“We have the only chenin blanc in New York State,” asserts our server, so we are interested to taste the wine made from this French grape. But more about that later. On this beautiful late summer afternoon, the outside deck is filled with small groups enjoying the weather and Paumanok’s menu of raw oysters ($25 for a dozen) or large variety of cheese or charcuterie plates from Catapano goat farm and Lombardi’s Market.
The tasting room is small, but we manage to find room at the bar where we assess our choices. The tasting menu lists nine options, from one taste of their sparkling wine to four whites or four reds for $12 each flight. We opt to share one of each, but that still does not get us tastes of all their wines, in particular most of the Festival line. Maybe next year. The sign outside says “Winery of the Year,” but I’m not sure what that is based on. However, it is a pleasant place, especially in the good weather when you can sit outside; the wines, while none of them send us into outer space, are fine; and I have to favor a place that quotes Walt Whitman on their labels (Walt, born on Long Island, liked to use the Native American name for Long Island—Paumanok—in his poetry.). The gift area has a small selection of t-shirts and other gift items, but no volumes of Whitman’s poems!
- 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $24
If we had decided to have oysters, this is the wine I would have chosen to have with them. The aroma is grassy and minerally, the taste tart and lemony with some tropical fruit notes. Excellent.
- 2014 Chenin Blanc $28
I suppose because the bar is crowded, our server pours our tastes two at a time, which is good, because the wines are too cold, so our deliberate style of tasting—sniff, discuss, take notes, swirl, taste, discuss, take more notes—gives them time to warm up a bit. This is also a pleasant wine, a touch sweeter than the Sauvignon Blanc, with not much smell. We decide we taste some sweet orange, perhaps tangelo. A nice light summer wine, and you wouldn’t want to pair it with any food that was too assertive, as it would get lost.
- 2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24
Our charmingly French-accented server points out that they have a steel-fermented chard on the Festival list, as we discuss the differences between steel versus oak and what we like about each. We also notice that almost all the wines have screw caps, a boon to the corkscrew-use-challenged. This is not overly oaky, with a toasty aroma and some vanilla taste, but not too sweet. “A crowd pleaser,” we decide. I think it would pair well with shrimp.
- 2014 Dry Riesling $22
My husband, a riesling fan, doesn’t particularly care for this one, which he finds not “riesling enough.” I like it. It has a bit of that cat pee aroma, plus some apple. Our server says it has green apple tastes, and we agree, and would add a touch of Key lime citrus. Simple and refreshing, this is a good riesling if you are not particularly a riesling fan.
- 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling $20
If you are counting, you realize that this is our fifth out of four white wine tastes, which we get courtesy of our server who, noticing our seriousness, wants us to try a different style of riesling and gives us a small sample of a wine from a different flight. This is fairly sweet, almost candy-like, also relatively simple, and not to our taste—but it might go well with Thai food.
- 2012 Festival Red $20
The label says this “should be enjoyed with red meat,” but I would say not too red. Maybe pork chops or veal or a cheese plate, as it would not stand up to a big steak. A blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon and 48% merlot, this has a slightly piney aroma and is quite drinkable. It is mellow, not complex, with a touch of tannin. “I get a tingle on my tongue,” says my drinking pal.
- 2012 Merlot $24
Eh. No aroma, not much taste,rather underwhelming. Pischochs, I say, which my husband says I can’t use in a review. It’s a Yiddish term meaning…watery.
- 2013 Cabernet Franc $30
One of the servers gives us some more information on this wine, noting that 2013 was a very good year, and that this wine, a combination of mostly cabernet franc with “a touch of merlot,” drinks more like a pinot noir than a cab. I would agree. It is another nice wine, with a bit of a funky and blackberry smell and cherry and berry taste. It’s not powerful, though it has some depth.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
Our server, who reveals she is from Toulouse, is pleased when we note that this is actually a Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 16% merlot, 2% petit verdot, and 86% cabernet sauvignon. After she steps away we add to each other “Bordeaux light.” Aromas of cherry, oak and red candy; tastes of red fruit, maybe plums, pleasantly dry. Not a serious wine, we decide, but like almost all the wines we tried, fine.
At this point, we notice that there is no tip jar, which is too bad, since we would definitely have left a nice tip. If we had elected to buy four bottles the cost of one tasting would have been deducted from the total, but we decide we don’t want any of the wines enough to buy four bottles. However, there is nothing wrong with any of them (except that merlot!), so I wouldn’t cross this winery off your list if you were planning a visit. It is particularly a good place to sit outside and get one of their food items with a glass of wine. I’d recommend the Sauvignon Blanc with oysters or the Festival Red or Cabernet Sauvignon with a cheese or charcuterie plate.
Reasons to visit: the Sauvignon Blanc, the only Chenin Blanc in New York State, the Festival Red, the Cabernet Sauvignon; a nice outside deck where you can enjoy their cheese or charcuterie or oysters with a glass of wine; labels that quote Walt Whitman.