There’s a vineyard on the Island that not many people know about. I’m not going to reveal its location. The owners, Robert and Elise, value their privacy. They bottle just enough Cabernet Sauvignon for themselves and a few friends.

One of those friends was going to visit them not long ago and he invited me to come along. Sam drove as though he was being pursued by angry hornets. After turning off the paved road, we tore down a dirt road that twisted and forked and grew more bumpy and narrower as it pushed into territory that looked wild and forgotten. Gnarly woodlots, tumble-down stone walls, fields grown up in Russian olive and bittersweet and bullbrier. We bounced past posted warnings and a few small wooden signs marking private lanes that led to houses hidden deeply away. The familiar, well-tended Martha’s Vineyard had disappeared in the rearview mirror.

In one stretch, the land opened up a little and the road was lined by perfect, curving stone walls — level, intricate, every stone tightly fitted.

“Robert and his son made those walls,” Sam said. “You won’t believe it when you see Robert. He’s seventy-something and thin as a teenager.”

The road led down, down, down, and finally ended at a plank bridge. Beneath the bridge a brook ran clear and cold over a bed of sand and dark rocks. A fearless little trout hung in the current, darting from side to side to pick off passing insects. Downstream, the water gurgled and splashed in a series of small, mossy cascades.

The planks clattered as we drove across and entered a clearing. Here the grass was bright green, dotted with yellow daffodils, and the weathered house had porches, bays, unusual angles in the façade and roof, a turret and even a little spire. An osprey rose shrieking from a nest — it looked like a big brush pile atop a high pole — only a few yards from the driveway.

This place had once been a grist mill, Sam told me, and several layers of history were evident: the old mill run, the stone foundation of the wheelhouse, a few rusting gears, three boats up on stands, remnants of a dam, outbuildings, four or five trucks, a yellow backhoe, the deer fence that enclosed the half-acre vineyard. A black and white hound, Louie, ambled up to say hello.

Elise welcomed us and saw us into the house. She was dressed in black — black leggings, black top, black fleece vest — and she wears her graying hair in the style of a classic folksinger. Her eyes are dark, keen, expressive. At first glance you’d guess that she was an artist, and you’d be right. She has an architecture degree and has worked with many clients, both owners and builders, providing them with working drawings that are models of precision and elegance. They are produced the old way, by hand.

The kitchen smelled of woodsmoke and the Cornish hen that Elise was roasting for dinner. Robert was washing up at the sink. He’d just come in from stoking the burner, a separate shed where he keeps a fire going all winter. Hot water is piped into the house to run the furnace and hot water heater. Tall and lean, he wears glasses with clear plastic rims and sweeps his thinning white hair back over his ears. Sam was right: he looks more like a professor than a stone mason. His jeans and shirt were neat and pressed, and Sam kidded him about the shirt, a light blue Oxford with the Polo logo.

Robert grinned: “Elise got this for a dollar at the thrift store.”

They’ve been living on this 10-acre property since 1977. As I heard their story, I thought of them as representatives of the back-to-the-earth movement of those years, though the catch-all term doesn’t reflect the deeper aims of the movement. Most of the young people branded as back-to-the-earthers wanted to do more than raise chickens and stalk the wild asparagus, and I speak as one who spent several summers building a log cabin and a stone chimney in a remote corner of Virginia. What drove me was an urge to get away from the materialistic culture of the cities and suburbs — from traffic jams, regimentation, nine-to-five routines, relentless getting and spending, the groupthink and the pressure to consume and conform. I wanted to set the terms of my own life. In a word, what I sought was sovereignty.

In any case, I was full of respect as I listened to Robert and Elise. To stick to principles and build their kind of life requires great dedication and tenacity. My own experiment had lasted only a few years. Robert and Elise had arrived at the Vineyard when it was still (barely) possible to scrimp and save and acquire a beautiful parcel of land. They designed and built their own home, modeled on a historic Chilmark house and constructed in stages. As a wedding present, their friends in the building trades gave them a framing party, and in two days they framed up the original section, floor joists to rafters. In that house Robert and Elise had raised three children. They lived frugally, developed their talents, worked steadily for architects and builders, and managed to help out their children with investments in other properties. They did it all their own way.

And they still had enough curiosity and vitality to create a small vineyard. Before jumping in, Robert did the research, visiting vineyards in the Finger Lakes and on Long Island, where climate conditions are close to those of the Island. The expert whom he brought to the property encouraged him, and recommended a cultivar of Cabernet Sauvignon. The site had sandy soil and a southwest slope. It was also rocky as hell. With a backhoe, Robert dug six-foot trenches so the vines could establish deep roots. Family and friends helped them plant a thousand vines on a quarter of an acre, and they’re now mature, neatly staked and trellised.

The wine-making itself takes place in an outbuilding, where gleaming vats, made in Italy, are used for the pressing and fermenting. Sam isn’t the only one who’s urged them to consider a larger commercial operation. For now, though, Robert and Elise are content to keep the scale small enough so that they can manage everything themselves.

Back in the house, Elise offered me a glass of the Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m no connoisseur, but it tasted delectable to me, fresh and earthy. I was much honored when they sent me home with a bottle.

Now, a few weeks later, I remember that visit as if I somehow slipped through a portal into a part of the Island operating in a different reality. The place was so removed from the rest of the world, its peace broken only by the cries of the osprey and the music of the brook. When I start to wonder if I’ve imagined the whole thing, I am reassured like the boy in the fairy tale — I still have a green bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s no label, of course, but I know where it came from. Believe me, there really is a vineyard at the end of the road.

Stephen Goodwin lives in Vineyard Haven.