How Paumanok and Palmer Vineyards Keep Olive Oil “Local”

Paumanok Vineyards, Photo: Nicholas Chowske
Paumanok Vineyards, Photo: Nicholas Chowske

Paumanok and Palmer Vineyards, owned for decades by the Massoud family, pride themselves on being local. The Massouds, who have been bottling since 1990, exclusively use their own grapes. But there is one particular product on offer that, while not “local,” is, as Long Island Wine Council President Kareem Massoud puts it, “in the family”—olive oil. Finca La Capellanía Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is created by Massoud’s uncle, Gabriel, and named after his olive orchard in Benarrabá, Malága, Spain.

“It’s small-batch, totally untouched, absolutely nothing is done to it at all, they grow the olives, then harvest them,” says Kareem. “It’s not even cultured.” Kareem talks about the small-batch olive oil, the Massouds’ history on the North Fork and more.

Finca La Capellanía Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Photo: Courtesy Paumanok Vineyards

Talk about the history of Finca La Capellanía Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
My uncle owns an olive orchard in the south of Spain and he’s had it for quite some time, at least 30 years, but the olive orchard finally became mature and started bearing fruit and olives and he started making olive oil. My family is all about “local”—we only use grapes that we grow at vineyards that we own and operate to make our wine. And so the olives, of course, are not local but they are in the family. 

Tell us about the olive orchard.
It’s a beautiful property. It’s quite arid—most of the Iberian Peninsula is quite arid. That’s what you want for olives, it’s hot and dry. You can’t grow olives on Long Island; it’s just not going to happen. Down there, it’s the perfect environment. It’s basically on a mountainside.

Your family must have a long history of farming.
My father [Charles Massoud] and my uncle both grew up in Lebanon. I wouldn’t say they were farmers. In fact, the Lebanese side of my family were in the hospitality industry in the form of catering, restaurants and a hotel that my grandfather owned. But they did have a property where they had all kinds of fruit trees. Essentially, they were exposed to an agrarian life without actually being farmers. For my uncle, who owns the olive orchard, it’s not his primary activity. He’s a real estate developer in Marbella, in south of Spain at the Costa Del Sol, the south coast of Spain and his property where he has the olive orchard is an hour or two drive west of Marbella.

What’s the response been to the olive oil at Paumanok and Palmer?
The response is generally like, “oh, olive oil?” And then people try a bottle and come back to buy more!

Tell us a little about your life on the North Fork.
I was 10 years old when my parents bought our farm and planted our first vineyards. In the early days, my parents bought that farm in ’83, I was coming of age. At that time we realized my parents were doing something special. The work, though, was kind of boring! First of all, we had grown up in Connecticut, we didn’t really know anyone here and when we came out here all we did was work. We took advantage of having the local beaches nearby, but as we grew up, our friends in suburban Connecticut, we had to mow the lawn at home but in our case we had to mow the lawn twice and had to go work in the vineyard.

I had a brief career on Wall Street in finance for two years before I decided to get out of it to get into the family business and now it’s 22 years that I’m here full time. It’s a similar story for my brothers. They both went to school but ended up back at the family vineyard. My parents are semi-retired but still involved and both of my brothers, Salim and Nabeel, work full-time at the wineries.

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