Oyster River Winegrowers
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Name:          Oyster River Winegrowers

Address:      Brian Smith

                     Allie Willenbrink

                     929 Oyster River Road

                     Warren, Maine

Phone:          207-273-2998

Website:       Oyster River Winegrowers

                      on  Facebook

Email:           brianoysterriver@gmail.com

Products and Services:

-door to door farm delivery service by horse 

and wagon in downtown Rockland

-winery and organic farm

-tasting and sales on Saturdays and Sundays

noon to 5 p.m. - Memorial Day-mid-October

-horsepowered farm

-Villager White wine - house white

-Villager Pink wine - dry rose

-Villager Red wine - house red

-Riesling wine - dry

-Merlot wine - red wine from Merlot grapes

-Pizza Nights at the Winery - summer

-wine consultant

-herb consultant

-logging services with horse available in winter

What Makes Oyster River Winegrowers Unique?

There was a time in our country when the sound of horses trotting down the street with a wagon filled with produce or goods from a farm was a common sight.  In some areas where there are Amish or Mennonite settlements, farmers still rely on the horse and buggy to get their goods to market. Thanks to the efforts of Brian Smith, downtown Rockland has Oyster River Farm Express.  It is a horse and wagon service that personally conducts a door-to-door drop-off of farm produce.  Brian and his Belgian draft horse, Don, deliver locally-made wine, cheese, and bread and locally-raised vegetables, fruit, eggs, and meat.

Several individuals contacted Unique Maine

Farms with the suggestion of profiling Oyster River Winegrowers.  The message was clear - this farm’s operation is really unique. The recommendations were well-advised. Brian Smith and his wife, Allie Willenbrink, have combined a great deal of ingenuity and hard work into making the horse and wagon delivery service a great success.

When Unique Maine Farms visited Rockland on a cool, rainy day in March, it was quite interesting to observe how the sight of Brian’s horse and wagon seemed to brighten everyone’s day.  When they made their way down the city’s streets, pedestrians took notice and usually ended up waving or sharing some smiles. Parents brought their children over to the wagon because the youngsters wanted to see the horse and many adults took out their cellphones to snap a photo.  It appears that Brian and his two thousand pound equine partner deliver a great deal of good will,  in addition to the wine and all the farm items that they drop off at each of the city locations.

Brian Smith and his wife, Allie Willenbrink,

purchased their fifty-seven acre farm in Warren in 2007.  The land and former dairy farm already had a conservation easement with the Georges River Land Trust to ensure that the property would always remain protected from development.  It has been awarded the status of

a Forever Farm by the Maine Farmland Trust.

Brian graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in wildlife and fisheries biology.  For over three years he worked at Snow Farm Vineyard in Vermont. He then studied for two years at Fresno State University where he earned his Masters in winemaking.  His expertise has been appreciated by other area winegrowers and he has worked as a consultant. He feels that the grapes that can be successfully grown in Maine with their low sugar content and high acidity are good for the production of sparkling wine.

Brian and Allie planted two-and-a-half acres of La Crescent and Vidal Blanc grapes at their farm (approximately three thousand vines) and they are in the process of expanding their vineyard. The grapes that they are growing are white French-American hybrids that go along with their focus of making sparkling wine.  They are hoping that they will continue to prove to be hardy in the cool climate of Maine.

Don, their Belgian draft horse, is a vital part of the farm as they do not have a tractor.  He is used to help cultivate the land in between the narrow six-foot rows of densely-planted grape vines. Controlling the weeds is one of the biggest challenges in the vineyard. Around twelve hundred vines are planted on one acre of land. Organic practices have been introduced in the vineyard.  The manure and leftover materials from the wine crushing process is used to help build the soil. Don also steps forward to help with the plowing, logging, keeping the pastures clipped and mowing hay.

To supplement their farm income in the winter, Brian and Allie came up with the idea of the horse and wagon delivery route.  They needed financial assistance in purchasing the wagon and the materials necessary to build the horse trailer.  Through a campaign on kickstarter.com they were able to successfully raise the $10,000 funding to get the door-to-door service started. 

The 1937 wagon, which was once used to sell produce in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, was purchased in Philadelphia.  Brian built the impressive wooden horse trailer with the winch system to lower and raise the plank that allows Don to enter or exit the truck on the trips to and from Rockland. Don is driven into town and back home to Warren in the truck with the homemade trailer each delivery day.  The wagon is stored in a barn in Rockland thanks to the generosity of Ret and Karen Talbot.

Until their grapes become established, Brian has relied on grapes from a vineyard in New York state and from California.  At the New York vineyard, Brian crushed the grapes and then brought the juice back to ferment.  The skins and seeds ended up as compost in their vineyard and gardens in Warren.

The winery is located in the cellar area of Oyster River Winegrowers’ magnificent restored barn.  The space is filled with wooden barrels and large stainless steel fermentation tanks. The first wine that Oyster River Winegrowers released was the Villager White.  Other wines that they have produced and now carry include Villager Red, Villager Pink,  Reisling, and Merlot.

Smith is now working with fermenting apples to make traditional bottled conditioned cider.  His source of apples included the Apple Farm in Fairfield and Poverty Lane in New Hampshire.  He has begun planting some apple trees this spring including Ashmead Kernel, Black Oxford, Yarlington Mill, Major, and Bramtop for the purpose of having their own supply of apples to make cider.

Brian and Allie will be hosting tastings and sales at their winery on Oyster River Road in Warren on Saturdays and Sundays from noon through 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through mid-October.  Their wines are distributed in over sixty stores throughout Maine including Aurora Provisions, Down East Beverages, Rosemont Bakeries, Clayton in Yarmouth, and Royal River Foods.

The farm, their large gardens and their animals keep Brian and Allie very busy.  Allie has taught herb classes and led plant walks.  She also has conducted consultations for people who wish to improve their health through the use of herbs.

Oyster River Winegrowers strongly believes in supporting the local community. When they began their horse-cart vending service, they approached various local businesses to see if they would be interested in having some of their products included in their weekly “market on wheels.” 

The Atlantic Baking Company, out of Rockland,  contributes fresh bread and also serves as a location for customers who prefer to pick up their delivery.  The cheese comes from the Appleton Creamery.  Vegetables are harvested at Brookfield Farm in Cushing and at Maple Tree Farm, Uncas Farm, and Thirty Acre Farm in Whitefield.  The meat originates from Old Crow Ranch in Durham or Terra Optima Farm in Warren.  Eggs are sometimes provided by Applewood Farm in Union.

Community dinners take place at the Oyster River Winegrowers on the first and third Wednesdays from June through September.

Jess from the Uproot Pie Company brings her wood-fired mobile pizza oven and families enjoy either a slice or 9 inch pizza and wine at the farm.  On rainy nights the dinner takes place in the beautiful barn.  There is often live music.

Brian and Allie’s solid ties with the community is evidenced on their Facebook page.  They frequently request volunteers to help out with either the delivery of the food to the various businesses and homes or to help around the winery.   Payment for the delivery person’s volunteer position might be a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread.  Someone always steps forward to lend a hand.  When you think about it, how often can an individual have the opportunity to ride around downtown Rockland in a wagon pulled by a horse?

On the cool rainy day when Unique Maine Farms visited, Patricia Lojek from Belfast was the delivery person.  She learned about the opportunity from her friend, Kathy Chamberlain, who owns the Stone Fox Creamery in Monroe. Patricia explained that she feels living in Maine really is the “way life should be” and she commented that “so much gets done in this lovely state, a friend will drop a casual comment or make a suggestion, and then something good happens.”  Patricia also shared that she loves the outdoors, growing things, animals, and meeting people, so she thought heading out to help Brian would be a good fit. When asked about the experience she stated, “ I loved riding on the back of the wagon, dangling my legs off the back, bringing goodies wrapped in brown paper to Brian’s customers, and even cleaning up Don’s messes. Oh, and did I mention that I also love wine and homemade bread?  That was my reward for helping out each of the two times - another perfect fit and the way life should be!”

Other instances when volunteers are needed at the Oyster River Winery are the crush/press days when tons of grapes are crushed and destemmed and the days when the wine is bottled.

The summer delivery CSA program will be starting up in May and lasting through September.  There will be a delivery every other week for a total of ten deliveries.  For $25 each delivery week, there will be a personal horse-drawn drop-off of a local cheese, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine from Oyster River Winegrowers.  Customers can opt to add on vegetables, meat, coffee, and eggs. There are pick up options available at the farm in Warren or at designated spots in downtown Rockland.

Hats off to Brian and Allie for offering an innovative horse and wagon service in mid-coast Maine.  The sight and sound of Brian and Don trotting down the streets of Rockland have provided an insight into a simpler time when people relied on farmers and their horses to provide them with local food.  How exciting it is to see a young farmer make the effort and take the time to sell and deliver the produce of several Maine farms and his own Maine-produced wine by horse and wagon. The clickety clack sound of Don on the streets and the smiles that he evokes have become a very innovative way of getting local Maine food to Maine people.

To and From
The Use
of Horses
on the FarmOyster_River_-_Horsepower.html

Photo courtesy of Oyster River Winegrower’s Facebook page

Pizza Nights are conducted at the Oyster River Winery in the summer.  (photo courtesy of their Facebook page)

photo courtesy of Oyster River Winery’s Facebook page

264 gallon stainless steel fermentation tanks