If you only do one thing, it is best if you do that one thing well, and Croteaux does. All they make is rosé, and they make the best rosés on the North Fork. Paul and Paula Croteaux are likely to greet you as you walk through the small entry area and out into the lovely outdoor yard, where you are seated by a cheery hostess in one of the flowing tops they also sell in the charming boutique. Paul, slim and gray-haired, is often behind the bar, setting up tastings, while Paula, blonde and round-faced, operates the cash register and circulates throughout the yard to be sure all is going well. It is.
We have settled into comfortable Adirondack chairs, perused the menu, and decided we will each get a tasting of their six rosés (for $15). We could also have opted for three sparkling rosés for the same price. Their small menu of snacks is well chosen and homemade, but we’re planning an early dinner so we decide not to this time. The atmosphere is relaxed yet lively, with small groups clustered around the tables or in pairs of chairs (no limos or drop-offs allowed). A dog enters with his humans and is carefully vetted by Sergeant, the resident little pooch. At one point the hostess brings the visiting canine a doggie dish of water—and she’ll provide humans with bottles of water as well.
The three numbered rosé clones are each $19 per bottle, and the three named ones are $25, while the sparking rosés are $28 each. All vintages are the current year, as last year’s wines sold out!
- Merlot 181
A sniff reveals aromas of flowers—honeysuckle—and fruit, possibly melon. The taste is quite tart, with even a bit of a tingle, and reminds me of pink grapefruit with a touch of minerality. At the end I get lemon. This, I say, would go well with goat cheese, like the one we picked up at Catapano this morning.
- Merlot 314
In the past this has been our favorite, so we have our fingers crossed that it is as good this year. Yum! Happy taste buds. We smell strawberries and tangerines, taste apricot. Though the wine has lots of fruit, it is not sweet. “This would go with most everything,” opines my husband. We plan to buy a case.
- Merlot 3
A blend of three clones—181, 314, and 3—this is also a good wine, though we still prefer the 314. It is a touch sweeter than the others, though still dry, with good fruit and also a fair amount of mineral taste and some saltiness. My tasting buddy says it is “not as bright” as the 314.
Now we’ve moved on to the slightly more expensive wines. Sauvage is also made from the 181 clone, but with wild yeast, which means the winemaker has given up a bit of control. The aroma reminds us of asparagus—which we also picked up this morning and plan to grill later—and the taste is quite different from the 181, though still quite good. It has more minerality and is quite light. We like it better than the 2014 Sauvage.
This is “the white wine lover’s rosé,” suggest the tasting notes. Made from sauvignon blanc grapes that spend a short amount of time on the skins, this is so pale that it looks white. We smell lemon/lime and wet ferns. The taste is quite tart and lemony, which would make it a perfect foil for oysters (No, we’re not having any of those tonight!). It is a touch less crisp than the usual sauvignon blanc.
So if Chloe is the white wine lover’s rosé, this is “the red wine lover’s rosé,” made from the cabernet franc grape in the Bordeaux style. Strawberry rhubarb pie aroma—just like the pie we got at Briermere this morning—and some strawberry taste, as well as a touch of espresso at the end and maybe red blackberries. Yet it is still tart, though fruitier than the others. Maybe it would go with the lamb steaks we bought at Eight Hands Farm today (new place—they sell pastured lamb, pork, and chicken, plus more).
Reasons to visit: rosés that will make you fall in love with them, even if you thought you didn’t like rosés; a comfortable, pleasant outdoor tasting area; good snacks; the case club!—buy a case and you’re in the club, your first tasting is free, and you can get a free glass of wine every time you stop into the winery, plus discounts and other benefits.