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A Good Year, Lower Yields at Paumanok


Published: April 3, 2005

PAUMANOK'S 2004 whites illustrate how nature can influence boutique wineries, which predominate on the East End. The year brought a good vintage, reduced production, stylistic changes and economic adjustments.

While the growing season was hot, "we did not have a single day where the temperature exceeded 90," said Charles Massoud, an owner. "We had many cool nights and low humidity. This helps to preserve acidity."

"We had a lot of winter kill in cold 2004 January," he added. "This resulted in a smaller crop. For that reason, some wines are available only at the winery or are on tight allocation."

"Since costs have no sensitivity to Mother Nature," he said, "we have had to raise our prices beyond what we would think is reasonable, as we still have to pay rising bills."

Paumanok's 2004 Festival chardonnay (660 cases), an outstanding $12 value, is delicious. Light, smooth, spicy and crisp as newly picked green apples, it is, in Mr. Massoud's words, "a Chablis wannabe." It was released soon after bottling, "as many restaurant accounts have been waiting for it."

Chenin blanc, long a Paumanok specialty, is a perennial favorite of mine. The bracing, aromatic 2004 ($25, only 180 cases) resembles a Loire Vouvray from a cool year. Densely flavorful, it has herbal accents and a mouth-watering acidity that is ideal for seafood.

"The Oyster Bar at Grand Central prevailed on us to sell them some," Mr. Massoud said. "Thereafter, we took it off the wholesale market as we will not have nearly enough to sell in our tasting room."

Paumanok's 2004 dry sauvignon blanc is its first; previously, it made only a late-harvest dessert version.

"Since our chenin blanc and riesling yields were so severely down, and since we have been intrigued by the surge of interest in this variety, we decided to try a dry wine," Mr. Massoud said. It is available only at the tasting room, in Aquebogue.

The pale, light, slightly herbal sauvignon ($20, 400 cases) is very snappy but needs time to round out. With its "bright, clean finish," Mr. Massoud predicts that it will appeal to oyster and clam fans.

German-style riesling is another strength at Paumanok (Ursula Massoud, Charles's wife, comes from the Pfalz region). The aromas and flavors of peaches and apricots help define the charming, light, mouth-filling 2004 ($20). Though semisweet, it finishes dry.

"We made 630 cases, and that will not be enough for the tasting room," Mr. Massoud said. "We have had to sell it to our retailers on a very limited allocation basis."

"To meet the demand for these varieties, we will be planting 11 acres this spring of equal proportions of chenin blanc, riesling and sauvignon blanc," he said. "These should begin to contribute in 2007 or 2008, depending on the weather."

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