Today’s review is of one of the many fantastic wines we bought on our trip to the North Fork of Long Island in March. I promise, I plan to write about that whole experience soon. There’s so much to say, and we tried so many great wines from over 8 vineyards in one weekend. So I want to tell it with as much detail, excitement and enthusiasm as was experienced on that trip, and that my friends will take a good amount of time. I have not had very much of that lately. Please accept my apology for not writing in a while!
Let’s get on with it then! This wine has been sitting on my wine rack since then, awaiting a special occasion. Today being father’s day, it is just such an occasion. Even though it may not be the first pairing that comes to mind with the homemade spaghetti and meatballs my wife made for me tonight, it was the best bottle I had on hand for the occasion, and it is delicious! Their wines have been featured in some of the country’s top restaurants like the Four Seasons and The Gramercy Tavern, and even at official White House Dinners. It is also a staple in MANY restaurants in the area, and the country, and they have them all listed on their website. In case you are wondering about the name…
Paumanok is what the local Native Americans called Long Island. And many of the bottles sport the words of a poem of the same name written by another Long Island native, Walt Whitman. Whitman also shared a profound passion for his home and its beauty, and felt perhaps that indeed this was the only word to describe the area:
Sea Beauty (by Walt Whitman)
“Stretch’d and basking!
One side thy inland ocean laving, broad, with copious commerce, steamers, sails.
And one the Atlantic’s wind caressing, fierce or gently – mighty hulls darkgliding in the distance.
Isle of sweet brooks of drinking-water – healthy air and soil!
Isle of the salty shore and breeze and brine!”
This is one of the premiere vineyards on the north fork, and one of the oldest. A quick drive and a short ferry ride across Long Island Sound whisked us to the region in less than 90 minutes. And Paumanok is one of the first you will reach when traveling there. I had the fortune through my work in the industry to get a proprietor’s tour of the vineyard, vinification rooms and machinery, and taste through nine of their best wines. The tour and the tasting were both done by the Massoud brothers, sons of the founder, raised in the family business and passionately helping run it today. But more on that later.
This one has a screw cap. They are one of the region’s, and country’s first vineyards to experiment with the screw cap. There are those that believe a fine red wine meant for aging couldn’t possibly retain its flavor and character with a screw cap. Perhaps to deter would-be naysayers, they still have some under cork. But we had a lengthy discussion with winemaker Kareem Massoud on the subject, and he believes strongly in the benefits of a screw cap. And to his credit, I would have to agree. There was not a single wine that we tried under screw cap that seemed faulted by it. In fact, while some might feel a bit of air making it through the cork helps add character, it can also ruin a wine. So there’s people on either side of the fence, to be sure. They have an article on the subject here.
All their wines are made from premium vinifera varieties, and the region shares similar weather conditions and soil to that of Bordeaux. It is the reason that many of these wines thrive here. They are among the first to make wines of this quality, and style in the area, having started in 1983. The grapes are only estate grown, and in small quantities. They are densely planted and very concentrated wines as a result. In the case of this vintage of Assemblage, only 575 cases were made. The premium 2005 Cab we bought had only 351 cases made.
To quote the bottle itself makes for a description even they would approve. “2007 is one of our best vintages at Paumanok. This Assemblage is a blend of 69% Merlot, 22% Petite Verdot, and 9% Cabernet Franc.”
The wine pours a medium-plus intensity in color, with slight rim variation due to age. It is a deep ruby color. On the nose are pungent plum and light oak aromas with some fragrance from the Petite Verdot. This variety is also responsible for adding more of the concentrated color and fruit intensity, and a little more tannin to what would be softer in such a large concentration of Merlot. On the palate, there are firm but well-integrated tannins, more of that concentrated black fruit, a hint of spicy fragrance, and medium plus body and finish. It is really meant to be a mix of their finest output from the vintage, and that it is. I finished dinner quite a while ago, but I have the feeling I might finish much more of this bottle before the night is through.I would hate to see this one spoil.
For more on Paumanok, visit their website. But more, try their wines, and maybe pay a visit. You won’t be disappointed! I haven’t had a bad one yet, I swear.