One of the East End's newest vineyards has closed its tasting-room barn and is considering pulling up roots entirely after being told wine sales and tastings were not permitted on its property.
Southold Farm + Cellar, owned by Regan Meador and his wife, Carey Meador, opened in 2013 with an ambitious plan to bring exotic wines and a down-home flair to Long Island's bustling wine region.
Regan Meador said complications from his plan to build a production barn beside an existing tasting room prompted his decision.
Losing sales now could devastate his business, he said.
"I feel like we've had the rug pulled out from under us right in the middle of the season," he said. Meador, whose wife and two children live in a house on the vineyard property, said Southold told him wine sales and tastings weren't permitted at the barn and he faced fines if sales continued.
Meanwhile, his hope of building a second barn to produce his own wine has been blocked by the same process.
And while he said he was still "hoping we can bring the town around to our thinking," Meador also noted, "We're not sitting on a big budget for legal battles."
Michael Verity, chief building inspector in Southold, said the action was taken because the Meador property lacked permits and a certificate of occupancy for the wine barn.
The property has an open farm stand permit "but there are no COs or operating permits or approvals for any tasting on that property," he said.
Action against Southold Farm + Cellar was based on "numerous complaints," but Verity declined to discuss them. Verity stressed that the town wasn't singling out wineries for code enforcement.
When "we get a complaint we have to act on it," Verity said.
Vicki Toth, director of Southold's zoning board of appeals, said she could not comment on specifics of the case.
She acknowledged that Southold Farm was "before the zoning board for a variance requesting to open a winery building and a tasting room."
She also noted the original building permits for those projects had an initial "notice of disapproval."Meador said he is to go before the zoning board of appeals in early August.
Meanwhile, closure of the Meadors' tasting room would mean a loss of revenue at a time when most wineries are seeing their busiest seasons.
"I'm really nervous about losing this month," he said. The company does sell some wine through outside distributors, but he gets higher-profit sales from his barn, where a glass of wine sells for $15.
"I don't know how we could keep going if we couldn't do this," Meador said.
"It fundamentally would change how we'd have to make a living. It might be impossible."
He said he worried that some neighbors may have complained because of concerns his tasting room would expand beyond the existing barn. He said he has always intended to keep the operation small. "We don't view this as any different from a farm stand," he said.
"We're not trying to sell an experience. We're trying to sell a bottle of wine. We've never had live music here."
Verity said having a farm-stand permit would not allow for wine tastings, but declined to say whether a holder could sell wine.
The Meadors bought the 22-acre property in 2012 from Leucadia National Corp., which pulled up stakes shortly after buying nearly 60 acres in Southold in 2005. Meador hopes he won't be doing the same.
"This place is a dream," he said. "I can't imagine having to move on from it. [But] if we have to sell it, we have to sell it."