Another visit to the North Fork, Part One

Long Island Wine App

Long Island Wine App

The North Fork of Long Island is an upcoming wine region in the United States, with soil and climate much like that of Bordeaux. Having been to both, I think Long Island weather might be a bit more temperamental, especially after this past weekend.  This is my second visit to date, the first being my second wedding anniversary as you know if you’ve been reading my blog since June. This visit was to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 40th.

The region got its start about 40 years ago (Paumanok being the second winery and vineyard to open in the region), and the results are getting a lot of attention, and prices are rising. Only 90 minutes from NYC, wines from the region have been served at the White House, the Four Seasons, the Gramercy Tavern and hundreds of other famous restaurants around the country. We love going to local wine regions as you know, and supporting their local growers, inns and restaurants (and the farm stands are pretty fabulous too). Brooklyn Oenology who I wrote about a few weeks ago, also gets some of the juice for their own wine, as well as selling many of the wines, from the North Fork. So they too, are on the list of participating wineries, which number in the 40’s. There is a great website covering all the region has to offer – liwines.com,  and an app as well that came in very handy on both visits. It features information on all local dining, attractions, events, services, lodging, and of course, wineries.

There are also three or so successful wineries on the south fork, more known for beaches, surfing and celebrity mansions – Duck Walk South, Wölffer Estate, and Channing daughters. I will visit those when I’m down there next. Just waiting for a millionaire to invite me to stay…

Paumanok Vineyards

Autumn on the deck at Paumanok Vineyards

This time we stayed in Riverhead, a larger town right at the mouth of the two forks. There are outlet malls there as well if you get rained out and like to shop. Whereas last time we stayed in the romantic and wonderful Harvest Inn Bed and Breakfast in Peconic, the Holiday Inn was clean and well-appointed and provided the necessary accomodations for a less romantic visit. And it is perfectly located at the start of the wine trail and conveniently close to our dinner spot. But I will get around to reviewing the Harvest Inn experience soon, because it was a very special one and the owners really went out of their way in every sense to make us and the other guests happy. Plus, they have WINE CAMP! This is a must-do on my list, and that I will write about for sure, I just have to save up for a while.

We work with a few of the North Fork vineyards to market their wine, and our company liason was able to set up a special visit at Paumanok again like in March. He also recommended the other two vineyards we visited this time around, as well as the restaurant we went to for dinner. He’s a native of the region and his recommendations have not let us down ever.

With Hurricane Sandy on its way, we had a shorter visit then planned so we could escape Sunday morning with our lives and our wines intact. The wineries too, all made sure to complete their harvest by this date, as that storm surely would have destroyed any remaining crop. But that didn’t stop them from making time for us.

Mrs Massoud treating us to Cab Franc from the tank

Mrs. Massoud treating us to Cabernet Franc still pumping over from the tank

At Paumanok we met with owner Ursula Massoud for the first time, after tasting through a flight of their whites. She then took us in back where we got to try a grapefruit-laden still-fermenting Chenin Blanc 2012. This was something I got to do in Bordeaux (though that was a Sauvignon Blanc) and I am so glad my wife and her sister got the chance here. After all, I wanted this to be a special birthday.  We then got to try a 2012 Cabernet Franc right from the tank as well. It was delicious and one of my favorite varieties being made very well in this region. This is the first place I had Cabernet Franc on its own and I bought two bottles of the 2011 on this trip. Both are gone already… Lastly we got to try an ice wine right from the press. It was sweet and sultry and oh so good.

We then went to the tasting bar again and met with Saleem Massoud, one of the owners’ three sons who work at this beautiful family winery and who we met in March. We caught up and tasted through their reds. All the winemakers told us 2012 has been a great year. I can’t wait to taste the finished results. But in the meantime I again had the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, which I loved and reviewed here.  At $60 a bottle its the most expensive I’ve had from the region, but the best. We also enjoyed the new “Assemblage” – a mostly Merlot Bordeaux blend with stunning flavor and balance. I picked up another bottle of this also pricey, but ‘worth it’ wine. ($50). I reviewed the equally amazing 2007 here. At the end of the visit we took home a full case of their wine, including a couple of their 2011 Cabernet Franc, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 3 of the 2010 Assemblage, The 2005 Cabernet, 2 of the 2011 Dry Riesling and 2 of their dry Rosé. My wife and I loved all the whites I mentioned as well and the Rosé was a great, Provence style dry wine. I will review those as I open them in the coming weeks. It’s not fair to only just mention them. But if you want to hear about the Assemblage and the ’05 Cab in more detail, definitely click through the links above.

Paumanok Wine Kegs

Paumanok Wine Kegs

This is really the best winery I have been to to date in this country for as long as I can remember. So while the prices can be high, there’s a reason. Top that with the gorgeous location and tasting room and the wonderful family who work there, you’re paying for the experience as much as the great taste you get to bring home with you. They are also one of the region’s wineries trying out the ‘wine keg.’ While not new it is becoming more popular. Several restaurants with larger volumes of popular wines benefit from the faster serving and less shipping and storage costs and space that these kegs offer. They are also more environmentally friendly as they don’t need to be recycled, and take up less trash space than bottles. They hold 5.15 gallons, or about 25 bottles of wine. The nitrogen gas in the tap system line prevents oxidization. Paumanok is currently experimenting with their Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

Visit Paumanok at:

1074 Main Road  Aquebogue, NY 11931

(631) 722 8800

Next week in Part Two: Shinn Vineyards.

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