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  The following is an excerpt from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate issue #188 dated April, 2010.

Long Island Wine: No Longer a Long Shot
By David Schildknecht


2007 Cabernet Franc - 86
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Tuthills Lane Vineyard - 90
2007 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented - 85
2008 Chenin Blanc - 88
2007 Merlot - 86
2007 Merlot Tuthills Lane Vineyard - 92
2005 Petit Verdot Apollo Drive Vineyard Limited Edition - 87
2007 Petit Verdot Apollo Drive Vineyard Limited Edition - 88
2005 Assemblage - 89
2007 Assemblage - 91
2007 Festival Red - 87
2008 Riesling - 86

Veteran Charles Massoud and his oldest son, Kareem, are practicing increasing selectivity and sorting of fruit as well as ever more sensitive and targeted extraction, and their 2007s build on and refine the success of their 2005s.

The Massouds last bottled a Cabernet with the same site designation as their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Tuthills Lane in 1995. Charles Massoud says the berries were leaking color already at harvest here, something he has never before witnessed. Cassis and mulberry – backed by cedar – testify to the extreme ripeness of the crop. But there is no sense of cooked fruit, and instead one of invigorating freshness, reinforced by the tart chew of ripe fruit skins. Peat, iodine, and pungent herbs add to the aromatic intensity as well as the palate-staining finish on exhibit in this wine that emphasizes grip and grit over polish. Expect it to be worth following for another 6-8 years.

Among recent instantiations of Paumanok’s numerous whites, their 2008 Chenin Blanc was especially noteworthy. Scents and flavors of quince and orange rind are backed on the palate by blazingly bright citricity that completely checks the wine’s low-level residual sugar while conveying an almost metallic, reflective sheen. Impressively vivacious and tenacious, this needs a couple of years in bottle to settle down. As is so often the case with this grape variety anywhere in the New World, those who love it from the Loire will not find here many virtues – nor an overall visage – that are much reminiscent. But that is to take nothing away from the delicious distinctiveness – not to mention the sheer tenacity – of the present wine.

Representing their first-ever Merlot bottling with this site designation (and their original 1986 block), the Massoud’s 2007 Merlot Tuthills Lane is unblended and was aged in largely new barriques. Its ripe cassis, dark cherry, and blueberry are accented with mint and cherry pit, iodine and bittersweet herbal and floral essences. This shows formidable concentration and ripeness yet exhilarating sheer refreshment and an uncanny sense of lift. It’s only 13.5% alcohol, by the way. I would anticipate a dozen years’ satisfaction, and probably not start popping corks for 3-4 years.

Paumanok’s 2005 Petit Verdot Apollo Drive mingles sumac and white pepper with its black and blue fruits. Even more tannic today than its 2007 counterpart, it is formidable rather than winsome, and I wonder whether there is any point to holding it longer as opposed to serving it in a context where its sheer density and chew – as well as, perhaps, some meat tenderizing skills – will be shown off. The 2007 Petit Verdot Apollo Drive scored the highest must weight in Paumanok’s history, translating into 14.2% finished alcohol. Smelling and tasting of blueberry, mulberry, and white pepper, it is an impressively concentrated but formidably tannic illustration of its grape variety. The wine’s tendency toward hardness is only partly alleviated by a high level of glycerin. “To me,” remarks Charles Massoud, “this grape is behaving here more like one from Italy or the Rhone.” Those with patience or tolerance for chew will find this worth holding for six or more years to see how it evolves.

The Paumanok 2005 Assemblage blends 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Petit Verdot into its base of Merlot. Tart blueberry and blackberry are tinged with mint and fennel. A finely concentrated, leanly-textured palate displays well-integrated bitterness; a sense of extract you imagine straining through your palate; and an adamantly dry finish. This should hold will for 5-7 more years, although it will always lean toward the austere side. The Paumanok 2007 Assemblage – Merlot with 22% Petit Verdot and 9% Cabernet Franc (although in most vintages, this cuvee contains Cabernet Sauvignon) – smells and tastes of ripe blueberry and blackberry tinged with pungent herbs and white pepper. Lean in texture but infectiously juicy and bright as well as palate staining, this concentrated, energetic blend should be worth following for at least a decade. Incidentally, it weighs in at a moderate 13.5% alcohol.

The Paumanok 2007 Festival Red 2007 – a blend of Merlot with around one-quarter Cabernet Sauvignon (representing virtually the estate’s entire, paltry 2007 crop of that grape) and tiny amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot – combines bright raspberry and tart mulberry with pungent herbal and smoky scents and flavors. With a good sense of fullness, it nevertheless retains what Kareem Massoud calls “acid punch,” making for an invigorating and refreshing finish. As with most successful Bordelaise blends from Long Island, you won’t encounter anything remotely like this in Bordeaux, and certainly not in California. I would plan to enjoy it over the next 2-3 years. Tel. (631) 722-8800

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