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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.