Paumanok is a Native American name for Long Island, and is used by the great poet Walt Whitman to describe this special place in his 1860 poem “Starting from Paumanok”. Located in Aquebogue, the 127 acre estate was founded in the spring of 1983 by Ursula and Charles Massoud. Born and raised in the “Old World” – Charles in Lebanon and Ursula in the Pfalz, Germany – wine had always been a part of their lives. They dreamed of becoming vintners themselves. After reading about pioneers Alex and Louisa Hargrave, they visited them, fell in love with the North Fork, and luck stroke a few years later when they found their property. Today, the estate is run by their son Kareem (winemaker), who after a brief career as a private equity analyst returned to his family’s estate winery. Kareem’s brothers are also on board: Nabeel is the vineyard manager, and Salim oversees administrative functions.
The 32 hectares of vineyards are exclusively planted with premium vinifera varieties: Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Albariño, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, with the recent addition of Pinot Noir for sparkling wines. In May 2020, 0.4ha were planted with Melon de Bourgogne, to complete the Loire varieties successfully growing on the property. The traditional dense planting of the vineyards at 1100 to 1400 vines per acre produces more concentrated fruit and therefore higher quality wines. All wines are made with estate fruit and the production is limited to fewer than 12,000 cases. The winery is a renovated turn-of-the-century barn that houses a fermentation tank room and lab. The spacious tasting room was built on top of the barrel cellar and an inviting deck overlooks the vineyards.
The terroir in general is defined by the prevailing maritime climate and sandy, loamy soils. In the winter, the bodies of waters surrounding Paumanok act as giant heat sinks insulating the vineyards from the extreme lows measured further inland. In the summer, they act as coolers moderating the heat experienced in the city and inland. At harvest, Paumanok often experiences an “Indian Summer” elongated by the maritime climate. The topography on the North Fork is primarily flat, and very similar to Bordeaux. Success as a wine-growing region is due to particularly good drainage, which is the case at Paumanok Vineyards: the top soils are sandy loam with sandy, gravelly subsoils. Even after heavy rains, there is no standing water. The third aspect of terroir is the human component. On Long Island, most winegrowers have concluded that viticultural practices such as maintaining an open canopy and leaf removal to expose the fruit are critical to achieving their goal of growing the healthiest, ripest fruit obtainable.
Farming/sustainability practices: Paumanok is certified sustainable by Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing (LISW). LISW is the first organization of its kind on the east coast and is modeled off of similar organizations on the west coast such as Oregon LIVE and Lodi Rules. Since 2017, the winery is 100% solar powered – while they are still connected to the grid, their annual consumption is 100% off-set by the solar electricity generated by their panels.