An aerial view of the Main Road property. (Photo credit: Thomas J. McCarthy Estate)
Randy Frankel was a relatively new vineyard owner in North Fork when he first drove down Mill Lane in Mattituck and was fascinated by the beauty of the Ruland farm on either side.
In 2017 Frankel bought Shinn Estate Vineyards on Oregon Road in Mattituck and was a partner in the purchase of Croteaux Vineyards in Southold in 2019. He has emerged as an ardent supporter of the North Fork wine industry, including as he manages his other business interests, which include a minority stake in the Tampa Bay Rays baseball franchise.
On his travels to and from the former Shinn Estate – now called Rose Hill Vineyards – he passed Ruland Farm and fell in love with it.
“I’ve admired it hundreds of times,” he said in an interview. “It is a very special property in many ways – its beauty, the altitude from north to south and of course the history of the family.”
Earlier this month, Frankel closed the Ruland property and added another piece of historic North Fork farmland to his portfolio. The farm was offered in three lots totaling 66 acres, including land on the east and west sides of Mill Lane, a home on Main Road and barns, for $ 3.2 million.
“When I was walking the farm, I could see that 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. You were wonderful. With them I got a good feeling for the country, the house, the history and the family.
“This is the best handover of this property that we can all imagine,” he added. “I want to say it again and again: It is a very special place.”
Recently the crews began restoration work on the old house on Main Road, where if the walls and old beams in the attic could speak, they would tell the story of the Wines family, whose members settled in the country in 1736 and married the Wines family later joined the Ruland family, which they have called home ever since.
The property, including the farmhouse on Main Road, was first brought to market this winter. (Image credit: Steve Wick)
Hailed as an exemplary civil servant for his work on the Mattituck Cutchogue School Committee and Southold Town Board, William Ruland died last November at the age of 72. At the time, Linda Ruland said putting the land up for sale was bittersweet.
“Bill and I always talked about how he knew I couldn’t keep the farm going if he was ever the first to go,” she said. “We couldn’t continue farming.”
From his home in Miami, Florida, Frankel said the goals for the farm are simple. “It will be the nicest vineyard on the North Fork,” he said.
“Right now I’m actually starting to work on the house,” he said. “Peter said he thinks the front half is from 1716. It’ll look like a shiny new penny if we’re done without messing with the story. We’re going to put on a new roof but help make it look like it was hundreds of years ago. We have no intention of changing anything other than maybe a few new windows.
“I want to keep the origins of the house intact – it will look very special,” he added.
As for the country, where amateur archaeologists found dozens of buttons from the uniforms of British soldiers who occupied the area during the War of Independence, Frankel has specific goals.
“It won’t be potatoes, sward, or winter wheat,” he said. “It will be a spectacular vineyard. I have already bought root stocks from Northern California and we will be planting next April. So if you drive north or south down Mill Lane you will see the vines on either side of the road. “
He says he’s thinking of eight different grape varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. So far, the working name for the new vineyard is Vines on Mill.
Above all, it was the country that caught his eye.
“It’s great for growing grapes because you don’t realize how high the land is rising,” he added. “The airflow gets better, the sunlight gets better. It could be the best place to grow vines across the North Fork. “