With Memorial Day behind us, and the warm summer weather slowly rolling in, what better way is there for New Yorkers to spend a weekend than going out to the North Fork, on the northern tip of Long Island? The beaches, the restaurants, the farms…. and of course - the wineries - make North Fork a worthwhile destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike. And when it comes to historic NoFo wineries making world class wines, PAUMANOK is at the top of my list.
The Massoud family, who own and run the winery, are the epitome of hospitality; never resting on their considerable laurels, the two generations of this family seek to constantly improve both the wines and the tasting experience for their guests. From the local cheeses on their pairing menu, to the new Minimalist wines - PAUMANOK forges ahead of the pack. Oh, and then there are fresh oysters on the weekends… Imagine sipping their cool Chenin, looking over the vineyard from the deck of a century-old barn that serves as their tasting room and winery. A perfect way to spend the afternoon.
I arrived at the winery just as they were opening the doors, and was immediately greeted by Kareem, the winemaker. He asked if I wanted to watch the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay being bottled. PAUMANOK produces wine from multiple grape varieties, and they are all estate grown. They make Riesling, Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
PAUMANOK wines have received multiple awards and impressed the critics. Mark Squires of The Wine Advocate has praised their wines, as has Anna Iijima of the Wine Enthusiast. The wines have been served at the White House, and can be found on many restaurant wine lists, both in NYC and on the Island.
Our tasting began with two vintages of the Rosé. Unlike most wines of that moniker, PAUMANOK Rosé has the power and the fruit to stand up to most foods. An excellent summer wine, easily paired with a picnic on the beach, or a late afternoon dinner, whether chicken or fish is on the menu. Predominant notes were strawberry, bright citrus and herbs. We then moved on to the Chenins and Sauvignons. The regular bottlings of both are lovely choices for seafood or a cheese plate. Speaking of cheese, we snacked on the local Catapano cheeses, available at the tasting room, while tasting the white wines. The Minimalist wines are new at PAUMANOK, Kareem is allowing the varietals and the terroir to speak for themselves, by using a hands-off approach. The wines, both Chenin and Sauvignon, were thought provoking, showing complexity and depth. I enjoyed both immensely. We also tasted the PAUMANOK Chardonnay BdB sparkling wine from 2012. Made in the traditional method, the wine spends several years on its lees, developing complexity. The resulting sparkling wine is simply a delight - dry, full of green apples and earthy tones. Oysters anyone?
We then moved on to the red wines. PAUMANOK concentrates on the red varietals from the Bordeaux region of France. We tasted the Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, as well as the Petit Verdot and Assemblage (Bordeaux Blend). Cabernet Franc is known for its bright red fruit and the bell pepper/herbaceous note. The regular bottling of PAUMANOK Cab Franc is just that - excellent, refreshing red wine with a hint of herbs over red fruit notes. The Grand Vintage, on the other hand, showed power and agebility, along with deeper notes of black fruit and a tannic grip. Their Merlot is my personal favorite, cool, light on its feet, old world wine. Especially the GV bottling. Put that one in the cellar - and watch it blossom in three to five years.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a different beast all-together, blueberry and blackberry notes dominate, surrounded by whiffs of lilac and violets. The Assemblage is always a treat, an ageworthy, complex old world blend. I have been drinking from my stash of 2005 Assemblage, and it is aging excellently, showing the possibilities of Long Island winemaking. The Limited Edition Petit Verdot is a wine that stands on its own. I still have the bottle of 2005 - the first year Charles and Kareem decided to bottle the variety separately. Who would do such a thing? But having tasted that particular 2005 PV in the barrel, I too, was one of the people asking Charles - why not? It sure tasted like it could handle it. The current vintage we tried, 2013, is stunning. Plum Power in all its sweet, sappy glory, with lushness and polish over an excellent backbone of acidity. It should easily age for a decade. The wines matched well with the “pate” and “terrine” offered at the tasting room.
We concluded our tasting with the sweet wines. Both wines, the Riesling and the Sauvignon are from 2012 - the year Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island. These were made in the Ice-Wine style, out of frozen grapes, but they are worlds apart in flavor. The Riesling shows classical notes of dry apricot and tropical fruit. It makes me think of a German Beerenauslese, especially the nutty notes and the citrus rind on the finish. The Sauvignon is a completely different wine, think caramel popcorn with hints of butterscotch and luscious, sweet finish. A brief sun-shower passed us by, as we sat on the covered balcony. It refreshed the vineyards and the flowers around the winery. It was another wonderful afternoon on the North Fork. You can find PAUMANOK vineyards on the web, as well as Facebook (@paumanokvineyards). For more detailed notes from the tasting, take a look at CellarTracker.