Like many other vineyards on Long Island and across the world, winemaking is part of the family heritage for the Massouds and Paumanok Vineyards. Located at 1074 Main Road (Route 25A) in Aquebogue on the North Fork, Ursula and Charles Massoud founded the vineyard on the 127-acre estate in 1983. The couple, along with their three sons, still own and operate the vineyard to this day.
Kareem Massoud, Paumanok’s winemaker, called their vineyard a perfect blend of old world and new world style. With so much competition now on the North Fork, most vineyards seem to do what they can to develop a distinguished niche. “I think our niche is that we’re dedicated and committed to producing the most delicious wine possible,” Kareem said. “We’re really like a wine lovers winery. If someone’s really interested in wine, they should come visit.”
He added that Paumanok tends to stay away from the party atmosphere and focuses instead on their award-winning wines and the delicious oysters and cheeses that are also sold at the winery and pare wonderfully with the estate-bottled wines. Paumanok was named Winery of the Year for 2015 at the New York Wine & Food Classic. The competition was judged based on a cumulative score of at least seven submitted wines to a panel of 21 judges. Paumanok won the award one other time in 2004.
Their tasting room is a quaint old barn, with large windows that let in sunlight and provide beautiful views of their rows and rows of vines. The tasting room lets out to a deck around the back of the barn, with wooden tables and chairs for comfortable spring and summer days.
Paumanok wines are estate bottled, meaning that the producer of the grapes has control of the entire growing, harvesting, fermenting and bottling process. Everything in a bottle of Paumanok wine was grown on their property (with some minor exceptions). This distinction, along with the fact that Ursula was born and raised in Germany while Charles comes from Lebanon, gives the vineyard a nice dash of old world, according to Kareem.
Kareem said that Paumanok is one of the oldest wineries on Long Island that is still owned and operated by the original founders. The family has been making wine and building their brand since 1990.
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Kareem said in an interview Monday. He reminisced about the days between 1983 and 1990 when the family was growing grapes, but no wine was being produced or sold yet. Kareem said that he and his brothers did quite a bit of lawn mowing between their family home in Connecticut and the massive land at the winery in Aquebogue during his teenage years.
Today, however, the winery has a dash of new world, state-of-the-art technology that has made winemaking a more — forgive the pun — fruitful endeavor. Kareem said last year Paumanok invested in a new mechanical harvesting machine with onboard sorting technology. It is useful for removing M.O.G., or matter other than grapes, when it’s time to harvest the grapes. It even includes a de-stemmer.
Kareem said that his wines are all like his children, so picking a favorite was very difficult. For a white, he chose Paumanok Chenin Blanc. Its current vintage is 2014. “I like to call that our ‘Sour Patch’ wine,” Massoud said, referencing the sweet and sour candy. He said that the citrus and grapefruit notes, paired with a refreshing, thirst-quenching characteristic, make it well balanced and provide a nice contrast.
The red Kareem is most proud of is their Assemblage, which is a French word meaning blend. He only makes the Assemblage in grand vintage years, or years with the best quality harvest of grapes. Recently, their 2013 Assemblage received the highest rating of any red wine on the East Coast from a popular wine magazine.
Kareem also added that the 2014 and 2015 vintages of Paumanok Riesling received awards as New York State’s best Riesling. That is not a small feat, as New York is one of the most popular Riesling producing areas in the world.
Paumanok Vineyards is open for self-guided or winemaker-lead tours during the spring and summer for small groups, or by reservation for large groups. They are also preparing for two marquee events: a Mediterranean cruise in June hosted by Ursula and Charles that features Paumanok wines and makes stops over a seven-day span from Portugal to the Bordeaux region in France and their sixth annual lamb roast dinner at the winery in August.
For more information about their events, or to plan a trip, visit www.paumanok.com.