EXCERPT: “Behind the Bottle” by Eileen M. Duffy


For the High Summer Issue of Edible East End, Alex Goetzfried visited with Regan Meador of Southold Farm + Cellar to talk about his new wine venture. Meador can be a polarizing character on the East End. He’s got strong opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them in any number of forums. He made a splash with his kickstarter, where his pledge to plant “weird grapes” was perceived by some to be a slap in the face of chardonnay and merlot — which is kind of was, but who cares? Now Meador has a some acres of teroldego, lagrein and goldmuskateller with the help of generous donors. Hopefully it will turn out delicious. And in the end, Meador didn’t shy away from buying some chardonnay (his vines aren’t producing yet; they’re too young) and making weird wine from a very non weird grape, albeit with a rarely used clone. But it’s still a grape that makes some of the highest priced dry white wines in the world. 

I also visited with Meador for a book on Long Island wine that will come out in the spring. For those of you who can’t wait to read just a little bit of it (and God bless you for it) here’s an excerpt from the introduction. Stay tuned for the chapter on Meador.

For this book, I spun off a column in Edible East End, where I have been honored to work since at least 2005, called “Behind the Bottle.” For each article, we would focus on one wine from one producer from a specific vintage year. It allowed us to write more than a review, because it included the inclinations of the winemakers, the vagaries of the growing seasons, and the history of winegrowing on Long Island. When approached by my patient editor, Carlo DeVito, about writing this book, we agreed it was a good format. Before I interviewed the winemakers featured in the following pages, I asked them to choose a wine they’d made that they felt was a milestone either for them or the region. It turned out to be a really good question; their selections told stories beyond the wine. I got history, weather reports, and tales of great accomplishments, serendipity, and friendship.

When interviewing these people, even though I have known many for years, I was impressed by the connectedness and six degrees of separation among all the players. Building a new wine region is a momentous task. There’s so much that you don’t know that you don’t know, but every day you’re still up at the crack of dawn to check if your vines have frozen overnight or if it has gotten hot enough, or cold enough, to stop the fermentation of grapes you’ve been rearing for a year, thus destructing a vintage’s worth of saleable material.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned at Edible, it’s that, more than ever, our readers want to know who is making their wine or food. How good it tastes or how sustainable it is is as important as the stories of the people who make it. We want to know who is tilling the land that produces our asparagus, how they got into the business, and what they’re doing each day. I never knew a farmer until I moved to the East End. Everyone I knew, including my father, brother, and sister and nearly everyone else in my high school, went into finance or worked in an office building. I ended up being the weird one, and I’m not that weird (relatively). Farmers aren’t weirdos, but their lives are so different from what many people in New York’s tri-state area can understand. If that gap of understanding can be somewhat filled by the stories in this book—about shy plant geeks, later-in-life career changers, and just plain pioneers—then we all can be closer to the land and our food and our wine, a beverage that has sustained through the ages and hopefully will outlive soda. Here’s to your health.