Top Reasons to Go to a Local Wine Dinner

bottle of Paumanok sparkling wine being pouredPaumanok’s new sparkling was poured at the wine dinner. 

As I drove my full, happy belly back from Tom Schaudel’s Jewel Restaurant in Melville after an exciting and convivial wine dinner featuring Paumanok wines, I considered the reasons why it is so worth it to plunk down big money for a wine dinner, even if you can only do it every once in a while.

It is not just for the opportunity to sample rare or unusual or hard-to-find wines: which in this case included Paumanok’s first venture into sparkling, the luscious 2009 Blanc de Blanc that debuted in October 2013; their iconic chenin blanc, this one from 2013; an unusual single varietal, the 2012 Petit Verdot; and a face-off between two big Long Island reds, Schaudel’s 2010 Private Stash, made at Paumanok, and the 2010 Tuthill’s Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottling made only three times in the 30-year history of the winery.

It is not just for the food: rustic yet very fine pizzette and a tuna tartar with red chilies in crunchy tortilla chips; a Long Island fluke crudo with passion fruit caviar that was pretty astonishing as it burst in the mouth; tender gnocchi with guanciale and a dash of pomodoro; juicy Prime New York strip steak with a choice of sauces in little pitchers for sampling (the au poivre was my winner); as well as inventive takes on classic sides served family style.

The food and wine were fabulous, but the special sauce is having the producers there, by your table, hanging out, having a good time and, importantly, giving you the inside scoop and answering questions. As I sipped the bubbly, it occured to me that I didn’t know Paumanok had the facilities to use the traditional method. So I asked owner-founder Charles Massoud, and learned the wine was made in collaboration with Lenz and noted sparkling maker Eric Fry. “Why not call on perhaps the best bubbly maker on the island, rather than reinvent the wheel,” said Charles. I know Paumanok is the only winery in New York to grow chenin blanc, but when dining with the Massouds, I learned they planted three more acres in the past three years.

ursula massoud holding a champagne glassUrsula Massoud makes a toast. 

And I got to see the interaction of food professionals who really like and respect each other. Schaudel has been making wine for his restaurants with the Massouds for years. “Ten years ago Tom Schaudel comes over and says ‘Charles, I want to make a wine,’” Massoud told the rapt audience as Schaudel picked up a glass. “So he has his own label. We all entered a competition. And who wins gold medal? Tom Schaudel.” Charles’s wife and partner Ursula chimed in, “But Charles, remember we also won five other medals that night!”

Schaudel, in his signature bandanna, took the floor to answer questions about the passion fruit caviar. “It is a culinary sleight-of-hand,” he said, explaining the science behind it. He also shared news of his latest venture, with his daughter Courtney, a wine and tapas bar in Aquebogue (which just happens to be the same town as Paumanok, go figure) called the Petulant Wino. By this time the diners were no longer sitting, but gathered in clusters, chocolate truffles and 2010 Assemblage or coffee in hand, not just attending a wine dinner, but sharing dessert with friends and making plans to go out on the boat in July.

red wine glassesThe big reds go head to head. 

And that is why, the next time you want to splurge on a special dinner out, consider a wine dinner with one of our producers. You eat and drink well, learn from the experts, and become part of the local food chain in the friendliest of ways.

Natalia de Cuba Romero blogs at Hot, Cheap & Easy