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Updated: March 8, 2024

Friday Food Insider: Founder of Portland Wine Week dishes on her experience in the wine industry

Photo / Meredith Purdue Erica Archer, founder Wine Wise and Portland Wine Week shares her experience working in the wine industry.

Every March 8, International Women's Day celebrates women's rights and the fight for gender equality around the globe. And what better way to kick off the day than to highlight women in the food industry?

Mainebiz caught up with Erica Archer, founder of Wine Wise and Portland Wine Week, to learn more about her experience in the wine industry.

Mainebiz: How did you get started in the wine industry?
Erica Archer:
I’m a born and raised Mainer who took the corporate road at IDEXX for many years and had a successful career there — I still parlay many of the customer-focused project management and marketing skills I honed over my 13 years there. But I always knew wine and sharing wine knowledge was a true passion of mine.

While at the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business MBA program, I had the idea to start my own company. I continued my education in the field of wine using corporate vacation time to study at the Culinary Institute of America Rudd Center for Wine, under some of the greatest wine teachers in the world. I started Wine Wise as a side hustle in 2010 while still at IDEXX and it became my full-time venture in 2012. I have since continued honing my wine knowledge through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and my highest credentials have been obtained through London’s Wine, Spirit, and Education Trust.

MB: Can you tell me more about Wine Wise and the grant you received from Visit Maine?
Wine Wise is a wine education and events company started in Portland. Our events are truly about helping people understand wine while having an authentic Maine experience. We are pouring quality wines from small producers and a big part of what we do now is centered around taking people sailing while learning about wine. The events are for anyone at all levels of wine.

In all, there are four ways that we reach people through quality wine experiences including our monthly local wine club delivery with our tasting notes and local food pairings, guided trips to world-renowned wine regions, the annual Portland Wine Week and here in Portland with our Wine Wise 'Wine Sails.'

From early June to late October, our wine sails offer a uniquely Maine outdoor experience, uniting myself, local chefs, wine importers, oyster growers and farm-to-sea cuisine aboard the Maine-built and owned and operated tall ship, Frances. In 2023, Wine Wise hosted over 5,000 guests on these acclaimed Wine Sails, drawing individuals from 45 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and from 111 cities and towns across the state of Maine.

Being awarded the Maine Tourism Marketing Partnership Programs special
event marketing grant this year for 2024 helps us fuel Maine’s food and beverage economy while propelling Portland and Maine further into the national spotlight as a premier travel destination year-round.

MB: Can you tell me more about Portland Wine Week, how it started, how has it grown and what people can expect for 2024?
The reason Portland Wine Week started is because I truly was motivated to figure out a way to share the incredible wine and culinary talent we have here in Portland with more people — to offer something for everyone and bring attention and business to this group in a dedicated way.

By definition, Portland Wine Week showcases the extensive wine offerings Maine establishments have to offer through engaging tasting events, wine classes and seminars, wine sails, and intimate dinner events at award-winning local restaurants. In reality it is a celebration of the people in our community. It’s your friends and my friends — it’s the Portland restaurant and wine industry coming together and doing what it does best.

For seven years now it has become something that locals enjoy and bringing more visitors to Maine before the peak summer season kicks off. People can still expect that and a really fun week of events to make what you want of it — from happy hour specials and daytime brunch events to dinner pairings and sunset wine sails with absolutely killer wine pours that you would not find easily anywhere else.

Courtesy of Wine Wise / Portland Wine Week
Pictured here are attendees of the Women in Wine dinner event in 2023. This event kicks off Portland Wine Week.

MB: Portland Wine Week is kicking off with a grand opening Women in Wine dinner. Can you tell me more about this event?
This is the best event of the year! The Women in Wine Dinner is such a great kickoff to Portland Wine Week and the Women in Wine Track because it brings many of our culinary community together — 10 women sommeliers from Portland plus five incredible local chefs, pairing up two sommeliers with each chef. Five courses, two wines per dish, all the wines are from winemakers, and the guests vote for best pairing and one of the sommeliers goes home with a trophy.

The somm/chef teams work together to win. Many of these talents would not know each other otherwise. Through this event they know each other, hang out, plan events, and refer customers when their reservation books are full. It is a celebration of one of the things that make Portland special, which is the talented women who run the wine and food industry in this city. It puts them first. It introduces them to one another and the local attendees who are by nature, huge fans of the culinary scene here. 

MB: What is it like to be a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry?
I don’t know. I don’t feel that it’s impacted me. I am a person in the wine industry. However, I do spend a significant amount of my energy supporting other women in the wine industry, such as local wine directors, sales professionals, restaurant owners and women winemakers from around the world. Portland is full of women in the wine industry. 

MB: What advice do you have for a woman looking to start a career in wine?
Go to the best classes you can afford. Join a tasting group made up of really skilled blind wine tasters that you can learn a lot from. Seek out people who can connect you with internships, job shadows, etc. I do think a lot of folks endeavor to learn about wine without an endgame. The end game can always change, but having industry insights while honing your craft is what I recommend.

MB: You have had such a successful career. Why do you think having a well-rounded background is important to succeed in this industry?
EA: I think a better word in this instance is ‘well-rounded relationships’ — to succeed in this business, building good relationships everywhere you go is key. Also delivering on what you set out to do gains trust. Many of Portland Wine Week’s incredible sponsors are due to my relationships with people in those businesses that I have deep respect for, and that I’ve fostered throughout my career. A healthy dose of humor and an extroverted outlook also help!

Portland Wine Week will take place June 10-16. Check out the website for a full list of events and participants. The full list will be out at the end of March. 

Updates from the Insider 

Bam Bam Bakery which leased 1,961 square feet of retail space that was the former Ela Market & Grill at 125 Bucknam Road in Falmouth, is now open. 

Luke's Lobster will celebrate B Corp Month with a B Corp-themed happy hour March 26, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Luke's Lobster Portland Pier. The event is free with a suggested donation of $5 to $10 to the Lift All Boats Project.

What events are you most excited to attend during Portland Wine Week? The Mainebiz Food Insider wants to know! Contact Alexis Wells at

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