On my first visit to the North Fork, over five years ago, Paumanok was the winery that stood out the most. It also happens to be the most widely recommended whenever I’ve polled the wine drinking community about their favorites of the North Fork. When visiting Paumanok and tasting the wines, it’s easy to see why.
Paumanok Vineyards is a family-run operation that has been producing wine on the North Fork since 1983. With over 100 acres under vine, this winery manages to turn out one of the largest selections of quality wines on the North Fork. 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.
Anyone who follows the North Fork has heard of the Chenin Blanc produced at Paumanok and the heights that it has reached. It is a gorgeous wine, but it is only one in a lineup of excellent varietal bottles. The Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling impressed upon me a level of quality and varietal character that I didn’t expect to find. They were beautiful wines that showed not just fruit quality but also an emerging sense of place from the North Fork. The Riesling was not quite German or Austrian, nor was it Finger Lakes—The Riesling was North Fork Long Island, and I believe that is a great accomplishment all on its own.
However, it didn’t end with the white wines. As Kareem poured through their lineup of reds, I was stunned. In my previous visit, five years ago, it was the white wines that stuck out to me and it seemed that most wineries were pushing Cabernet Franc that came off to me as green and a little too funky. Now, however, it is Merlot that is being touted as the red that could define the North Fork and this visit made me a believer. The 2007 Merlots were young, but beautiful, and the 2005 Grand Vintage was stunning. There’s a lot to look forward to from Paumanok.
The Wines2007 Paumanok Merlot ($24) – On the nose this wine was darker than the 2005 with ripe crushed strawberry and hints of mocha. On the palate, it was balanced and plush, with dark red fruits and an elegant structure. The finish was long with red fruits. (92 points)
2005 Paumanok Merlot Grand Vintage ($36) - The nose showed crushed red wild berries, candle wax, herbs and chalky minerals. This wine had great balance on the palate with sour cherry, herbs and hints cedar in a very pretty and elegant style. The finish was long with sour cherry and spice. (91 points)
2007 Paumanok Assemblage ($45) – The nose showed black cherry, milk chocolate and a sweet herbal quality. It was cool and crisp on the palate with ripe red fruits and mint, yet kept in check by vibrant acidity. The finish was LONG and seductive. (89 points)
2007 Paumanok Merlot Tuthill's Lane ($60) – The nose showed dark ripe fruit, cinnamon, roasted nuts, wood tones and hints of char that added savory complexity. It was big, but balanced, and structured on the palate with great concentration as tart cherry, hints of cranberry and herbs washed across the senses. The finish ended fresh but long. (91 points)
2005 Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon Tuthills Lane Vineyard ($60) - The nose showed focused red berries with cinnamon and cocoa. On the palate, this wine was perfectly balanced and finely structured with tart cherry fruit and herbs. The finish showed silky tannin with red fruits and the slightest hint of green. (88 points)
2009 Paumanok Chardonnay Grand Vintage ($36) - From a foot away a bouquet of flowers and grasses rose up from the glass. On the nose, I found minerals with kiwi, citrus and a respectable hint of vanilla. It was luxurious on the palate, yet balanced with white stone fruits, vanilla and citrus. The finish was long and refreshingly pleasant. (90 points)
2010 Paumanok Chenin Blanc ($25) –The nose showed field grasses, spring florals, lemon and stone and hints on richness. On the palate, I found green apple and a sweet & sour pull of citrus and minerals. It seemed to have the slightest amount of residual sugar, which was perfectly balanced by vibrant acidity. On the long, mouth-filling finish, I found tart pineapple with lemon and lime notes. (92 points)
2010 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc ($24) – The nose showed pineapple, white flowers and lemon with earthy minerals in the background. On the palate, it was very fresh with great acidity as sour lemon, lime and minerals assaulted the senses. The long, fresh finish kept the citrus notes going to the close. (89 points)
2009 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest ($50) – The nose showed apricots, dried stone fruits and hints of botrytis. On the palate, this wine was like nectar, showing dried fruit, fig jam, citrus, and kiwi. It was incredibly dense on the palate with citrus notes that simply wouldn’t end. The finish was remarkable long. (90 points)
2009 Paumanok Riesling Semi-Dry ($22) – The nose showed lemon, minerals, pear and a hint of honey-suckle and green tea. On the palate, it was fresh and balanced with the slightest kiss of sweetness pushing through the acidity. The palate showed lemon curd with apple skins and floral notes. The finish was long and fresh with lemon notes shining through. (89 points)
2009 Paumanok Riesling Late Harvest ($50) – On the nose, I found confectionery notes, like lemon sabayon, in a sweet buttery shell with roasted nuts and a bit of melon. On the palate, it was massive, as waves of rich, sweet lemon bombarded the senses. It had a consistency like syrup, yet still maintained an elegant and fresh profile. The finish seemed to last for minutes, maybe even longer. (90 points)