LINCOLNVILLE — It was sagging, leaning and crying out for repair. Like many neglected barns in Maine, the centuries-old structure needed lots of TLC — tender loving cash. If Bettina Doulton could thrive in the highly competitive big money mutual fund world, she could right an aged barn and re-launch a winery.

“I walked into this place on a cold, gray day in September. My first feeling was ‘awesome,’” said Doulton, owner of Cellardoor Winery, located in a refined 1790s barn on lush, rolling acres on the midcoast.

With a head for business and a love of New England rusticity, the former Fidelity Investments star took on the project with her signature high-octane gusto. Buttressing a post-and-beam barn, demolishing an old farmhouse and building an attached modern event space took unmentionable sums, labor and time.

Eight years later the fearless business woman has put Lincolnville on the food and wine radar. Her wines are known in restaurants and retail stores across the state, but a visit to Cellardoor Winery and tasting room still surprises.

“People come in and say, ‘Ahh,’ [and] you see their shoulders go down,” Doulton said. They have entered the warm embrace of a cathedral of wine.

The 225-year-old spacious barn with a horseshoe bar is not just a place to talk tannins but to gaze out upon undulating hillsides and distant peaks. The bucolic surround puts guests at ease.

From the loft seating above to the seamless flow of the adjoining gift shop filled with wine accoutrements and sleek event space beyond, it’s hard to imagine an earthy barnyard vibe.

One day, while renovating the barn, a local resident knocked on the door. It was Clyde Young.

“He said, ‘I was born in this barn in 1913, and I’d like to see what you’ve done with it,’” Doulton said.

He appreciated that the indoor silo was cleaned and refurbished, a glowing emblem of the barn’s animal sheltering past. A new curved staircase hugging the relic leads to an upper bar, where wine is quaffed in a wood-paneled mezzanine.

“[Before] the loft was not fit to have a bird land on it,” she recalled. Now it affords a bird’s eye view of the bustling barn.

Doulton, who bought the former winery, a low-key operation with a folksy bent, along with the barn and accompanying acreage in 2007, treasures the stories that have accrued during the barn’s long life.

“Not to sound like a Hallmark card, but this place felt like a warm hug — and it still does,” she said.

Like many people trading a hectic urban existence for Maine’s more serene pulse, Doulton started over here. She relaunched her life just as she relaunched the barn and winery. She has not taken the easy route. The barn’s makeover was massive, above and below, inside and out. It was a vehicle for a reimagined life.

“It had fallen back out of square. We insulated and reshingled. The floor and ceiling had a 6-inch slope,” she said. “We raised the sight lines.”

Cross beams were lifted and repurposed to make a better environment for guests. Added windows bring in natural light and reveal the verdant vista and vineyards all around.

“We brought in a major spine beam across the barn from an antique barn in New York. That’s the only real addition,” she said.

“We didn’t raise the roof,” she said. But in many ways she has.

This summer the winery hosts Huey Lewis and the News, as well as top-tier food and wine personalities and a host of other high-end events. Performer Chaka Khan has played here, and singer Billy Ocean comes in October.

Amid the razzmatazz, integrity was maintained.

Doulton preserved things such as the hobo symbol carved into the barn by a migrant worker. Her research proved the mark dates to the Great Depression and means “homeward bound.” The nod to her barn’s past is her logo, gracing her bottles, and is her wine’s outward face to the world.

“This is a functional piece of art with history,” Doulton said. “And I get to live in it.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: