Carey and Regan Meador are devoted to making authentic North Fork wines — wines that are so site driven, made from such a diverse combination of grape varieties, that they can only be replicated here.
But the couple didn’t begin their careers as East End vintners. When they met in Manhattan and married, both worked there in advertising. Although these were coveted jobs, they became disillusioned. At the end of the day, they’d ask each other, “What did you do today?”
“I wrote emails,” said Carey.
“I did a PowerPoint,” said Regan.
And they began to rethink their lives. Creating ideas was not enough. They wanted their ideas to become more tangible.
Regan had grown up on a fourth generation Texas ranch. But he’d left the farm to work in finance. Then, feeling the constraints of a cubicle, he parlayed his skills in web design into a job with the British band Duran Duran, which led him to New York and other, more corporate design work.
Carey was raised on the North Fork, but, like most of her friends, she left after school for the larger job market in the city.
When Carey and Regan began to consider alternatives to their urban lives, they weren’t sure what they might do. One day in 2011, during a visit to Carey’s parents on the North Fork, a small notice placed by Osprey’s Dominion’s winemaker, Adam Suprenant, in The Suffolk Times caught their attention: “Looking for assistant winemaker with little or no experience.”
This opened a new door. Regan explains, “We had no idea if I’d be good at winemaking, but here was a way to find out.”
The couple didn’t have to cut their ties to the city; Carey could keep working there while Regan stayed with Carey’s family in Southold and worked the harvest.
After a season with Suprenant, Regan interned with Eric Fry at the Lenz Winery. “I learned everything I know from those two,” he says, “and that has made it possible to step away. I didn’t have the baggage of a degree [in oenology] … Working with those guys has made me confident.”
Once Regan had some hands-on winemaking under his belt, it was time to figure out a way to make a life of it. He and Carey didn’t just want to make wine for someone else; they wanted to do it all, to start a family and follow their own creative urges.
They wanted to plant and prune and stomp grapes, to ferment varied and new styles of wines.
In 2012, with the help of family, they were able to buy a fallow 23-acre farm with open horizons and a tumble-down house that Carey’s father, Steve O’Connor, helped renovate.
They made their first wines from fruit grown by Rex Farr on Long Island’s only certified organic vineyard, while they turned to the Internet to fund their initial planting. In an appeal worthy of this former rock-star video-maker, Regan strides across his wildflower-thick acres, with wit and a little sweat, making a plea that netted the new “Southold Farm + Cellar” $24,906 from 168 backers — enough to begin planting nine acres of “weird” (read: “not chardonnay or merlot”) varieties like terolegdo, syrah, lagrein and goldmuskateller.
Next year, they hope to plant seven more acres, this time mixing diverse varieties as field blends.
The Meadors aren’t looking to create a corporate brand. All their wines have different names and labels (Damn the Torpedoes, Devil’s Advocate and Cast Your Fate to the Wind).
They see their own generation as being “post brand,” constantly seeking the next interesting flavor, whether in craft beers, cocktails or wines. Regan says,
“We are constantly having to make sure we’re making good stuff. It’s important to do what you find true. We want to do everything wild.”
Carey adds, “It must be authentic. We want to be transparent in our winemaking.”
As the Meadors submit plans for a wine cellar to the town, their current vintage bubbles away at Raphael’s cellars in Southold. They have made friends with other young people who are also growing crops, raising animals.
“It’s a new community,” says Carey.
Carey and Regan “think about how you can add to the place you come to.”
They want to “get past New York’s borders” with distribution via selective agents who will sell to top restaurants’ wine-by-the-glass programs.
Proud to represent their region, Regan says, “This area deserves more recognition. It can be world, world, world-class!”
Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.