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Paumanok and Palmer vineyards are two of the North Fork’s oldest wineries, each having been founded in Aquebogue in 1983.

Now one is assuring the other’s legacy continues. 

The Massoud family, owners of Paumanok since its inception, has agreed to purchase Palmer’s 60-acre vineyard, winery and inventory. The sale, expected to close August 1, will also include the Palmer brand, which will continue under the stewardship of an integrated team of Paumanok and Palmer staffers.

“The acquisition of Palmer Vineyards makes sense for Paumanok on several levels,” Paumanok founder and owner Charles Massoud said in a statement. “It gives us a much needed presence on Sound Avenue. Geographically, it is located very close to Paumanok which will make the logistics of running the two operations smoother. It also means they share similar terroir. The prevailing climate in the Riverhead area is the warmest on the East End. We find it very well-suited to our viticulture and we are looking forward to add to the acreage that we farm in the same area.”

Palmer and Paumanok have a lot in common, Massoud noted.  Two of Riverhead Town’s first three wineries, Palmer and Paumanok have reputations among the more respected and widely known wine brands on Long Island. They are also both certified sustainable wineries.

Palmer Vineyards was founded on Sound Avenue 35 years ago by the late Bob Palmer, who used his connections from a decades-long career on Madison Avenue to grow the brand into one recognized far beyond Long Island. It’s been sold on American Airlines flights and at theme parks as well as popular restaurants across the region. Palmer, who died in January 2009, is also credited with being among the first to recognize the important role tourism would play in the success of Long Island wineries. His winery’s tasting room opened in 1986 and it draws thousands each year for tastings and events.

Since Palmer’s passing, the business has been owned by one of his three daughters, Kathy Le Morzellec. It has been on the market since the summer of 2009.

“I am pleased to be completing the sale of Palmer Vineyards to the Massoud Family,” Le Morzellec said in a statement. “I have been very committed to see Palmer Vineyards sell to someone who would keep it as a vineyard/winery. The Massoud Family has always shared Palmer’s commitment to excellence, so this is a perfect fit. I am forever grateful for all the support our customers have shown us over the years and I am confident they will be in good hands. I wish the Massouds much success at Palmer Vineyards.”

The original Palmer Vineyards sign (at left) is raised on Sept. 8, 1983. Founder Bob Palmer (at right). Credit: Courtesy of Palmer Vineyards

The actual sale price has not been disclosed, but it was first listed at $6.9 million and the asking price has been lowered over time to just under $5 million. A smaller vineyard Palmer owned in Cutchogue was sold to another party earlier this year for $1.25 million.

While rare for a Long Island winery to change hands, Palmer is the third to be sold in the past 15 months. Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck was purchased by New Jersey financier Randy Frankel and his wife Barbara in April 2017 and almost exactly a year later a family group headed by Mexican businessman  José Antonio Rivero Larrea and his daughter Maria acquired Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead.

In this rare instance, however, the owners of an existing local winery are taking over a neighboring operation, while still keeping the existing brand intact.

Paumanok Vineyards, located directly south of Palmer on the Main Road, has taken a low-key path to success, earning its stellar reputation by producing wine that is widely considered among the best in the state.

Charles and Ursula Massoud purchased their property 35 years ago with some vines already planted there. They quickly expanded the planted acreage and number of varieties before Charles, a native of Lebanon and a former marketing executive at IBM, bottled the winery’s first wines in 1991, the year construction on the tasting room was completed.

Kareem, Nabeel and Salim Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards hold three of the winery’s four 93-point wines, as awarded by The Wine Advocate in 2015. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Paumanok has twice been named New York’s Winery of the Year at the New York Wine and Food Classic, most recently in 2015. That same year, it earned the highest scores ever awarded at the time to an East Coast winery by Wine Advocate.

The purchase of Palmer Vineyards is consistent with the Massouds’ long-term plans to expand operations as their three grown sons have all entered the business.

In 2011, Charles Massoud told the Long Island Wine Press he hoped to purchase more vines and a second tasting room as his three sons took a more active role in the operations.

Winemaker Kareem Massoud joined his parents in the family business in 2001. His siblings Nabeel, a vineyard manager, and Salim, who handles logistics and administrative duties, also work alongside their brother and parents.

Kareem will now serve as the winemaker at Palmer Vineyards in addition to his duties at Paumanok.

Charles Massoud said the family hopes the sale will “elevate the already high level of quality and hospitality at both operations.”

“We are focused on producing the finest quality wines and delivering an outstanding visitor experience for our guests,” he said. “We hope that by having the two teams integrate we will strengthen both businesses.”