By now you’ve probably heard that Regan and Carey Meador, owners of Southold Farm + Cellars, have decided to put their home and vineyard on the market and move their winery operation — and young family — to Texas Hill Country.
I could make this column about the myriad feelings that I — and other local wine lovers like me — feel about the whole situation. There’s confusion over how a town that purports to support small business wasn’t better able to work with the Meadors. There’s anger that the transgressions of other, completely different winery operations were used against the Meadors in their fight. And there’s sadness that the local wine industry is about to lose one of the few new winemakers able to inject some new ideas and energy into the region in recent years.
Instead, I’d like to write about the excitement I feel about what comes next for Regan and Carey.
If New Yorkers don’t know a lot about New York wine, they know even less about the Texas wine industry, so you may be asking yourself, “Why would they start a winery in Texas?”
“Ultimately it goes back to connection with the land,” Regan told me as we tasted through some East Coast rosés a couple weeks ago. “Texas is where I grew up. Carey grew up here. I think there is something to be said about really understanding the cycles of a place at an innate level.”
It’s not just about feeling that connection, though. Texas wine is on the rise, and much as he tried to do here, Regan is looking forward to finding his place there.
“It is such a vibrant, growing industry and there is still so much to explore there,” he said. “Between the Balcones Fault, Llano Uplift and Llano Estacado, you have so many microclimates, elevations and varying soil compositions ranging from limestone to granite to sandstone, gneiss, schist and sand.”
Here, the Meadors are growing (they still plan to make wine from their North Fork-grown fruit this fall) grapes popular in cooler parts of Europe — grapes like teroldego, syrah, lagrein and goldmuskateller. In Texas, where the growing season and conditions are far different, Meador plans to focus on high-acid, hot-weather varieties prominent in Southern Italy and Spain, like aglianico, negroamaro, Greco and graciano.
“What’s even more exciting is that many growers out there are already driving this experimentation, so we won’t be out on the edge by ourselves,” he said.
I asked Regan why he and Carey plan to keep the name Southold Farm + Cellar even once they leave Southold. He told me, “This is who we are. All that changes are the varieties that we work with. The style and approach in the vineyard and cellar do not change one bit.”
That means we’ll still see pet-nats and sparkling reds and carbonic maceration — just with different grapes grown in a completely different place. “Nothing changes about our style or approach in the cellar. Much of this is just driven by what we like to drink ourselves, so expect plenty of fun and, most importantly, delicious things,” he said.
The Meadors aren’t sure when they’ll actually be able to move, but they are ready for the next chapter — one Regan thinks they can start writing quickly upon arrival.
“Luckily, where we’re going doesn’t have the layers of bureaucracy and politics in the way of getting up and running, so we should be able to do so fairly quickly. The plan is to operate exactly how we’ve already set out, with complete focus on the wine. We already have numerous locations to plant vineyards; the next step is setting up a small shop to retail the wine (no buses or limos!) and a production facility, in addition to a place for our family to live.”
It would understandable for the Meadors to be bitter about the way their time on Long Island is coming to an end, but Regan is pragmatic about it.
“We won’t miss a single thing about the wine industry,” he said. “That said, we will miss plenty of individuals within the industry whom we’ve relied on heavily for help and guidance on so many different aspects of wine growing and who have become friends; we would not be where we are today if it weren’t for them. The ecosystem that exists here with other artisans and farmers will be something that we will miss very much and hope to be a part of and help foster when we land in Texas.”
Regan, Carey, Coralai and Sawyer: You’ll be missed, but I am sure that I speak for a great many people when I say we’re looking forward to what comes next for you. Good luck.