Aaron and CC Peet had every reason to believe they’d be welcome. Winemakers from Maine, the two were traveling in France and came upon a winery nestled behind a large iron gate. To their surprise, the winery shunned them, barring the Mainers from the premises.

Before they left, the Peets snapped a quick photo standing in front of the gate.

That image inspired the latest Artist Series offerings from Lincolnville-based Cellardoor Winery, where the Peets make wine. Iron Gate, an American red made from 2013 grapes, features an artistic rendering of iron gates painted by Falmouth artist Erin McGee Ferrell. She used the Peets’ photo as a starting point for her project.

Another new red in the Artist Series, the Cielos, features a label with an image by Allen Bunker, who recently moved to Massachusetts from Boothbay Harbor.

Cellardoor routinely hires Maine artists for its labels, owner Bettina Doulton said. As more wine and beer is made in Maine, more Maine art is showing up on the dinner table and bartop.

“We like working with Maine artists because there is no pretense with them,” Doulton said, noting that in addition to using the paintings by Ferrell and Bunker as for its labels, Cellardoor also displays the originals in the winery at Lincolnville.


“Maine offers you this huge opportunity, because you can get to know the artists more personally than you do in other places. You get to meet these people and visit their studios, and you run into them in the community,” she said. “It’s that intangible element of living in Maine that we all try to explain. We are so charmingly connected by this place. You get to know people’s stories better, and it makes it personal.”

Winemakers and artists have a long shared history. The French winery Chateau Mouton Rothschild used paintings by Picasso, Dali and Kandinsky for label art.

Early European labels were made from parchment attached by a string around the neck of the bottles. By the 1700s, labels were designed on a stone, the stone then inked and rolled on paper. By the 1800s, labels were printed in large quantities, and wineries began using the labels to express pride in their wine and winery, in addition to conveying information about the wine itself – the name of the winery, the kind of grape, the year and vintage of the wine.

Nor is Cellardoor alone in hiring Maine artists for labeling. D.L. Geary Brewing Co. of Portland has long hired artists from Maine College of Art to design its Summer Ale label.

For the past three years, Cellardoor used a painting by Belfast artist Kirk Moore as its primary label. The winery’s new logo was designed by metalsmith Ben Leavitt of Hope.

The logo looks like a capital H. According to legend, the symbol was carved into the winery’s barn door by a traveling migrant worker, signaling to other weary travelers that the farm was a safe and welcoming place. Doulton loves that concept. “It’s the spirit with which we try to welcome all of our guests here,” she said.


It’s also why the incident in France made such an impression, and why Cellardoor wanted to make a wine – and label – that suggested hospitality. Just as a gate can keep people out, she said, it also can be opened to invite them in.

She got in touch with her friends at Art Collector Maine, who sent along portfolios of several artists represented by the Portland-based online gallery. Cellardoor narrowed the search to Ferrell and Bunker, and instead of choosing one opted to create wines and labels for both.

Ferrell began with the photo of the Peets in France, then tapped her Southern roots to refine her idea. She grew up a Victorian house in Louisville, Kentucky, that featured wrought iron in its garden ornamentation. She took her research farther South, looking at pictures of fences in New Orleans.

She found several images from New Orleans that appealed to her sensibilities as an artist, and began making paintings.

“My niche is trying to find the grittier side of Maine, the urban back alley, the fire escapes. I like painting from garage rooftops, and I love architectural details,” she said.

Ferrell began a series of large oil paintings with iron gates as a central motif, and submitted two to Cellardoor for consideration. The winery bought both, one for the label and the other for display.


Bunker also made a painting for consideration for the Iron Gate label, though Cellardoor chose Ferrell’s image. But Doulton liked Bunker’s work, and asked to see other paintings. He showed her several, and she chose an oil seascape of orange and yellow clouds forming over the water and shore. Cellardoor created a vintage, the Cielos, to fit the image. Cielo is the Spanish word for sky, and also refers to a kind of cloud formation.

“It was unusual and exciting,” said Bunker, who operated an art gallery in Boothbay Harbor before moving back to Massachusetts. “I was very happy she appreciated my work so much that she would look in to it more and find something she liked.”

Ferrell said having one of her paintings used as a wine label is a great honor. It also makes it easier to make gift-buying decisions.

“I think I know what all my future wedding presents, anniversary gifts, Christmas presents and house-warming gifts will be. I can keep buying cases of wine with my label. I have all my gift ideas taken care for a long time to come.”


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