David Mudd, a pioneering East End grape grower who counseled many vintners over the years and tirelessly promoted the Long Island wine industry, has died. He was 90.
Mudd, who died at his Southold home on Friday evening, had been ill recently.
Mudd began making a name for himself and the Long Island wine industry in 1974, shortly after he retired as a pilot for Eastern Air Lines. It was one year after Louisa and Alex Hargrave had planted Long Island’s first modern commercial vineyard that Mudd, who raised hay, planted his own acre of grape vines with encouragement from the Hargraves.
Today, , the business started by Mudd 37 years ago and now run by his son, Steven, is one of the leading vineyard management and services companies on the East End. Mudd has since been involved in planting more than 1,500 acres of vineyards on Long Island, including and what now is The business continues to manage numerous farms and sells grapes grown on its own acreage.
Mudd, however, never opened a winery. He once told an interviewer, “Wine-making is laboratory work and that's not for me.' One winery, in Bridgehampton, produces a Mudd Vineyard designated red blend and a sauvignon blanc.
Often outspoken, Mudd generated controversy but proved prescient, when, as president of the Long Island Grape Growers Association in 1984, he forecast sharp growth for the Long Island wine industry. ''This place is going to go bonkers,'' he told the New York Times.
“He was a tireless promoter and believed in the region,” said winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich, whom Mudd hired in 1981 to help with vineyard installations and other vineyard work. “Without his leadership very few of us would be here today.”
Mudd also worked hard to obtain funding for Long Island grape research. "All of the grape things are secondary to potatoes, cauliflower and nursery stock and whatever else they have down there," he once complained, noting that grape research was geared more toward the Finger Lakes region. "We always had the tail end of what was left," he said.
Few details about Mudd’s life prior to farming were immediately available, nor was a cause of death or names of survivors.
In 1961, then 41, Mudd was co-pilot of an Eastern Air Lines cargo plane that burst into flames as it prepared to take off from what is now Kennedy International Airport. He was hospitalized after the crash of the propeller-driven Super Constellation.
"Dave was in many ways the one of the most influential individuals in establishing commercial vineyards on the North Fork," said William Sanok, retired program director at , Riverhead. "Dave encouraged young people to get involved in this fledgling industry including Larry Perrine and Rich Olsen-Harbich." He was also on a number of committees and work groups to foster applied research at the Cornell's Long Island Horticulture Research and Extension Center on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.
Visiting hours will be held at in Mattituck on Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. and Thursday from 1-3 p.m., followed by a funeral service. Interment will be at
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978.