Randy Frankel had been a relatively new vineyard owner on the North Fork when he first drove along Mill Lane in Mattituck and was taken by the beauty of the Ruland farm on either side.
In 2017, Frankel purchased Shinn Estate Vineyards on Oregon Road in Mattituck and in 2019 was a partner in the purchase of Croteaux Vineyards in Southold. He has emerged as an ardent supporter of the North Fork’s wine industry, even as he manages his other business interests, which include a minority stake in the Tampa Bay Rays baseball franchise.
In his trips to and from the former Shinn property — now called Rose Hill Vineyards — he passed the Ruland farm and fell in love with it.
“I’ve admired it hundreds of times,” he said in an interview. “It’s a very special piece of property in so many ways — its beauty, the way it rises up to a higher elevation from north to south, and of course the history of the family.”
Earlier this month, Frankel closed on the Ruland property, adding another piece of historic North Fork farmland to his portfolio. The farm was offered in three parcels totaling 66 acres, which include land on the east and west sides of Mill Lane, a house on Main Road and barns, at $3.2 million.
“When I got to walk the farm I could see it was more special than I imagined,” he said. “I met [Linda] Ruland and her son Peter and spent some time with them talking about the farm. They were wonderful. With them I got a good feel for the land, the house, the history and the family.
“This is the best hand-off of this property we could all imagine,” he added. “I want to keep saying it: It’s a very special place.”
Recently, crews began restoration work on the old house on Main Road, where, if the walls and old beams in the attic could talk, they would tell a story of the Wines family, whose members settled on the land in 1736. A member of the Wines family later married into the Ruland family, which called it home ever since.
William Ruland, hailed as an exemplary public servant for his work on the Mattituck-Cutchogue school board and the Southold Town Board, died last November at the age of 72. At that time, Linda Ruland said putting the land up for sale was bittersweet.
“Bill and I always talked about it, that if he ever went first he knew I could not keep the farm up,” she said. “We couldn’t keep farming.”
Speaking from his home in Miami, Fla., Frankel said the goals for the farm are simple. “It will become the most beautiful vineyard anywhere on the North Fork,” he said.
“Right now I am actually starting to work on the house,” he said. “Peter was saying he thinks the front half dates to about 1716. It will look like a shiny new penny when we are done, without messing with the history of it. We will put on a new roof but help make it look like it did hundreds of years ago. We have no I intention of changing anything other than maybe some new windows.
“I want to keep the origins of the house intact — it will look very special,” he added.
As for the land, where amateur archaeologists have found scores of buttons from the uniforms of British soldiers who occupied the area during the Revolutionary War, Frankel has specific goals.
“It won’t be potatoes or sod or winter wheat,” he said. “It will be a spectacular vineyard. I have already bought root stocks from northern California and we will plant in April of next year. So when you drive down Mill Lane, north or south, you will see the vines, on both sides of the road.”
He said he is thinking of eight different varietals, including sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc and merlot. So far, he said, the working name for the new vineyard is Vines on Mill.
Most of all, it was the land that caught his eye.
“It sets up great for growing vines because you don’t realize it how high the land rises,” he added. “The air flow will be better, the sunlight will be better. It could be the best place to grow vines on the entire North Fork.”