Hey New Yorkers, you don’t need to trek all the way to Napa to visit wine country. This Spring, we recommend a weekend getaway to the North Fork’s burgeoning wine country. Last Fall, we were in the North Fork for our childhood friend’s wedding. After the wedding festivities concluded, we sampled red and white vino at Paumanok and Martha Clara Vineyards. We are excited to share our North Fork adventures with you.
The North Fork is a 30 mile long peninsula in Suffolk County, Long Island, about 75 miles east of Manhattan. This area collectively with The Hamptons is known as the East End. The North Fork is a three-hour train ride from Penn Station. You can catch the train to Ronkonkoma, transfer to the Greenpoint train and get off at the Riverhead, Mattituck or Southhold stops (depending on the location of your hotel / wineries). The wineries are a short Uber ride from the train stations. We recommend starting your day early and checking the train schedule in advance as there are limited train options on the weekend.
The North Fork has approximately 50 wineries from Jamesport to Greenport, ranging from family-owned vineyards to corporate estates. These wineries produce a mix of Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
We were only able to visit two wineries during our day trip. Our first stop was Paumanok Vineyards, owned by the Massoud family. We enjoyed 2 delicious flights of wines, followed by a private tour with winemaker, Kareem Mousoud. His parents, Charles and Ursula Massoud, founded the winery in 1983 and own and manage this 127 acre estate with their three sons Kareem, Nabil and Salim.
Paumanok grows several grape varietals including Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Their Tasting Room is open daily from 11 AM – 6 PM April through October and 11 AM – 5 PM from November through March. You can sip wine by the taste, glass or bottle. Reservations are required for parties larger than seven and groups with drivers or limos. We enjoyed our wine tasting on a beautiful deck overlooking the vineyard. There is also an indoor tasting room. Light bites are available and we ordered a delicious goat cheese trio and baguette to pair with our wines.
We started our wine tasting with a sparkling Blanc en Blanc. Next we sipped two Chardonnay, one that oaky and buttery like a White Burgundy and one that resembled a Sauvignon Blanc. We also sipped a semi sweet Riesling, that pairs nicely with spicy Indian or Thai food. They also have a dry Riesling, if you prefer less sweet wines. One of our favorites was the Chenin Blanc, which is a grape not normally associated with the North Fork. We tasted notes of pineapple and guava, and purchased a bottle to take home. We ended our tasting with late harvest Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc dessert wines.
During our tasting, Kareem sat down with us and shared the history of the vineyard and their winemaking process. Kareem also gave us a private tour. We walked through the cellar, barrel rooms and saw all the equipment used to make this delicious wine. We highly recommend a tour, either self-guided (free), guided ($5 per person), proprietor ($20 per person) or VIP ($50 per person and included tasting). Tours are subject to minimums.
After an amazing afternoon at Paumanok, we headed to Martha Clara Vineyards. This winery was founded in 1995 by Robert Entenmann, of the Entenmann Family. He named the vineyard after his mother, Martha Clara. After four years of planting various grapes, the winery opened its doors to visitors in 1999. This wine estate is quite large, resting over 200 acres and includes 113 acres of grapevine, nine barns, three cottages, manor house, a wine club gallery, event and tasting rooms, and culinary education center. Just yesterday, the vineyard was sold to the Rivero-Gonzalez family from Mexico for $15 million. María Rivero will be the new CEO of Martha Clara. The winery was lead by their Winemaker and General Manager, Juan Micieli-Martinez, but he will not be staying on after the sale.
Martha Clara’s rustic tasting room is quite spacious and feels like you are inside a barn. There are snacks and farm fresh treats available for purchase. The vineyard offers individual tastings, flights, and wines by the glass and bottle. VIP private wine tastings require reservations at least two weeks in advance. Groups arriving by limo or bus must schedule a group tasting reservation. They also have a VIP Private Wine Tasting Loft. You can also sip wine in the beautiful outdoor deck, which overlooks the vineyards and horse farm. We sipped our wines by the bar. We started with their Crémant Blanc and Crémant Rouge and then tasted the Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Premium Red Blend. We also ordered a second cheese plate to pair with our flights.
Thanks again to Paumanok and Martha Clara for a wonderful afternoon of wine tasting. We can’t wait for our adventure in the North Fork.
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin