Home > Experiences, Winery > My First Harvest – At Paumanok Winery

My First Harvest – At Paumanok Winery

December 23, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

This post was supposed to be written at least 2 months ago – but it is only coming out now. Well, the experience was great, so want to share it. And I will also skip a traditional Wine Quiz for the next two weekends, and will start it anew next year.

DSC_0061Ahh, all those “firsts” – aren’t they the best, most memorable experiences of your life? First step (well, nobody remembers those, I guess), first kiss (hope now I’m talking about something more memorable), first… well, whatever makes you tick, insert it here. I have somewhat of the extensive experience around wines, but I still have my “firsts”, and plenty of it.

At the beginning of October, while in Austin, I tasted my first “just blended” Viognier (here is the link if you want to read about it). This time, I managed to come across my first harvest. No, I didn’t actually cut, sorted or stomped the grapes. But our visit to Paumanok winery on Long Island in New York coincided with an actual harvest of Merlot which was taking place on exact same day.

For a number of years by now, it is pretty much a tradition – at the beginning of October, we visit Long Island wineries with the group of friends. The weather is usually beautiful – it is so called “Indian summer” in New England, so it is typically warm and sunny, but not hot by all means. We drive all the way down the North Fork of Long Island, stop at a few wineries on the way, taste bunch of wines and then select a few bottles for lunch.

So far we didn’t find a better location for lunch than the outside deck at Paumanok winery – you get to eat outside and enjoy a view of the beautiful sun-filled vineyards:

DSC_0012 At Paumanok winery

This time our experience had an interesting twist – we managed to hit the harvest day. I called the winery a few days before and talked to winemaker, Kareem, to see if he will be able to spend some time with us – he said “may be, but unlikely. as we probably will be harvesting Merlot”. That is exactly how it was – the harvest was in a full swing by the time we arrived. Before we will talk about our “harvest experience” (mostly in pictures), let’s talk about the wines, as we started from the tasting upon our arrival.

We tasted pretty much through the full line of wines offered at Paumanok. Started with 2011 Paumanok Festival Chardonnay – unoaked and simple, showing clean white fruit and good acidity.

DSC_0939While it was group’s favorite, I generally need more life in my Chardonnay – oak, vanilla, butter – all balanced, of course, but I need more prominent power, so this was not my favorite wine.

2011 Paumanok Dry Rose was a bit too austere to my taste – I liked 2010 more, but we still took a bottle for lunch.


2011 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc was very good, a New Zealand style wine, with bright fruit, grapefruit notes, fresh grass and perfect acidity.

DSC_0942 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc

Continuing the line of whites was 2011 Paumanok Dry Riesling – perfectly done in classic style – good white fruit, touch of honey and perfect acidity (also was one of our lunch wine choices). Finishing up the whites we had 2011 Paumanok Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, which I liked a lot more that the unoaked version.

DSC_0947 Paumanok Barrel Fermented ChardonnayThis wine spent 6 months in barrel. Notes of vanilla on the nose, more vanilla, hint of butter and some apples on the palate, very good balance.

And now, to the reds! We started with 2011 Paumanok Cabernet Franc – nose of fresh berries, somewhat similar to the nose of Beaujolais Nouveau, only with more intensity, medium body, cherry notes on the palate, together with earthy notes and gentle tannins – very good wine. Next wine was 2011 Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon. It was not bad, but too perfumy for my taste. I honestly think that Long Island makes much better wines with Merlot than with Cabernet Sauvignon. Last wine in this flight was 2008 Paumanok Merlot, which was perfect – medium to full body, good amount of fruit, good acidity and tannins – very balanced.

DSC_0953 Paumanok Merlot

We finished tasting with Grand Vintage Flight. 2010 Paumanok Cabernet Franc Grand Vintage was produced for the first time since 2004 in the quantity of 156 cases. This wine was perfect – full body, ripe cherries, sweet oak,  soft tannins – I put “full package” as a summary of my tasting notes.

DSC_0952 Paumanok Caberget Franc Grand Vintage

Next wine in the flight was 2010 Paumanok Assemblage – a blend of 35% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot and 11% Cabernet Franc. Even bigger than the previous wine, this wine showed some additional dark chocolate notes and great overall balance (as you know, balance in wine is one thing which can push my buttons).

DSC_0956 Paumanok Assemblage

We finished our tasting with 2007 Paumanok Merlot Tuthills Lane Vineyard – which was a great wine – dark fruit, dark chocolate, hint of tobacco, supple tannins and fresh acidity – very tasty.

DSC_0957 Paumanok Merlot Tuthills Lane

As we were finishing the tasting we met Ursula, who happened to be the winery owner. She works at the winery together with her three sons, who are in charge of all operations – wine growing, wine making, harvesting and everything else which goes into production of Paumanok wines. Seeing our keen interest in wines, Ursula happened to be the  most gracious and welcoming host, and we got really an inside tour of winery and what was happening on that day – which was a Merlot harvest.

Ursula showed us fermentation tanks and barrels, as well as state of the art bottling line:

DSC_0982 Paumanok Bottling Line

But most importantly, she gave us a taste of just fermented Chenin Blanc, which was incredible! Freshly fermented juice was something I never tasted before, so it was my first encounter with inside magic of winemaking – and it was delicious.

DSC_0974 Ursula Massoud with glass of freshly ferment Chenin Blanc

To add up to that experience, she also took us to the backyard, so to speak, where the fresh grapes were arriving.

Merlot grapes at Paumanok are harvested using the machine. Salim, another one of the three brothers was operating the machine and he gave us all the explanations. This machine can’t be used for all the grapes – only for those where whole cluster doesn’t have to be harvested – for instance, it is not used for Chardonnay, as whole clusters are fermented as part of Chardonnay production.

DSC_0002 Braud grape harvesting machine

The machine is positioned such a way that the row of the vines happens to be right in a middle of it. As the machine moves forward with the vines all being inside, all the branches are getting a gentle shake from the side rods:

DSC_0003 braud machine

As the result, grapes are falling down into the receptors, which are all moving as a conveyor belt, bringing the grapes up into collection bin.

DSC_0007Once arriving at the sorting facility (back at the winery in our case), the grapes are transferred into one big container:

DSC_0994 grapes offloaded

So the result looks like this:

DSC_0962 Merlot Grapes

And then the grapes get to the sorting table, where minimal processing is done to remove big branches and spoiled grapes:

DSC_0010 Sorting of Merlot grapes

From the sorting table the grapes are transferred directly into the fermentation tank. By the way, do you see that juice coming off the sorting belt? We had a chance to taste that too – it was absolutely delicious – not that I hold any grudge against Welches, but this juice is something I would gladly drink any time (Welches – sorry, can’t do).

We always have a great time at Paumanok (as I mentioned before, this is our “annual outing”) – but never before we were lucky to have such a special experience and see how the magic starts.

After lunch we decided to visit two more wineries – Bedell and Macari. And I have to mention that unfortunately, outside of the cool labels, we didn’t find a single wine from Bedell tasting which we liked – all the reds tasted very green, with lots of branches to chew on.

DSC_0048 Bedell

Oh well, at least Paumanok had being very consistent through many years, so we are definitely looking forward continuing our tasty tradition.

I hope I didn’t inundate you with pictures too much, but there you have it – my first harvest experience, and I hope not the last (and if you are into wines, you should seek that experience as well!). Until the next time – cheers!

  1. December 23, 2012 at 9:52 am

    You can really feel your joy and child-like excitement through describing your first harvest experience. Not sure if we’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a place in Elmsford, NY called MYO. Depending on the time of year, you pick certain varieties from California or South America. We have made a Cab Sauv and a Super Tuscan, though we really want to try a Chilean variety. Then, you go step by step with him. You throw the grapes in the masher, you stir, you punch it down, you taste it step by step, you pick your own labels, and you get to even put on the labels yourself as well as the cork foil. And, what’s cool is that it only comes in at about $14 per bottle. A fun experience and not too expensive either. The more bottles that you buy, the cheaper, too.

    So, awesome job on this post. It’s our favorite of yours so far. Keep up the good work.

    • talkavino
      December 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Thank you, guys, appreciate your kind words! I always hesitate when the actual experience gets disconnected in time from the post – you know, there is a thought “but, may be it is too late?”. I’m glad I followed through with this one and I’m glad you enjoyed that.

      And thank for the pointer for the MYO – while I always think that making of the wines should be left form the professionals, this definitely sounds like fun, but moreover – it sounds affordable. I think this is something I actually want to do – so may be I will meet you there : )

      Happy Holidays!

      • December 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm

        You know, there was no disconnect at all. In fact, it’s kind of nice to see on a cold day. Reminds us of better times. 🙂 Happy Holidays and maybe we’ll see you there! 🙂

  2. December 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

    What a great post, Anatoli: thank you for sharing you Indian Summer outing experience! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and the part on the actual harvesting process they use was a bonus treat!
    Take care

    • talkavino
      December 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Thank you, Stefano, I’m glad you liked it!

  3. December 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm


    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to Paumanok. What a write up!


    Kareem Massoud

    • talkavino
      December 23, 2012 at 11:51 pm


      thank you very much for visiting my blog and leaving the comment! We had a great time and enjoyed your wines very much!

  4. PSsquared
    December 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    What an amazing experience you had. I agree, there’s no disconnect, even though it happened a while ago. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • talkavino
      December 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      I’m glad you liked it!

  1. March 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm
  2. May 7, 2015 at 4:23 pm
  3. October 30, 2015 at 1:14 pm

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