Wine racks at Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar, which just received its first Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. Photos courtesy of Old Port Sea Grill

The winners of Wine Spectator’s 2022 Awards of Excellence, named last month, include eight restaurants in Maine, two of which – Havana Restaurant in Bar Harbor and The White Barn Inn Restaurant in Kennebunk – received the magazine’s Best of Award of Excellence, a category reserved for restaurants which carry at least 350 bottles on their wine list.

The other six are Coastal Prime in Boothbay Harbor, La Bella Vita at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Natalie’s Restaurant in Camden, Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar in Portland, Sea Glass at Inn By the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, and The Balance Rock Inn Veranda Bar in Bar Harbor.

All but one of this year’s Maine winners have made the list before – Natalie’s and Havana for more than a decade running. The new addition is Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar, so I headed over to Commercial Street to learn more from general manager Justin St. Louis, who has been with the restaurant for six years and who has been a certified sommelier for three years.

St. Louis’ passion for wine is evident from the moment he begins talking. Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar has approximately 200 bottles on its constantly evolving wine list; 16 are available by the glass. St. Louis frequently brings in new wines as special glass pour features.

“I think our program is unique because it is well-aligned with our brand,” St. Louis said. “I select wines based on what works well with our chef’s culinary aesthetic, and price them appropriately to fit with our menu prices. In addition, there is a lot of diversity on our list – plenty of well-known labels for guests who prefer to select wines on their own, as well as wines that are a bit more ‘out of the box’ for guests who want to try something new. Most importantly, every wine is a classic expression of the grape variety, region, and vintage indicated. And, of course, I am always available to visit the table to help guests select a bottle of wine that will give them the best dining experience they are looking for.”

Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar general manager Justin St. Louis is a sommelier who puts a lot of thought into the restaurant’s wine list.

St. Louis sometimes takes that commitment to customer service to the next level, asking the chef to make minor tweaks to certain dishes so that they better pair with the bottle of wine a table has chosen.


“At the end of the day,” St. Louis said, “the food is malleable. The wine is not. A chef can adjust the food to make a perfect pairing. It’s all about the guest experience.”

Creating great pairings is one of St. Louis’ favorite parts of his job. “If you taste a pairing and the wine still tastes the same (as it did before you tasted the food), that’s a failure.”

All award winners will be featured in the next issue of Wine Spectator, which hits newsstands on Tuesday, July 12. Or you can find them on Wine Spectator’s free app for iPhones and iPads, or on its website at, where there’s a free searchable database of 3,200 award-winning restaurants worldwide with details about each, including a link to its wine list, if available.

Congratulations to newcomer Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar, as well as to all the repeat winners elsewhere in Maine!

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.

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