Pine trees, lobster, blueberries…vintage wine.

Over the years, the Downeast coast has become the heart of Maine winemaking, with four commercial wineries in Hancock County alone.

Why the coast? Dr. David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist at the University of Maine, said the ocean’s moderating temperatures help keep grapes alive through Maine winters.

“The ocean is a great buffer for these kinds of things,” he said.

Small-time winemakers also need direct access to customers, Handley said, which makes the Downeast coast a perfect location. Every year, summer tourists seek out local wine to take home and share with friends. If the wine is good, word-of-mouth might lead to a loyal following.

“Then you might have something,” Handley said.

Below is a description of each of the four wineries in Hancock County, in alphabetical order:

Atlantic Brewing Company-Long known for his locally-themed beer, Atlantic Brewing founder Doug Maffucci started making wine three years ago.

So far, Maffucci said, beer sales have subsidized the winemaking.

“It’s about a seven-year loss before you really pull anything out of it,” Maffucci said.

Maffucci’s winemaking experiment takes place on Mount Desert Island, with a vineyard at Sweet Pea’s Farm visible to tourists traveling on the road to Bar Harbor.

While the brewery has been producing its own wine for three years, the grapes used, to this point, come from out of state.

“It takes about three or four years to get a fruit out of the vineyard,” Maffucci said.

This fall, grapes will be harvested for the first time at Sweet Pea’s. Time will tell if they’ll make a good wine.

Maffucci admitted he’s been really impressed the vineyard has made it this far, despite at least one winter of several minus-30 degree days.

“The viability’s been amazing,” he said.

Atlantic Brewing also puts out a wine made from apples grown in Skowhegan.

Bartlett Maine Estate Winery-You could say that Bob Bartlett wrote the book on Maine winemaking.

Bartlett and his wife moved to Gouldsboro in 1975 with the intention of starting a vineyard, but they soon found the climate inhospitable to grape production. After several years of crop failure, they decided to switch to making wine from Maine fruit, including apples, raspberries, pears and blackberries.

But Maine wasn’t hospitable to small vineyards in the early eighties. Laws restricted winemakers from having tasting rooms, something Bartlett said he needed if he was going to make a good fruit wine.

“It’s kind of like market research,” he said.

Through intense lobbying, Bartlett eventually got the law changed. In fact, he wrote the winemaking law that is still used by the state today.

The new law went into effect in July 1983, the same time that the Bartletts opened up their tasting room.

“There were people waiting,” Bartlett recalled.

Certainly the best-known brand in Maine, Bartlett wine has also been turning some heads in the wine world. One of the company’s dry blueberry wines cracked Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s list of top 100 wines in the world.

Now Bartlett is planning to expand into the spirits market. Blueberry vodka, anyone?

Shalom Orchard Organic Winery-Jim Baranski and Charlotte Young both came from winemaking backgrounds. Young helped run a vineyard with her first husband in Connecticut, while Baranski learned how to make mead through the Society for Creative Anachronisms.

When they married and moved to a farm in Franklin, Young was amazed by what awaited them.

“All I could think of was, `There are a thousand apple trees and they’re already in the ground,” Young said.

As they began to farm the land, they also made their own apple wine. They ended up with an overabundance.

“It was more than I could stand,” Young laughed.

They first marketed the wine commercially in 2002. Since then, they’ve offered blueberry, blackberry, peach, elderberry and cranberry wines, as well as ginger, wintergreen and maple syrup meads. Baranski said more flavors are sure to come in the future.

“I’m always looking for different kinds of wine to try making,” Baranski said.

Young believes Shalom Wine is one of only eleven organically certified wines in the country. While many winemakers use organic ingredients, few wines can be certified as organic. That’s because most winemakers add sulfites to stop the fermentation process, while Baranski and Young let the fermentation continue in the bottle. This means if you open a bottle of their wine, don’t be surprised if there’s a small pop of the cork.

“This is the nature of the difference in organic wine,” Young said. “It’s a living drink, it’s a living beverage.”

Wine enthusiasts might want to note that Shalom Farm is also a bed and breakfast. Wine isn’t served at breakfast, though.

Sow’s Ear Winery-Tom Hoey said the size of his winery in Brooksville might be its claim to fame.

“I might be the smallest winery in the world,” he said.

Hoey had been making wine since he moved onto his homestead farm in 1975. In 1990, Hoey decided it was time to turn his hobby into a business.

Sow’s Ear offers a handful of wines made from apples, blueberries, grapes and rhubarb. Hoey said he once made a great batch of wine from a bumper local crop of choke cherries.

Through his company, Hoey also wants to introduce Americans to the wonderful world of hard cider. Though the drink is so popular in England that certain apples are grown exclusively for hard cider production, the cider craze hasn’t caught on in the states.

Hoey said hard cider’s properties make it the perfect accompaniment to a spicy dish.

“It sort of smoothes it out a bit,” Hoey said.

The unlikely name for Hoey’s winery comes from his sojourns to England, where he found many ciders and apple varieties with swine-based names.

“There just seems to be a real pig motif,” he said.