The owners of a new vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their first plantings — an acre of what owner Regan Meador calls “weird grapes.”
The grape variety being considered by Southold Farm & Cellar is Teroldego, a red Italian variety grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Süditrol, Italy.
They’ve called their Kickstarter campaign, “Bring Weird Grapes to the North Fork.”
Just three days after launching their campaign Meador and, his wife Carey (nee O’Connor) have pledges for a third of the $15,000 they are trying to raise. The crowd-funding campaign seeks contributions of as little as $1.
Meador estimated the cost of planting one acre of grapes at $15,000, excluding land costs, with another $5,000 a year per acre, to keep the vines growing.
The couple turned to Kickstarter, because they have a friend who had success “funding everything.”
The Meadors, both 33, combined their savings with money from relatives last year for their $800,000 purchase of a 23.7-acre one-time vineyard from Leucadia National Corp. Since then, they’ve been busy restoring a house on the property they’ve dubbed Southold Farm & Cellar. They’ve also prepared the vineyard for planting. Prior to the farm’s sale to Leucadia in 2006 the property was known as Charles John Family Vineyard. Leucadia pulled out all the vines on the site on County Road 48 and Horton’s Lane.
Meador, who has no formal wine making training, has taken courses from the University of California-Davis and has been apprenticing as an assistant wine marker with Adam Suprenant at Osprey’s Dominion in Southold. The couple moved to the North Fork from New York City in June 2011. Before turning to wine, Meador was a planner at the New York City advertising agency, Euro RSCG, where he worked on campaigns for Heineken and Dos Equis beers.
He said the couple considered other places to start a vineyard, including Texas’ Hill Country, where he grew up. But moving to the North Fork, where Carey Meador grew up and where her parents still live “made the most sense,” he said.
Meador admits that planting a grape that few have experience with is “a shot in the dark,” but he said he hopes that this will distinguish Southold Farm & Cellar from the dozens of other wine producers in the region. “It’s an intriguing grape,” he said, noting that he’s tasted wines from the Finger Lakes made with Teroldego. For the future, he’s considering plantings of Syrah, Lagrein, Goldmuskateller, Albariño and Marsanne.
Meador’s interest in “weird” grapes isn’t so far fetched. He said growers on Long Island’s East End, particularly Channings Daughters in Bridgehampton, have experimented successfully with a range of grape varieties beyond the region’s workhorses, merlot and chardonnay. He hopes to get young vines from a California nursery into the ground this spring.
In addition to Channing’s plantings of such less popular varieties as Lagrein, Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Malvasia, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Bianco, Blaufrankish Dornfelder, Teroldego and Refosco. Palmer Vineyards in Riverhead has a patch of Albariño grapes, Paumanok VIneyards in Aquebogue has plantings of Chenin Blanc Pugliese Vineyards in Cutchogue grows Sangiovese.
The Meadors plan to take it slowly. Their initial goal is to plant just seven of their 23 acres of grapes and, possibly, later add an orchard with heirloom apples trees to eventually make cider.
Meador said he hopes to brand his business by making wines that offer different tastes and textures from what is typically available on the North Fork. He said he also intends to take some cues from Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery, which has produced an eclectic variety of wines using Long Island grapes.
Ultimately, Meador said, he wants to build his own winery, but the foreseeable future, he said, he’ll contract produce elsewhere. He said he might purchase Cabernet Cranc for a Chinon-style wine and, perhaps, Sauvignon Blanc, next harvest “to get the ball rolling.”