pv1Tainted Cork woke early on a rainy Thursday in August to make the trek from Montauk to the North Fork. Charles Massoud and his family founded our first stop, Paumanok Winery, in the early 80s. The name Paumanok has significant meaning; it is the Native American name for Long Island (NY), meaning “the island that pays tribute.” In the colonial times, Long Islanders were forced to pay the Indians a tributary fee not to be attacked by them. 

The winery is a renovated turn-of-the-century barn that houses a fermentation tank room and lab. The tasting room was built on top of the barrel cellar and is surrounded by a deck that overlooks the vineyards. Although it was raining, I was fortunate enough to sit with Charles on the deck to discuss his winery and taste through his splendid current releases and a few vintages of library wines.

The winery focuses on high quality commercial grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and features some unique parcels of Chenin Blanc and Petit Verdot. All the fruit is estate-grown and the viticulture is very traditional with dense plantings of nearly 1100 vines per acre. Total production is just under 9000 cases. I enjoyed all the wines immensely and the following 2 wines are indeed unique standouts:

2007 Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc, a Loire Valley and South African staple, is an amazing little grape that can be innocuous or have tremendous aging potential. In the hands of the Paumanok folks the grape has flourished and the 2007 seems to have benefitted from maximum ripeness. The wine is a blend of two lots; one was handpicked and whole cluster pressed, the other machine harvested. The fruit was delivered directly to the press (bypassing the crusher) and the juice was immediately chilled and allowed to settle. The two lots were cold fermented separately in stainless steel tanks to preserve varietal character.

Tasting Note: Fresh and racy yet dry and clean. I got a waft of fresh cut pineapple, with subtle notes of melon and green apple. Would be great as a cocktail wine or with any grilled fish that you would squeeze fresh lemon on.  Bring out the oysters!

2005 Petit Verdot Apollo Drive Vineyard Limited Edition

2005 was hot and produced amazing wines in almost all the major growing regions of the world. Long Island was no exception. Petit Verdot is used as Bordeaux blending grape and can be found in blends and stand alone offerings in California. It’s a funny grape that can be amazingly dense and opulent when drunk young and benefits from a few years in bottle. However as a single varietal I like to drink petit verdot within the first 5 years of being bottled. Charles tells me that despite the deluge of rain in October (21 inches of rain in 8 days), they harvested what was perhaps one of their best crops ever. The grapes came from a single block on Apollo Drive with average yields of 1.75 to 2 tons per acre and were carefully de-stemmed and sorted to retain a larger number of whole berries. Free run juice was separated from the must to insure that only the softest tannins were extracted. After the fermentation was complete, the free run and the must was drained into French oak barrels for 14 months prior to bottling.

Tasting Note: Dense and Spicy, with concentrated black fruit flavors and inky black in color. This full-bodied wine possesses ample tannins and would accompany grilled meats or roasts. I am conjuring images of lamb stew by the fireplace and a goblet of petite Verdot. This wine can be cellared for many years.

Hours: Paumanok Tasting Room is open for tastings and sales 7 days a week from 11 AM – 6 PM, April through October and 11 AM – 5 PM.  BUSES, LIMOS, VANS OR ANY GROUP OF EIGHT OR MORE PEOPLE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

Directions to Paumanok Vineyards from The Hamptons: Take Route 27 to the Riverhead exit. This will put you onto Route 24 North. Take 24 to Route 105. Make a right onto 105 North. Take 105 to Route 25. Make a right onto 25 and continue for two miles. Paumanok is located on the left or north side of the road.

PAUMANOK Vineyards, North Fork of Long Island, 1074 Main Road (Route 25), P.O. Box 741, Aquebogue, 631-722-8800, paumanok.com

By To 27 Contributor Brian J. DiMarco, Managing Director of Barterhouse and Tainted Cork Blogger

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