Paumanok Vineyards Captures the Essence of LI

Nestled between Jamesport and Aquebogue, Paumanok Vineyards, a winery named for Long Island itself, has been producing top quality wines for 30 years. And they’re getting noticed, as they have been nominated for Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2013 American Winery of the Year.

Paumanok, the name given to Long Island by its native peoples, as well as Walt Whitman in his poetry collection “Leaves of Grass,” is a 103-acre, family owned and operated estate vineyard that planted its first vines in 1983. The secret to Paumanok’s award-winning success comes from the strategic location. The vineyard sits in a spot where the weather is just a bit warmer than the rest of the North Fork, allowing Paumanok to grow late-ripening grape varieties like cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, and their signature wine, chenin blanc.

The Paumanok tasting room resides inside an old potato barn that was renovated in 1990. This rustic building features a well-worn bar and large windows that look out on the picturesque vineyard. Paumanok offers four flights, each of four different wines, that range in price from $6 to $15.

The first wine I tasted was the 2012 Festival Chardonnay. One of Paumanok’s lightest wines, this white is fermented in stainless steel, giving it a bright and crisp flavor that’s more reminiscent of a pinot grigio than a chardonnay. Contrasting with the crispness of Festival Chardonnay is the 2011 Barrel Chardonnay, which is aged in oak barrels for only six months. This gives the wine a smooth creaminess that’s characteristic of a classically oaked wine without being overpowering. This white has notes of apple, yeast and butterscotch on the nose, with flavors of melon and apple.

Next up was the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. This medium-bodied white is crisp and dry, bursting with citrus aromas, though he flavor is a bit more subtle.

The final white of my tasting was the 2012 Dry Riesling, which won Best Dry Riesling at this year’s New York Wine and Food Classic. Featuring floral notes of lilac and lily on the nose, this riesling is alive with flavors of green apple, lime and white apricot, followed by a dry, acidic finish.

From there, it was on to the reds, which Paumanok does incredibly well. First up was the 2009 Merlot, which has a medium body with herbal and floral aromas, complementing the dark flavors of plum and black cherry. Next, I tasted the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, a soft and sweet wine, with aromas of rich black currant, black cherry, cedar and spice. This medium-bodied red has a fruity character and lengthy finish that would pair well with hearty foods.

From here, it was onto the Grand Vintages. The 2010 Cabernet Franc Grand Vintage, an intense red with a complex nose composed of blackberry, black cherry and herbs. The dark fruit aromas are the perfect complement to this full-bodied wine’s flavors of cherry and cedar. Getting darker and deeper into the reds, I moved onto the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Vintag—a full-bodied red that took home Double Gold at the New York Wine and Food Classic. This wine similarly offers a complex, though lighter, nose of violets, spice, cedar and prune, which come together to create its wonderful dark-fruit flavor.

Saving the best for last, I tasted Paumanok’s 2010 Assemblage. This is their flagship blend, and is featured in top restaurants throughout the Hamptons and New York City. This blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc is an intensely dark, full-bodied red with a nose of black currant, black cherry and blackberry, and a rich flavor of black cherry and spice.

Paumanok offers two dessert wines—the 2012 Riesling Late Harvest and 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest. Both feature a rich, honey consistency with an incredible sweetness. While the riesling offers the more traditional flavors of apple, peach apricot and grape, the sauvignon blanc has a more tropical feel.

Paumanok Vineyards is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more info, visit paumanok.com or call 631-722-8800.

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