Southold Farm+Cellar, an upstart winery, is producing distinctive wines made from familiar grapes.
By Alan J. Wax
A little more than a year ago, the owners of a Southold, Long Island, vineyard were seeking crowd-sourced funds to plant 9 acres of what they described as “weird” grapes. Now, they’ve not only planted their grapes but they’re selling their first vintage, albeit made with purchased grapes.
The owners of Southold Farm + Cellar, Regan and Carey Meador, raised almost $25,000 through a campaign on Kickstarter.com to plant what Regan Meador called “weird grapes.” This spring, they planted 9 acres of grapes – Teroldego, Lagrein, Goldmuskateller and the not-so-weird syrah— and now they’re are selling four wines from their hard-to-find, small, gut-renovated-barn-cum-tasting room on a rural North Fork lane.
The Meadors’ hope was to bring diversity to the Long Island wine market by planting grapes such as Teroldego, a red Italian variety grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Süditrol, Italy.
The Meadors, now 34, combined their savings with money from relatives two years ago to buy the 23.7-acre former Charles John Family Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork from Leucadia National Corp., which had pulled out all the vines.
Now, with fund raising behind him, vines planted and wine made and on sale, Regan Meador says he feels an air of excitement. “It’s so nice to actually sell something now. It was so esoteric and theoretical. Now I can put stuff in front of you.”
And what he’s putting out!
Southold Farm+Cellar’s wines stylistically stand out in the increasingly crowded Long Island market dominated by merlot and chardonnay.
The wines, except for one, are made from grapes purchased from area growers, including Rex Farr, who owns a certified organic vineyard, and the pioneering Mudd Vineyards. Meador made the wine at the Raphael winery in Peconic.
Meador, who has no formal wine making training, but has taken courses from the University of California-Davis and has apprenticed as at Osprey’s Dominion in Southold, was a planner at a New York City advertising agency before turning to oenology.
Greg Gove at the now-closed Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue made Southold’s La Belle Fille Brut Nature 2009, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sparkler. “It was a forgotten step child. It never saw the light of day,” he said, explaining that he bought the entire 100-case stock, disgorged the wines but did not add a dosage, and then slapped on his own label. The wine, it’s French name translates to “The Step Daughter,” sells for $36. It offers a nose of pears. It’s rich and fruity with a dry finish. “I wanted to give people the same experience I had in in stumbling upon it,” Meador said.
Devil’s Advocate, a Chardonnay made from the 40-year old Mustique clone vines at Mudd Vineyards in Southold, is not a typical chardonnay. Though not a fan of Chardonnay, Meador said he felt compelled to offer one, albeit made his way. He barrel fermented the wine in large, 228-gallon wooden casks, leaving the wine on its skins for seven days. This wine fermented on wild yeast for over four months, going through secondary on its own. A bit of sulfur was added at the end. It’s full-bodied with tropical fruit and spice notes reminiscent of Gewürztraminer. It sells for $26 a bottle; 190 cases were made.
Cast Your Fate to Wind, Southold’s cabernet franc, also is a departure from the North Fork’s traditional handling of the grape. It was made in a Chinon/Loire style, using whole clusters of grapes that were, in part, foot-stomped and aged in large casks. The organic fruit came from Rex Farr in Calverton. Dark, but light in body, it’s earthy, spicy and full of cigar box character. Meador produced 119 cases; it sells for $32 a bottle.
Damn the Torpedoes a crown cap finished, wild-fermented sparkling red wine in the Lambrusco style made from a Merlot-predominant blend that also includes Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. It offers up noted of dried fruit, and plums. A light summer red, it sells for $28; 148 cases were produced.
The wines already are attracting attention. In just a short time, Meador’s made his first sale to a restaurant— Damn the Torpedoes, Cast Your Fate to The Wind and The Devil’s Advocate are now available at The North Fork Table and Inn in Southold. He’s also selling wine online, and, relying strictly on social media, he attracted 60 visitors on his opening weekend.
And while that last number may seem small, Meador is unperturbed. “I don’t need a big cavalcade of people coming in the door. I want people excited about wine.”