Anyone who has been curious about natural wines but too intimidated to try them will find an approachable and well-curated selection at Rockport’s Sea & Cellar, a specialty gourmet store in downtown Rockport. And if you come for the wine, you’ll likely leave with a lot more than that.
“We really strive to support small vineyards, brewers, farmers, artists, and food vendors and make that commitment to local, seasonally driven, and environmentally conscious food,” says owner and Rockport native Lindsay Porter.
Sea & Cellar’s ethos is inspired by the slow food movement, which emphasizes locally sourced, seasonal food from small makers and producers. Shoppers at Salt & Cellar will find not only natural wines, but also locally brewed craft beers, cheeses, artisan breads, and other provisions from regional producers.
Lindsay’s background is a mosaic of artistic and creative endeavors—sculpture ceramics and craft beer making among them—but it was her fascination with and appreciation for the culture and spirit of slow food that eventually led her to open Sea & Cellar in July 2020.
“I kind of applied it to how I live,” she says. “We started gardening, we started networking with local farmers and going to the farmers market and talking to local vendors who were also passionate about this slow food movement.”
Lindsay recognized that Rockport needed a specialty gourmet store downtown, so she worked with the town—which had traditionally been “dry”—to open the shop. What she didn’t count on was opening during the middle of a pandemic. However, even that had a silver lining.
“It was actually kind of nice to ease into the operations of what I was doing, fine tune anything that I felt needed changing, and with the natural wines, really finding what my customer base wanted out of my products,” Lindsay says.
Now, nearly a year later, Lindsay takes a friendly, easygoing, and accessible approach to natural wine. Instead of being confronted with an intimidating and overwhelming wall of wines that offers little information to customers beyond the label and the price tag, the wine wall at Sea & Cellar gives shoppers as much information about each wine as possible.
“Every wine that I have has the producer’s name, where it was grown, what grapes are in there, specific tasting notes, and what it pairs with,” Lindsay says. “I wanted to be as open to the customer as possible.”
That level of detail is especially important since the COVID-19 crisis means that she can’t do things like offer tastings.
She’s also teaching people about natural wines themselves—wines that start with organic viticulture and are made with low-intervention, sustainable practices, and where nothing is added, removed, or shaped artificially, unlike conventional wines, which can have countless additives.
“You’re letting that natural fermentation happen,” Lindsay says. And while some natural wines can have an intense flavor, the ones she carries are often more approachable.
“I’ve turned a lot of conventional drinkers on to natural wine, which is probably one of the best feelings ever,” she says. “Creating that customer base that came back repeatedly was a great feeling.”
Now that spring and summer are here, Sea & Cellar is a perfect spot to load up on picnic provisions. In addition to its natural wine selection, it carries craft beers from the North Shore and Boston area, as well as other Northeast brewers in New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
Other locally sourced items to add to your picnic basket include small-batch bread from Beverly-based Bonny Breads, cured meats from New England Charcuterie in Waltham, almond butter from Beckah’s Bangin’ Butter in Beverly, coffee from Breakwater Roasters in Gloucester, and pastries from Pure Pastry in Beverly, along with cheeses, honey, snacks, and more.
And as a community-driven person, Lindsay is happy that Sea & Cellar is part of a worldwide movement dedicated to locally produced, ethically grown food.
“It’s refreshing to know that it is a global effort, as well as a community effort, that’s really driven to know your farmer, to know where your food comes from, to know that there are people out there protecting the ancient ways of growing and being in tune with nature,” she says.
For more information, visit seaandcellar.com.