The North Fork of Long Island leaves a lot to be desired. There, I said it. Yes, it’s beautiful and yes, you can eat some really damn good corn, but when it comes to wine, the place has got a long way to go. And this isn’t entirely the region’s fault. Compared with the rest of the world, the North Fork is relatively young and still trying to find its footing in the wine world. Couple that with the fact that the region turns into a rich people’s playground come Saturday and Sunday and you’ve got yourself a certified shit show. Now I can deal with a shit show to a certain extent, and I can deal with bad wine if the situation is dire– but I definitely can NOT deal with a shit show and bad wine simultaneously. Thankfully, there’s a light at the end of New York’s mansion-studded, vineyard covered tunnel.
Founded in the early 1980s, Paumanok Vineyards has remained in the Massoud family hands for over three decades. Ursula and Charles Massoud, original proprietors of the estate, come from Kuwait; despite the fact that alcohol was technically illegal, underground consumption was huge. Though as the North Forker reports, most underground consumption consisted of hard spirits, making wine a relatively rare commodity to be found. Charles always had a dream in his heart to pursue his love of wine; one day, after the family’s big move to Connecticut, he saw an ad for the up and coming winemaking scene out on Long Island. He knew this was an opportunity not to be missed.
Fast forward thirty years later, and the entire family plays a role in Paumanok’s 100+ acre estate; the three sons, Kareem (winemaker), Salim (logistics manager), and Nabeel (vineyard manager), always wanted to take part in the project. The winery uses only estate fruit, consisting of Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.
I ventured out to Paumanok a couple weeks back with a few of my cousins for a birthday celebration (yes, we were that group celebrating a 21st birthday, and no, there were no limos, crowns, or tiaras involved.) Upon my first sip of our tasting flight, I was immediately reminded of why I loved the family’s wines so much. Their current release Dry Rosé is crisp and thirst-quenching, and I’m sure the fact that it’s a Cabernet Franc dominant assemblage made my heart skip the extra beat that it did. Oh, and it’s also available in kegs, so on premise accounts and environmentally friendly consumers, this one’s for you.
The Unoaked Chardonnay was probably the biggest surprise of the day. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the wine remains extremely clean and mineral driven, with notes of green apple and zesty salinity. This was a favorite amongst our group; in fact, this was the first bottle that we agreed to drink on the outdoor patio, leisurely sipping beneath the hot sun.
As always, the winner of the day remained the Chenin Blanc. Juicy, mouthwatering, and full of bright stone fruit flavors, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the wine all over again. Slow, cold fermentation in steel tanks preserves the fresh, thirst-quenching flavors we all crave on those hot, summer afternoons. For me, this bottle alone holds the standard to which other wineries in the region should seek to be at.
For serious wine drinkers headed out east, make sure Paumanok is the first stop on your list. And when you do, make sure to bring me back a bottle of Chenin upon your return.
2 thoughts on “A Diamond in the Rough on Long Island’s North Fork”
I love Paumanok! I bet you that I can serve you a minimum of twenty Long Island wines from at least 10 East End vineyards that would blow your mind away. Take me up on it. I was one of first restaurants to have over 25 varieties of Long Island wine on my menu and my family started the restaurant in 1976. George Giannaris, owner Hellenic Snack Bar & Restaurant.
I’m always up for a mind-blowing wine challenge! So cool to hear your history on Long Island. I’m a native New Yorker, too 🙂