-Winning Wine List
Winners of Wine Spectator’s 2022 Awards of Excellence, named last month, include eight Maine restaurants, two of which – Havana Restaurant in Bar Harbor and The White Barn Inn Restaurant in Kennebunk – received the magazine’s Best of Award of Excellence , a category reserved for restaurants that offer at least 350 bottles on their wine list.
The other six are Coastal Prime in Boothbay Harbor, La Bella Vita at Samoset Resort in Rockport, Natalie’s Restaurant in Camden, Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar in Portland, Sea Glass at Inn By the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, and The Balance Rock. Inn Veranda Bar in Bar Harbor.
All but one of this year’s Maine winners have previously been on the list – Natalie’s and Havana for more than a decade in a row. The new addition is Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar, so I headed over to Commercial Street to find out more about general manager Justin St. Louis, who has been with the restaurant for six years and has been a certified sommelier for three.
Saint-Louis’ passion for wine is evident from the moment he begins to speak. Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar has around 200 bottles on its ever-changing wine list; 16 are available by the glass. Saint-Louis frequently brings new wines as special features for the glass.
“I think our program is unique because it aligns well with our brand,” St. Louis said. “I select wines based on what suits our chef’s culinary aesthetic and price them appropriately based on our menu prices. Plus, there’s a lot of diversity on our list – lots of well-known labels for customers who prefer to select their wines on their own, as well as slightly more “off the shelf” wines for customers who want to try something new. Most importantly, each wine is a classic expression of the varietal, region and vintage indicated. And, of course, I am always available to visit the table to help customers choose a bottle of wine that will give them the best dining experience they are looking for.
St. Louis sometimes takes this commitment to customer service to the next level, asking the chef to make minor changes to certain dishes so they pair better with the bottle of wine a table has chosen.
“At the end of the day,” St. Louis said, “food is malleable. Wine is not. A chef can adjust food to make a perfect match. It’s all about the customer experience.”
Creating good chords is one of St. Louis’ favorite parts of his job. “If you taste a pairing and the wine still tastes the same (as before you tasted the food), it’s a failure.”
All winners will be featured in the next issue of Wine Spectator, which hits newsstands Tuesday.July 12. Or you can find them on Wine Spectator’s free app for iPhone and iPad, or on its website at restaurants.winespectator.com, where there’s a free searchable database of 3,200 award-winning restaurants worldwide with details on each, including a link to their wine. list, if available.
Congratulations to newcomer Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar, and to all the repeat winners elsewhere in Maine!
Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while doing as many puns as her editor allows.
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