Shinn Estate Vineyards, whose founders pioneered the art of pairing homemade, sustainably grown wines with local food at their four-bedroom vineyard inn, has been sold to a New Jersey financier and his wife for an undisclosed amount.
The Mattituck property, which had not been listed for sale, was purchased by Randy and Barbara Frankel, according to a Shinn email. Randy Frankel is a former Goldman Sachs partner who graduated from Hofstra University in 1979, according to an online biography. They have a home in Long Beach, New Jersey, where calls were not answered.
David Page, founder and former owner with his wife, Barbara Shinn, said a sale had “not been part of the plan,” but an unexpected offer changed that. “It came as a surprise to us someone would walk through the door and make us an offer,” he said. He declined to discuss terms of the sale or the new owners.
The new owners are “certain to bring new energy and passion to the Estate,” the former owners wrote in the email. “We will advise and consult the new owners for the foreseeable future.”
Syma Joffe Gerard, an Eastport real estate broker who has dealt in farmland and vineyard properties for decades, said the sale of Shinn Estate marks a bright spot for a market that has slowed considerably in the past decade. Large properties like a Palmer Vineyard parcel in Cutchogue have been on the market for years, even as its price has been reduced. Two other vineyard properties recently sold, she said, in a way that marked the presence of vines as a negative.
“The people who are buying vineyards are not doing it to run a business,” she said. “They’re buying it to play with it.”
Shinn and Page had owned the former Tuthill family farm on Oregon Road in Mattituck since 1998. After planting the first grapes and preparing the vineyard themselves, they produced their first vintage in 2002 — just 450 cases. Last year they produced 6,000, using a long list of varietals.
Twenty acres of the property are planted. The first four vintages were produced off the farm, including at Lenz Winery in Peconic and Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack, but the last dozen have all been made on Shinn property, Page said.
He and Shinn recently completed a second home in Southold where they now live, he said. They will also begin work on a “permaculture” (sustainable agriculture) project on their 15-acre farm near Freeport, Maine.
Page said he and Shinn will continue to advise the new owners but don’t plan to work in the retail food and wine business. Both are restaurateurs from the Midwest who worked in California before coming to New York. Shinn and Page started visiting Long Island’s burgeoning wine region 27 years ago, he said.
“We wanted to see what the wine industry was up to here on the North Fork,” he said. “We opened restaurants in Manhattan and served local wines exclusively. We wound up in Mattituck more and more often.”
They bought the 22.5-acre property and developed the vineyard while simultaneously running their Manhattan businesses.
“We just wanted to make it work,” he said. “We first thought when we purchased the land, we’d only grow and sell grapes and not make wine. We learned pretty quickly the economics of that were not very good.”
Shinn Estate Vineyards was among the first on Long Island to use certified sustainable farming techniques, eschewing chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, among other industrial farming techniques.
“We’ve never really thought about the grape varieties themselves being the most important aspect of making wine,” Page said. “It’s how you take care of the earth that matters. The goal is to have wines that taste like the place where the grapes are grown.”
It was the first Long Island vineyard to install a wind turbine, after considerable pushback from local officials.
“There was no code for wind energy on the North Fork in Southold,” he said. “We worked on that. It’s still tough.”
Today, with solar panels, it produces all the electricity it uses, and then some.
Asked if he’d miss the vineyard experience, Page paused.
“No, but I say that in a very positive way,” he said. “Certain things I will remember extremely fondly about that part of our lives. It was a very beautiful part of our lives . . . It was quite an adventure for 18 years. We’re delighted to have been through it, and we’re excited about the next part of our lives.”