Ask a wine lover about wineries on the North Fork, and chances are that Paumanok will be recommended first.
A family-run operation, Paumanok has been producing wine on the North Fork since 1983. With 127 acres under vine, this winery manages to turn out one of the largest selections of quality wines from the region. Owned and operated by Ursula & Charles Massoud, and with their son Kareem overseeing the vineyards and winemaking, Paumanok has truly carved out a name for itself in North Fork history. Finding another producer on the North Fork that doesn’t respect the efforts and accomplishments of this house is near impossible.
Years ago, when I visited the North Fork, the grape on everyone’s mind was Cabernet Franc. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few outliers (both Paumanok and Macari come to mind), most of the Cab Franc tasted on the Island years ago were far too green and funky. Fast forward to today, and the red grape that has firmly positioned itself as North Fork’s finest is Merlot – and for good reason. The Merlot on Long Island has truly begun to show that it can produce highly enjoyable fine wine, and what’s even better is that Long Island Merlots are starting to show a sense of place. Paumanok stands out at the head of this charge; not only do they produce a fresh and vibrant style of Merlot, but also one of importance: the Grand Vintage.
However, this region goes far beyond red varieties. One of the most highly-praised wines of the North Fork is produced by Paumanok as well; it’s the Chenin Blanc. Outside of Paumanok’s nine acres, you won’t find much Chenin planted on the North Fork, but what Paumanok has accomplished with it is astounding. Having received praise locally from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, it quickly became something of a local phenomenon and is awaited by fans with each vintage. Today, we even see Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate praising the wine. Why this hasn’t caught on throughout the region is beyond me, but when you consider the excellent Cab Franc and Chenin produced at Paumanok, you start to see that Loire varieties can fit the region well–in the right hands.
Recently I was able to sit with Kareem and taste through a lineup of Paumanok’s current releases. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised by the level a quality I found from bottle to bottle. Admittedly, I’ve been a fan for many years. The Chenin remains one of my absolute favorites for its balance of ripe fruit and acidity, plus one of the most stunning bouquets you’re likely to find in the North Fork. The straight Merlot may be one of the most enjoyable and vibrant from the region, and when compared to the Grand Vintage Merlot (a barrel selection with further oak aging), the only choice is if you are in the mood for purity or austerity matched by depth.
In the end, if you’re looking to North Fork, then Paumanok should be firmly on your radar.
2014 Paumanok Chenin Blanc – The nose was wonderfully expressive with ripe pear and apple up front, followed by floral tones, lime and chalky minerality. On the palate, a sweet-and-sour act of green apple, citrus and spice dazzled the senses. A last thrust of minerality and sour apple lasted on the mouthwatering finish. (92 points) Find it at Morrell
2013 Paumanok Merlot – The nose showed fresh, ripe red fruit offset by stunning minerality. On the palate, I found tart cherry and tantalizing brisk acidity with hints of sweet herbs. It finished fresh and vibrant with dried red fruits offset by mouthwatering acidity. (90 points)
2014 Paumanok Cab Franc – Here I found a beautiful and fresh bouquet of red berries, chalky minerals, dried flowers, hints of herbs and white pepper. Silky textures were contrasted by tart berry fruit and zesty acidity, with caking minerality that lasted into the close. It finished fresh on dried berries and hints of herbs. (91 points)
2013 Paumanok Merlot Grand Vintage – I was greeted by a mix of intense fruits, showing ripe raspberry, strawberry and blueberry, complemented by sweet spice and herbal freshness. On the palate, a stream of focused red fruit with hints of blueberry skin and fresh herbs splashed against the senses with a hint of tannin left in its wake. It finished on a mix of dried wild berry fruit with hints of spice. (93 points)
2013 Paumanok Assemblage (46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 18% Petit Verdot) – The nose showed a mix of sweet spice, lifting floral tones, and rich red and blue fruits. On the palate, I found soft, silky textures, with saturating red fruits giving way to intense spice, sweet herbs and fine tannin. It finished long on dried cherry while remaining fresh throughout with noticeable grip. This is a wine to watch as it matures in the cellar. (93 points)
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido