Sweetgrass Farm
Background

Frequently Asked Questions

1.       What is the story of the farm?  Our hill top winery/distillery is located on the old Carroll Farm that was settled in 1807.  The Carroll family lived here until 2002 when they relocated across the street.  We have 66 acres of mixed pasture, sugar bush, and woodlands that border the Medomak River.  In the past this farm grew apples, vegetables, chickens, pigs, and was most recently a dairy.

 

2.       Do you have animals currently on the farm?  Yes, we have a flock of Friesian and Friesian cross sheep for meat and fleece.  We sell frozen lamb chops and legs. We have beautiful wool blankets for sale made from their wool.  There are laying chickens, meat chickens, turkeys, pigs and 2 cats named Fluffy and Tigerlilly.

 

3.       Do you grow any of your own fruit?  Yes.  We grow a portion of what we need of apples, rhubarb, and maple syrup. We also grow grass/hay for feed.

 

4.       Where do you get your fruit?  What we don’t grow we buy from local farms.  We decided when we opened to concentrate on making the best wines and spirits from Maine grown fruit. Instead of growing fruit ourselves - and competing with the other farmers, we contract with the true experts. This year we used over 70,000 pounds of Maine grown fruit and grain.

 

5.       How long have you been open?  We purchased this farm and started building the winery/distillery in 2005.  We have been open to the public since 2007.

 

6.       Was the distillery an afterthought?  No.  We had planned all along to be a winery and a distillery.  We opened to the public in 2007 with our flagship spirit Back River Gin, Apple, Cranberry Apple, and Peach wine, Cranberry Smash, and Vanilla extract.

 

7.       What do you do in the winter?  Our tasting room and retail shop at the winery/distillery closes down New Year’s Eve and most people think we go on vacation.  Actually, we distill as winter is the perfect time to distill and the still runs almost daily.  We ferment molasses for rum and bottle too.  Our Old Port Tasting Room and Shop is open year round so when we miss our customers, we can visit with them there.

 

8.       Is this just a hobby gone wild?  Winemaking makes for a great hobby but Keith actually studied winemaking, Enology (Enololgy is the science of wine making, Viticulture is the science of growing the grapes), at University of California at Davis.  He received his MS in Food Science in 1995 and has been working in the business since 1992.  He also has a BS in Computer Software Engineering and Applied Mathematics.

 

9.       When did you start making spirits?  We started making spirits after receiving our distillery licenses in 2006.  Keith had years of experience at other distilleries before starting our own.

 

10.   Why do you use fruit?  We are in love with Maine (we were married here as Constance’s family is from Maine) and wanted to raise our family here but grapes don’t grow easily in Maine. What does grow easily is fruit.  The finest apples, blueberries, cranberries, rhubarb, elderberries, and maple syrup.

 

11.   Why don’t you make vodka?  We do what we love and make only things we love.

 

12.   Who does your labels?  We all do.  Our children create some fantastic artwork and it pleases us to see it displayed on our bottles.

 

13.   What type of barrels do you use?  We use all types, American Oak, French Oak, and used Jack Daniels bourbon barrels.

 

14.   How come you don’t make whisky?  We do.  We have been making whisky from Maine grown barley for several years now.  We believe in aging our whisky for years, like a good Scotch.  So if it needs 7 or 8 years to mature then that is what it gets.  We distill our whisky twice and age it in new and used American and French oak barrels.  Our first release of whisky is expected in 2017/2018.

 

15.   What is Apple brandy?  Our apple brandy is made in the European tradition of Calvados. In the 18th century, apple brandy became more popular after the phylloxera grapevine disease outbreak of 1860.  This outbreak led to grape wine and brandy shortages across Europe and so people turned to drinking wine and brandy made from apples. Apple Brandy is a strong whisky like spirit with subtle flavors of ripe apple, vanilla, and crème brulee.
Our Apple Brandy has been chosen as a standout by both the Wall Street Journal and Wine & Spirits magazine.

 

16.   What type of gin is Back River Gin?  The ‘style’ of gin is getting complicated.  There used to be just 2 styles, Old World Gin and everything else but now there are as many as 8 styles that designate a particular gin.  We make an American style gin, sometimes called New Western style, using London dry botanicals where the juniper marries with the other botanicals complementing them rather than dominating them.
Review from Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Review from Gin Reviews
Review from Spirits Review
Review from The Gin Is In

 

17.   Why do you have that kind of still? We have an Alembic copper still traditionally used for making whiskey, brandy, and rum.  We have 3 stills and they were made by master craftsman Armindo Da Costa, owner of Hoga Company, at his factory in Spain. See www.hogastills.com/contact.htm

 

 

18.   Why do you use different types of glasses for different wines and spirits?  The type of glass you use can enhance the taste of wines and spirits.  A wide short stemmed brandy sniffer allows you to warm the glass with your hand and then collects the aroma in the deep bowl for you to enjoy, a tall thin champagne glass showcases the bubbles and allows you to enjoy them as they rise to the top.  Sometimes too much emphasis is put on glassware or ice or temperature; recently one of the best wines I had was brought to me in a paper cup as I worked in the garden with a good friend.  Place and company trumps glassware any day in my book.

 

19.   Do you have a philosophy?  Yes, to be a family run business preserving Unions rich farming tradition, firmly rooted in the community, supporting local sustainable agriculture, local business, and donating 10% of profits to organizations which support families, children, and rural life.