Bonded Together By Love And Wine: Here’s How This Devoted Married Couple For 52 Years, Runs Their Vineyard

Marilyn and Dexter Meadows

When you think of robust and delicious wine bouquets, anyone’s mind will drift to picturing the bellowing hills of the heart of Napa Valley or Sonoma. However, Dexter and Marilyn Meadows have flipped that assumption on its head with their picturesque family-run winery and vineyard, Meadows Estate, in the heart of the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon.

The couple has been married for 52 years, met at Tuskegee University in Alabama while in college, and have been together ever since. Although they had a successful real estate business in the South, they recently decided to embark on a new adventure upon retirement: the wine business, specifically out West, in Oregon. The glaring statistics regarding vineyard ownership and entrepreneurship in the wine industry didn’t deter the Meadows. According to the Association of African American Vintners, Black vintners represent less than 1% of 11,500 wineries. Beyond its charming scenery, Meadows Estate is special to natives and visitors because it’s proudly Black-owned.

“What makes it special is seeing the shock or surprise on the faces of people who find out we own our winery. People make us believe it’s special that we own it, as not many Black people own vineyards and wineries. I realize they’re young people who look up to us,” Marilyn gushed. 

The Meadows’s tenacity and willingness to enter a new and competitive professional arena were partly due to their personalities. Marilyn told me that her husband is dependable, kind, and thoughtful of others’ feelings, while Dexter shared the following about his wife: 

“My wife is just brilliant. She was more intelligent than I was. I had to make sure that I picked somebody that was definitely smarter than me. You need that to ground yourself. We also had the same values regarding what we sought out of life,” he shared with ESSENCE. 

He continued, “We shared traditional Southern values, and part of that was growing up in the same church and having a faith background.” 

That faith led them to Oregon to discover Meadows Estate Vineyard & Winery and their real estate background and penchant for discovering premiere properties. “We weren’t searching for a winery at first, just another property,” said Marilyn. While searching for a commercial building, they came across several issues, a large one being COVID-19. “We were looking for a commercial office building because we had been involved with apartment management for over 30 years and were trying to downsize from being involved with so many people. However, things started to change industry-wise once COVID-19 came around; most people were starting to work from home,” shared Dexter. 

Although it wasn’t the right time to invest in a traditional office building, it was ideal for Dexter to flex his farming and construction expertise. “We always had this aspiration, as my wife said, to buy land because of my background in construction and as a farmer. And I thought, you know, in my retirement years, we might like to do some of that something on a smaller scale, so that’s how we ended up with the vineyard. The idea was to buy maybe a small vineyard and maybe sell the fruit,” he stated. 

Those seeds planted several years ago led to the expansion of their vineyard to be known nationwide and in Oregon. Marilyn attributes their purchase of the land to their destiny. “I think it was our destiny to find this piece of property. The property was and is so beautiful. That’s the first thing we noticed about it. It’s 100 acres also, and the sunsets were gorgeous. I believe it was our destiny to find it because we had no problems with the property. It’s our dream property. ‘I said, Dexter, this is going to be Meadows estate.’” Marilyn reflected. 

The Meadows also are sure to include their two children in their business. “My son lives in Northern California, and our daughter, Angela, lives here with us. She’s very much involved in putting our name out there. She works in the finance business. So she’s very familiar with Los Angeles. She’s been working closely with us, handling the marketing and social media strategy. She’s very hands-on and becoming more familiar with the business,” said Marilyn. 

Similar to their love, their wines – Grenache, Merlot, Syrah, and more (which is delicious, I have to add), are created by the firm foundation of the fruit, which is cultivated with time, precision, and care throughout the years. “What excites me about being in the wine business or making wine is the notion from the vineyard to the bottle. That entire process is what it takes to make excellent wine. You can’t make outstanding wine if you don’t have good fruit,” stated Dexter. 

Dexter has a self-proclaimed old-school thought process when it comes to preserving the commitment to love, which can also apply to wine. “It starts at the very beginning. Once you decide who your mate will be, commit to them, and don’t look back. Sure, there are going to be differences because you’re different people. But whatever that is, you work through it and keep going. But it’s not difficult as long as you’re committed to the same things regarding family values.”

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