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January 17, 2023

New Leeds vineyard manager brings worldwide experience

WillowsAwake Winery, a family-owned business with 8 acres of vineyards in Androscoggin County, has added a new winemaker and vineyard manager to the team. 

WillowsAwake Winery
Lindsay Benson

Lindsay Benson spent the past year working at vineyards and nurseries in Maine and Vermont, most notably Cellardoor Winery, based in Lincolnville; Shelburne Vineyard in Vermont; and Northeastern Vine Supply in Pawlet, Vt. Benson also worked at Bleasdale Vineyard at Langhorne Creek, South Australia, and Troon Vineyard at Applegate Valley, Ore.

Benson also worked in Europe, spending four years as a senior buyer for Curious Wines in Cork, Ireland, responsible for purchasing and developing an Irish wine import company with a 350-plus line portfolio of international wines. 

WillowsAwake Winery, which includes the restaurant No. 10 Eatery, was established in 2018.The restaurant opened in 2020 and is Maine’s first winery-based restaurant that operates year-round.

The Leeds winery, which is about 20 miles north of Lewiston, has just completed bottling its first estate wine produced from Itasca grapes, aptly named Temerity. The vineyard is planted with cold hardy cultivars developed by the University of Minnesota Horticulture Research facility and by private Minnesota breeder Tom Plocher to thrive and produce award-worthy red and white wines in the United States' coldest regions.

"Advances in cold hardy grapevine breeding have made New England one of the most exciting new regions for sustainable viticulture and winemaking in America, which is why I am so excited to bring my winemaking experience back to my native Maine," said Benson. "The industry here is still small, and the opportunity to make wine from local grapes is rare — which makes the vineyard and winery at WillowsAwake even more incredible. I am so grateful to join the team at WillowsAwake, for this remarkable opportunity to craft quality wines from Maine-grown fruit and for the chance to share my knowledge and passion for cold climate wine growing along the way."

While completing her Master of Science in Oenology and Viticulture from EMaVE Consortium in Montpellier, France, and Geisenheim, Germany, Benson acquired experience at Château de Jonquières in Terrasses du Larzac, France. She also holds a Master of Science in international business from the IESEG School Of Management, Université Catholique de Lille, Lille, France.

The appointment coincides with WillowsAwake's expansion and purchase of new winemaking and vineyard equipment to position WillowsAwake to take full advantage of the winery's vineyards as they reach maturity and total production.

"Lindsay's joining the team comes at a pivotal point in WillowsAwake's expansion with new equipment and the move to a larger production facility, and frankly, the point where we need a more knowledgeable and experienced perspective and colleague, especially as we begin to produce more estate grown wines," said Tony Lyons, co-owner of WillowsAwake Winery. "We're excited to be working with Lindsay as we begin a new chapter at WillowsAwake."

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