Sister Vineyards Paumanok and Palmer Celebrate 40 Years on the North Fork
Ursula and Charles Massoud bought a potato farm in Aquebogue in 1983 and began planting grapes to make wine. Both wine connoisseurs, Ursula had grown up in a winemaking family in the Pfalz wine region of Germany, while Charles’ family was in the hospitality industry in Lebanon. The Massouds went on to convert a turn-of-the-century potato barn on the property into a winery and tasting room.
Forty years later, Paumanok Vineyards, now totaling 127 acres, is still owned and operated by the Massoud family. Five years ago, the family purchased neighboring Palmer Vineyards, which coincidentally is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year as well. Ursula and Charles Massoud are still involved in the operation of the vineyards, but their three sons have stepped into leadership roles.
Their eldest son, Kareem, is now winemaker, while Nabeel is vineyard manager and Salim is administrative manager.
Kareem Massoud was 10 years old when his parents bought the Paumanok property.
“I literally walked in my father’s footsteps when he was planting the first vines,” he says.
Over the years, the vineyard has won many accolades. It was a three-time winner of “Winery of the Year” honors in the New York Wine Classic competition, most recently in 2021. It has been a nominee for “American Winery of the Year” honors by Wine Enthusiast magazine, while wines by Paumanok have been featured in Bon Appetit’s annual “Best of the Year” issue. Paumanok wines have been served in multiple countries, as well as at the White House.
Paumanok is an estate winery, which means the Massouds own and operate their own vineyard and do everything from planting to bottling. The vineyard has a history of innovation. It was a pioneer in planting vines densely, and in 2007 Paumanok became the first winery on Long Island to use screw caps. Certified sustainable by Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, Paumanok became one of the first vineyards in the region to use renewable energy when it installed solar panels in 2009. The company’s eco-friendly practices include making some of its wine available in kegs and cans, which provide sustainability benefits.
“We are constantly looking at how to produce the highest quality wines in the most sustainable manner possible,” Kareem says.
Paumanok acquired 60-acre Palmer Vineyards from Kathy Le Morzellec, the daughter of founders Bob and Lorraine Palmer, in 2018.
“Palmer and Paumanok have a lot in common, which is why we were interested in acquiring Palmer,” Kareem says. “They are both estate vineyards, they have a similar focus on quality, they’re both certified sustainable, and they have a similar physical layout.”
With their locations on the western end of the North Fork — Paumanok on Main Road and Palmer on Sound Avenue — the vineyards are billed as the “Gateway to the North Fork.”
In terms of wines, Paumanok’s notable varieties include chenin blanc, cabernet Franc, semi-dry riesling, merlot and chardonnay, while Palmer is known primarily for its albarino, pino blanc, cabernet Franc and cabernet sauvignon offerings.
The wines are widely available at restaurants and retailers throughout Long Island and the New York metropolitan area and on a limited basis in other regions, including New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida and the Washington, D.C. area, as well as international markets including Canada, Denmark, Taiwan and Japan.
The pandemic forced Paumanok to switch to a table service model in its tasting room.
“Before COVID, we didn’t do a lot of table service, but now our service is similar to what you would expect when you go to a restaurant,” Kareem says. “You make reservations, you’re seated at a table and you have a server that takes care of you. It’s been a good transition and it’s been very good for our guests and our staff.”
Weather permitting, visitors can also enjoy wine out on the lawn at Paumanok, while Palmer has a covered outdoor seating area in addition to extensive lawn seating.
In addition to wine, the menus at both vineyards include cheese and charcuterie boards, and occasionally, there is live music. Food trucks pull up to Palmer on occasion, and Kareem says they may be brought to Paumanok in the future.
Throughout the season, these Riverhead Town vineyards’ 40th anniversaries will be celebrated with special events, such as a seafood boil in July and a special dinner event in August.
Paumanok Vineyards is located at 1074 Main Road, Aquebogue. For more information, call 631-722-8800 or visit paumanok.com.
Palmer Vineyards is located at 5120 Sound Avenue, Northville. For more info call 631-722-9463 or visit palmervineyards.com.