Imagine strolling through seductively muddy vineyards after a spring rain, beneath a brilliant blue sky, with budding vines glistening in the sun. Though grape-growing is not a local occupation on the North Shore, like the vine, charming little Rockport begins to awaken after the winter hibernation. While many small businesses closed for the off-season months, not one, but two specialty wine shops opened in the middle of the pandemic in Rockport, and they continue to thrive. Both are intimate in size, and although decidedly different in their curation, each is dedicated to offering wines of integrity.
Here, the owners of the two new wine shops offer a few selections to tantalize the palate, but visiting in person is well worth it.
Sea & Cellar
Proprietor Lindsay Porter’s shop, Sea & Cellar, which she owns with her husband, John, is located at 21 Dock Square, at the entrance to Bearskin Neck. The intimacy of the space and the far-reaching, impeccable scope of Porter’s selection of frequently rotating, natural wines never cease to amaze. Her recommendations:
From Sonoma County, California, the Populis Pétillant-Naturel is not quite a sparkling red, and not quite a sparkling rosé—rather, it’s nestled beautifully in the middle. Juicy notes of blueberry, strawberry, and cranberry abound in this blend of zinfandel, pinot noir, and French colombard.
IAPETUS Substrata from Champlain Valley, Vermont, is made from native Vermont hybrid grapes Louis Swenson and Itasca, resulting in a mellow and smooth white, with touches of oak, coconut, and pineapple, and a great, zippy finish.
Mersel Winery Rising Phoenix rosé from Qannboubine Valley, Lebanon. Rarely do you ever see Lebanese wines, let alone natural wine from Lebanon. Made with ancient, native varietals Merwah and Marini, this field blend rosé is dry and refreshing, with mineral-driven notes of watermelon, black currant, and sea salt.
La Ginestra Lea from Tuscany, Italy. “From the heart of Chianti, made entirely of Canaiolo, the Lea strikes an unusual balance between refinement and an animated generosity that radiates joy. Lush of red fruit, leather, and a touch earth, with balanced acidity and light tannins.”
Seaview Farm and Farmstand
A mile from the center of Rockport sits Seaview Farm and Farmstand, at 38 South Street. If ever there was a unique setting, it is unequivocally here, where a former reading room inside the farmhouse, and connected to the farmstand, became the wine room. I assisted proprietor Regina Lane and her husband, Ken, with the initial selection, featuring wines from around the globe. Lane’s recommendations:
Westport Rivers RJR is a sparkling wine from Westport, Massachusetts, made in the traditional method, with a nod to Champagne. Rich, bright, yeasty, robust, and local. The Russell family has been making wine for decades in Westport.
From Weingut Lagler in Austria’s Wachau region comes a Gruner Veltliner which offers laser-beam precision, where a touch of citrus and a hint of white pepper keep time with an ever so slight savory quality, rendering this a high-acid, nuanced wine.
Domaine Les Maisons Rouges L’Éclos, from Jasnières in France’s Loire Valley. This Chenin Blanc, rich with honey and citrus and intensely aromatic, is flinty and vibrantly fresh.
A refined Nebbiolo from Negro Lorenzo in Piedmont, Italy. A small-production wine, with aromatic elegance and taut, earthy rusticity, with approachable tannins, from a salt-of-the-earth producer.