Croteaux: Voyage to Provence July 27, 2014

http://www.croteaux.com/

The entrance to the tasting garden.

The entrance to the tasting garden.

Croteaux is our favorite place for relaxed outdoor summer sipping of rosés.  The pretty garden is surrounded by flowering bushes and studded with Adirondack chairs and wooden picnic tables with comfortable wire chairs around them.  The winery’s practice of limiting groups to eight and banning buses and limos ensures that the atmosphere stays calm and peaceful.

One of the surprisingly comfortable chairs.

One of the surprisingly comfortable chairs.

We know they practice good conservation techniques, since we ran into Paul Croteaux at the Southold dump, recycling a load of empty bottles, though the bottles are so pretty it seems a shame to throw them out.  Paula Croteaux presides over the tasting garden with charm and grace, and the service is always excellent.  The wines are quite good, too.  I thought I disliked rosés until I tried theirs, and on this trip my cousin underwent a similar conversion, as we convinced him and his wife and my brother and sister-in-law to accompany us to Croteaux (well, we were driving, so they didn’t have that much choice).

We all opted for the rosé tasting, six rosés for $15.  We could also have had three sparkling rosés for the same price or a glass for $10-13, depending on variety.  The first three wines on the list are each $19 a bottle, and the last three are $25, with 10% off if you buy a case.  Buying a case means you are automatically a member of the case club, which gets you several benefits—not least of which is plenty of rosé, perfect for summer meals.  After you order, the waitress brings you a round flower pot bottom with the first three wines, and then another with the next three, each round-bottomed glass sitting on a label so you know in which order to drink them.  A request for water brought a bottle and fresh glasses.

One round

One round

The Croteaux web site describes their wines as “dry, crisp, and fruit-filled,” and I agree.

1) 181 French Pomerol

Alas, this wine is already sold out, so you can taste it but not take it home, which is too bad as it is a lovely strawberry-scented light rosé, with notes of lemon and perhaps walnut at the end.

2) Merlot 314

Named for the clone of merlot that is used to make it, this is our favorite of their wines.  Though it has less scent than the 181, it has more body and is fruitier, though still dry.  We decide it would be perfect with lobster, a theory we prove later that night over lobsters my cousin buys at Braun’s.  We buy a case and a half…

 

3) Merlot 3

Why 3?  Because it is a blend of 181, 314, and 3.  We taste more citrus in this lighter wine, and would pair it with goat cheese (a crock of which you can get at the winery, with slices of baguette).  A bit too light, I think.  “I wouldn’t kick it out of bed,” notes my brother, though he also characterizes it as a “crowd pleaser.”

We sip and chat.

We sip and chat.

4) 181 Sauvage

Fermented using wild yeasts, this is a wine that will vary year to year, and I liked last year’s version better.  We smell lots of strawberry (“The technical term is schnozz,” jokes my husband), but the wine itself tastes a bit thin and unfinished.  One person tastes melon, my cousin suggests celery, I offer minerality.  It would be better paired with food.  This is the first of the more expensive set of three.

5) Chloe

A blend of sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc, this wine is, one of us offers, “a white wine lover’s rosé.”  I smell burnt pear and fresh cut grass.  I’d like this with oysters, as the dryness and fruit would complement the salinity of the bivalves.

6) Jolie

This wine is also sold out.  In fact, if you want some of Croteaux’s rosés I suggest you get over there quickly, as they typically are sold out by the end of the season.  True to its name, this is a pretty wine, both in looks and taste, sweet at the beginning with a dry finish and a wonderful aroma of roses.  Unlike Chloe, this is a wine I’d be happy sipping, maybe even in a spritzer on a hot day.  My cousin, getting into the spirit of the day, suggests serving it with Velveeta.  Maybe not.

Pretty bottles

Pretty bottles

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful garden setting with a peaceful atmosphere; rosés that will change your mind about rosés; the 314, the Chloe, and the Jolie; oh, and I forgot to mention, they have a lovely boutique with interesting items my cousin’s wife wanted to explore.

This may not be true for roses, but it is for friends.

This may not be true for roses, but it is for friends.

 

Flowers line the garden

Flowers line the garden

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The Winemaker Studio: Wine as Art? July 4, 2014

http://www.anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

Rainy Fourth of July!

Rainy Fourth of July!

The rain washed out our barbeque, but not our determination to do a wine tasting, so off we set in a tropical downpour to the welcoming environs of The Winemaker Studio.  Odd name for a tasting room, you are probably thinking, especially since it occupies the premises previously called The Tasting Room, a more obvious name.  However, as Anthony Nappa, the proprietor, discussed with us on a previous visit, the idea is to provide a space where a variety of winemakers can showcase their wares, and to also have the space function as an art gallery, with art for purchase on the walls.

photo (65)

Many of the winemakers carried here are also—or have been—winemakers for larger wineries, such as Raphael or Osprey’s Dominion, but felt they wanted to make wines their own way, under their own label.  Like art, these are labors of love.  As you can tell by the site’s URL, Anthony Nappa makes his own wines, and his selections dominate the tasting menu of fifteen wines, all available for $2 or $3 a taste.  In addition to selling wine by the glass they also feature Greenport Harbor beer on tap and a number of local hard liquors—gin, vodka, whiskey—plus espresso and cappuccino and a menu of sandwiches crafted by Nappa’s wife, Sarah Evans Nappa, a chef who previously worked at the North Fork Table and Inn.  They also run a small store attached to the tasting room called Provisions, which stocks a variety of both local and imported foods, including cheeses, pastas, and charcuterie.  Like many places with their own food, they ask you not to bring your own snacks, but are happy to sell you cheeses, etc.

Some of the provisions at Provisions.

Some of the provisions at Provisions.

The room is small, simple, and rustic, with a wooden bar and small tables with folding chairs both inside and outside.  Sometimes you find a dog or two around, but today they had been left home because the thunder was freaking them out.  Our friends, animal lovers, were disappointed that the dogs were not in residence, but happy about the wines they tasted.  Frequent North Fork visitors, they had not heard of The Winemaker Studio, but will now add it to their list.  We each made a variety of choices from the menu, with each couple sharing one tasting, a good decision since the pour was quite generous.  We were left on our own to decide the order of tastes.  I’ve marked the Anthony Nappa wines with an AN at the end.

Tasting menu

Tasting menu

1)       2013 Frizzante Sparkling                              $20

It had been a year since we were here, and there were quite a few new wines, including a sparkling wine made from riesling, pinot noir, and gewürztraminer, and not filtered, so it has an intriguing cloudy look.  We smell and taste lots of minerality, plus unripe pineapple and some lemon.  We envision drinking it on the deck with charcuterie, and our friend suggests using it in a cocktail with Limoncello and some raspberries.  Sounds good!  AN

Frizzante--note the cloudiness.

Frizzante–note the cloudiness.

2)      2013 Reminisce                 $22

This is their sauvignon blanc, and it spends three days on the skins, giving it lots of complex flavors, including ripe grapefruit.  Good!  AN

3)      2013 Spezia Gewürztraminer                      $25

Spezia means spicy, a good name for this spicy dry gewürztraminer, with its pleasant honeysuckle aroma.  Though it lacks depth (We prefer One Woman’s gewürztraminer.), it is a good wine.  Pair it with stinky cheeses, they suggest.  AN

It's a fairly generous pour.

It’s a fairly generous pour.

4)      2012 Dodici                         $35

So a year ago we had the 2010 Dieci, which this replaces (brush up on your Italian numbers to decipher the names).  A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc, this Bordeaux type is another good wine.  Mouthwatering fruit flavors.  AN

5)      2012 Black Bird Reserve Merlot                  $40

Though we are told that this is a wine made only in good years, spending 18 months in the barrel, we are unimpressed.  There’s a touch of that earth smell you sometimes get in North Fork merlots, some dark cherry taste, and not much else.

6)      Red Blend by Greg Gove of Race Wines      $22

This is another Bordeaux-type blend, of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot.  Again, just okay—and fairly oaky, too.

Our friends also tried and really like Nappa’s Anomaly, a white wine made from red grapes, which we have liked in the past, and they enjoyed as well.  They bought a bottle of the Frizzante, perhaps to try that cocktail idea in the near future!  Then we browsed a bit in Provisions, and, though we didn’t find anything we needed for that night, having shopped already, we did make mental notes of things we would buy.

Part of the Provisions menu

Part of the Provisions menu

Reasons to visit:  a chance to try a variety of wines not readily available elsewhere; the Frizzante, the Dodici, the Reminisce; the opportunity to shop at Provisions; art on the walls; the availability of other drinks and food for those who aren’t wine drinkers.  We haven’t tried it, but they have Happy Hour from 5-7 every day, with 30% off on glasses of wine.

Not a great day for sitting outside...maybe next time!

Not a great day for sitting outside…maybe next time!