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World class wine where you least expect it.

Posted by Stephen Meuse  April 24, 2011 12:49 PM

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Driving the back roads of Maine's mid coast last week brought us to Harpswell, population 5300, one of Casco Bay's sweet spots. We saw charming white churches and quite a few homes with lobster traps stacked in the yard. Here and there a bend in the road yielded a magnificent view of the bay and the many tiny, wooded islands that make the area so picturesque. But we were surprised when one such turn brought us to the door of The Black Sheep Wine Shop, whose roadsign and wee premises you see at left.    

Lilliputian it may be, but there's a full-scale wine sensibility going on here. John and Jen VerPlanck have stocked their garage-sized shop with a hand-picked collection of Old and New World labels that would shame any number of urban retail outlets we could mention. 

The welcoming little building used to be devoted to selling Jen's handmade chocolates, before the couple decided to shift the focus to wine. Nearly every bottle on the chock-a-block full shelves here bears a handwritten tag providing some worthwhile information about the wine inside. It's the kind of thoughtful touch that gives a shop personality - and personality is something The Black Sheep and its proprietors have plenty of. 

The afternoon we stopped by John was on his way to lead a wine tasting at Cook's Lobster House   on nearby Bailey Island. We were headed elsewhere, alas, or would have been happy to tag along. 

We did pick up a bottle of old vine Jura chardonnay from Maison Jean Rijkaert, though, from the VerPlancks to sip later that night in the parlor of our B&B -- and did it hit the spot. 

File under: Good to Go

Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com.

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Read more of Stephen Meuse's columns at www.bostonglobe.com

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