Paumanok Vineyards Long Island North Fork
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Paumanok Vineyards Long Island North Fork

Kareem Massoud, winemaker of Paumanok Vineyards on Long Island, is one of five family members working on the 103 acre North Fork estate. Parents Ursula and Charles Massoud combine German and Lebanese heritages, and all involved keep to standards the family itself describes as “Old World.” “We deal with what is essentially a cool climate here,” Kareem explains. “We make up for it through some careful viticulture, particularly leaf-thinning to allow better sun exposure to the grapes.” Kareem is an earnest young man who lights up when he talks wine. In addition to the wine and his excellent play-by-play description, he gave me and my companion, local wine fancier Pam Hunt, plenty of time on a busy tourist Saturday (which happened to be the first truly nice day of the 2009 spring).

Paumanok, producing since 1983, concentrates on Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, favoring dense planting of 1100 vines per acre and looking for yields of about two to two and a half tons per acre. The winery uses estate-grown fruit only. Paumanok is the original native American name for Long Island, popularized by poet Walt Whitman.

The 2007 Paumanok Chenin Blanc, $28, is a blend of two separately fermented lots. As to American Chenin Blanc, the first thing I remark on is its very existence; I find this Loire varietal ever a treat. The wine has a stimulating nose of pear, grapefruit and white flowers. The medium-bodied wine is dry with mid-level acidity and palate notes of peach, pear, and lemon pie; the finish is clean with a touch of fruity tang. I also tasted a not-yet-available 2008 Chenin Blanc, finding it somewhat more closed than the 2007; this wine had a mineral tinge, firm acidity, with pear and citrus, peach and some tropical pineapple, the finish similar to that of the 2007.

The 2007 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc, $28, is the result of a long hot summer, resulting in a wine that shows more fruit than the herbaceous and grassy notes common in this varietal. As can be expected as a result of the heat, alcohol is on the high side at 13.9%. The keynote of this wine on both nose and palate is warm citrus. This wine reflects a ripe style rather than the in your face sassiness you might expect from this varietal in this climate. The wine finishes dry with a mineral tinge.

The 2007 Paumanok Dry Riesling, $22, shows good ripeness because of the warm summer. The grapes were machine harvested, sent directly to the press without initial crushing, then chill fermented entirely in stainless steel. The result is a delightfully crisp Riesling with lime, stone fruit, and white flowers on the nose, lime, green apple, pear and a touch of minerality on the palate. The finish is tangy dry. The not yet available 2008 version brings more mineral and a greater degree of lime to the nose.

The not yet available 2008 Paumanok Semi-Dry Riesling is an extremely enjoyable wine, sporting 25 grams of sugar per liter beautifully balanced by a hefty nine grams of acid. Aromatic notes are similar to those of the dry Rieslings: lime in the background, white flowers, stone fruit. This one has good body and a fine mouthfeel. The finish is characterized by that irrepressible acidity.

The 2007 Paumanok Barrel Fermented Chardonnay is $19. Out of the 44 barrels used for the final blend, two are fermented with ambient naturally occurring yeast. The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation and several months of patient lees stirring. The nose is superb: pastry crust, butter, caramelized apple, with pear, poached pear, melon, toast and sweet oak on the palate. The clean finish melds good sweet oak with some crisp fruit.

The 2006 Paumanok Cabernet Franc, $22, asks the assistance of 20% Merlot in the blend. This is a good fruity wine without the vegetal notes one often finds in this varietal. Black cherry, nutmeg and clove characterize the nose, The dry medium bodied wine shows acidity and tannins that work to provide a backbone yet, in both cases, are soft in the final analysis. The palate is ripe red fruit and spice, the finish dry.

Paumanok does not produce its $40 Assemblage every year; the 2005 is 44% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 22% Petit Verdot. The idea is for the Assemblage to be, according to Kareem, “the best expression of the vintage.” This wine sees 14 months of oak. The wine is a deep yet clear ruby, with aromatic notes of cassis, black cherry, licorice, and nutmeg. I give this wine mid-level acidity, medium plus body, with a palate characterized by a blend of red fruit combined with light spice. Tannins are firm and the finish is mainstream dry.


Verdict: European style wine from New York soil.


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Long Island's North Fork continues to produce impressive artisanal wines.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


Paumanok Vineyards in Long Island's North Fork.

Paumanok's Massoud famly in their vineyard.

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