Thursday, May 23, 2013
Michael Terrien's roots are right here in southern Maine.
Michael Terrien was in Portland in May for a wine-tasting and meet-and-greet at Browne Trading Co. Terrien, a co-founder of the Tricycle Wine Company, also has his own label, which produces a critically acclaimed chardonnay.
Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Michael Terrien chats with Diana Brown and Brian Dorsk, both from Cape Elizabeth, during his visit at Browne Trading Co.
The California winemaker flies back occasionally to visit family. But his last visit, in May, was special.
Terrien was in Portland to pour his 2007 Terrien Chardonnay at a wine-tasting at Browne Trading Co.'s retail market.
This isn't just any chardonnay.
Food & Wine editor Ray Isle named it one of his five favorite wines of 2011, citing its "layers of flavor and distinctive floral aromas."
Terrien Chardonnay is served in some of the finest restaurants in the country, including Thomas Keller's Per Se and The French Laundry. It's also on the wine lists at Daniel, Eleven Madison Park, Gilt and four other top New York restauarants.
In Maine, Terrien Chardonnay is served at Fore Street, Back Bay Grill, the White Barn Inn, Primo, Bresca and several other well-known restaurants.
So, who is Michael Terrien and why don't you know his story?
Well, for one thing, Terrien admits he doesn't get back to Maine as often as he'd like. Terrien, 44, lives in Napa with his wife, designer and photographer Hannah Henry, and their three children (another one was on the way at the time of our interview).
He's also one of the founders, with Peter Molnar, of the Tricycle Wine Company, makers of Kazmer & Blaise, Obsidian Ridge and other brands. Add to that lots of consulting work at various California wineries and the creation of his own label, and Terrien is a busy man.
The winemaker's trip to Maine in May was a special event because Browne Trading Co. is the only retail market in the country that sells his chardonnay. He plans to return later this month to begin a new project working with Maine blueberries – more on that later.
"I'm so impressed with Portland's – and Maine's in general – food scene," Terrien said. "It's just mind-boggling how the quality is way beyond what it should be for the population size."
Terrien's parents moved to Maine in 1967 as part of the back-to-the-land movement and settled in the Brunswick area. Terrien was less than a year old when they moved to Cape Elizabeth, where his mother still lives in the same home he grew up in.
"I was raised with, I wouldn't say hippies, but they were of a mind to live off the land to the best extent," Terrien said. "My mother is a weaver and did a lot of dying of wool, and my father an architect, and I just remember having to weed gardens and prune apple trees and grapevines, too, although not the kind you'd want to make wine out of."
Terrien attended the Waynflete School in Portland, then headed off to Columbia University in New York to study philosophy and drink cheap wine. Between high school and college, he worked the 4:30 to 11 a.m. shift at the Portland Fish Exchange, slinging cod and haddock.
SWORDFISHING WITH GREENLAW
In the late 1980s, between semesters in college, Terrien landed a job swordfishing with Linda Greenlaw on the Gloria Dawn, years before the whole "Perfect Storm" phenomenon would thrust her into the public eye.
"She was willing to have a green guy get on the boat and help out," Terrien said, "and I was absolutely thrilled with that, as a young man might be."
Terrien became, he says jokingly, "a philosophy major with a fishing problem," and eventually took an entire year off from school to go fishing. His interest in working on the sea led to a job with a fisheries observer program in Montauk, N.Y.
Terrien eventually headed west to California – not in search of wine country, but to study and start a career in marine sciences. To support himself, he worked in restaurants, most notably a gourmet pizza joint that served perhaps 30 wines. Terrien tasted them all, and enjoyed introducing his favorites to his customers.
(Continued on page 2)
click image to enlarge
The scene at Browne Trading.