When I lived in New Jersey, I visited the vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island as often as time and cash would permit. My visits to New Jersey wineries were deeply unsatisfactory. My recent move to Maryland hasn’t left me enough time to explore the local vintners, but I will get to Black Ankle soonest. Anyway, this month’s WBW assignment was to drink a wine at the winery with the winemaker thanks to Lenn Thompson over at Lenndevours. If you’ve read the preceding post, you can easily see why this month the Negress couldn’t make this happen.
However, on one of her last visits to the North Fork last year, she went to a barrel tasting hosted by Charles Massoud of Paumonok Vineyards. We were in the barrel room surrounded by a tasty array of cheese and charcuterie as Massoud used a wine thief to dribble samples of their Cabernet Sauvignon and other reds into our waiting glasses. The atmosphere was so agreeable that my friend, who normally avoids red wines as a migraine trigger, actually tried some of these. Massoud also talked about some wines in the works, including one of the first attempts at Chenin Blanc on the North Fork. The 2007 was still in the tank, but would be released in March 2008. Well, I seized the opportunity and invoked the name of Lauren Bernadini, who had consulted for Paumonok and co-taught a class the Negress took with Andre Immer Robinson. In very little time at all, I had charmed my way into the tank room where Massoud drew off some of the unfinished Chenin Blanc for me to try. The grey liquid was cloudy and yeasty, but the bones of what it would become were evident. Massoud mentioned that maybe the release should be accompanied by an oyster shucking. I nodded. It was a memorable moment for me because it was the first time I was aware of my palate’s ability to project from an unfinished must how the wine would turn out. A few months later when the wine arrived at my home after taking a circuitous journey through NYC to get to New Jersey (I could insert another screed about wine shipping laws but that’s an old irritation), it was peachy, honeyed with a touch of minerality. I can’t eat oysters but could see this wine with scallops and other seafood. It could also be quaffed quite well on its own.
The visit to Paumonok crystallized some things about winery visits for me. One, a lot of winemakers are all hat and no cattle when it comes to making their wines “readable.” Massoud didn’t talk at all about growing practices or sustainability or any other hot button locabore topics. He let the wine speak for itself and the enthusiasm of the barrel tasters was all he needed to know how to proceed. Lastly, whenever I buy any wine, either from a honking conglomerate or a small producer, the Negress tries to remember that the winemaker’s intent was to do good, not harm, to palates everywhere.