Please join me in welcoming Paumanok Vineyards' co-owner and winemaker, Charles Massoud, to LENNDEVOURS as a contributing columnist.
Charles was born and grew up in Lebanon. After finishing high school he went to study in Paris and upon graduation came to Philadelphia to continue his graduate studies. There he earned his MBA at the Wharton School and also met his wife Ursula who was also a student, at Chestnut Hill College.
While wine was served at the dinner table at home he did not get too involved with it until he was sent by IBM on assignment to the state of Kuwait. There, by necessity, since Kuwait is a "dry" country" he learned to make wine at home. Ursula is from Germany and her maternal grandfather owned quite a few vineyards and to this day she has many relatives growing grapes and making wine in the Rhine Pfalz region, in southwest Germany. What started as a hobby soon was given a boost by this connection.
Upon returning to the USA with IBM in 1978, Charles realized that at some point he had to think of what to do after IBM. Soon after, he and Ursula heard about the East End and its burgeoning wine industry. With their background and desire for an alternate lifestyle, they bought an old potato farm in Aquebogue and planted it in 1983 with about 15 acres of grapes.
Over time this grew to a total of 60 acres and in 1991 they sold their first wine. They named the vineyard/winery Paumanok the original name for Long Island, as Walt Whitman, the famous American poet, used to refer to it. By 1992, with the demands of the winery getting bigger and IBM offering generous buyouts, (Charles refers to it as the "bronze parachute" becuase "it was not quite gold where I was") Charles took his early retirement and they moved full time to the vineyard from their Stamford, CT, home.
Charles stepped down as president of the Long Island Wine Council in 2000, a position he has been elected to five times by his colleagues in the wine industry. In that capacity he lead the industry's efforts in promoting the high quality of the wines of the East End.
Charles is a "hands on" owner being his own winemaker and also being involved daily in all aspects of that business. He is now passing the torch to his sons, being content with seeing them slowly displace him.
Currently Charles serves as a trustee, treasurer and chairs the strategic planning committee of Central Suffolk Hospital. Charles is also a director of the Bridgehampton National Bank and chairs the Small Business Advisory Committee of the Town of Riverhead.
I can say from experience that Charles pulls no punches and will always tell you exactly how he feels about any issue. That's why I've asked him to join me here at LENNDEVOURS. I expect that he'll be the impetus for some interesting discussions.