Paumanok Vineyards’ chenin blanc is one of the great mysteries of the North Fork wine world. Why? Because despite all the success the Massoud family — which owns the Aquebogue vineyard — has had with it, they remain the only Long Island winery to grow or make it.
By all accounts, it’s not tricky to work with — at least no more so than any other grape in our sometimes challenging maritime climate. It ripens and performs consistently in the vineyard and doesn’t require unique or special treatment or protocols.
Paumanok’s winemakers — first Charles Massoud and now his son Kareem — have been working with the grape long enough to understand how to get the most from it in the cellar, where it also doesn’t necessitate any special techniques or trickery.
Perhaps most importantly, chenin blanc is a big seller for the winery. It used to sell out before the end of every summer, even at $28 per bottle. But with new plantings in 2000, 2005 and 2012, production has risen to more than 2,700 cases in 2014. As a result, it lasts longer.
Still, it maintains near-cult status and sells briskly.
So, why isn’t anyone else growing or making chenin here?