Croteaux: Still the Best Rosé May 9, 2015

http://www.croteaux.com/

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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.

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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!

Your entire tasting is delivered to your table.

Your entire tasting is delivered to your table.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Menu

Menu

Case club benefits

Case Club benefits

  1. 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.

  1. Sauvage

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.

You can see that Chloe is so light that it looks like a white wine.

You can see that Chloe is so light that it looks like a white wine.

  1. Chloe

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.

Jolie, on the other hand, is much darker than the other roses.

Jolie, on the other hand, is much darker than the other roses.

  1. Jolie

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).

They also have the prettiest bottles.

They also have the prettiest bottles.

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.

Sergeant on guard!

Sergeant on guard!

Pretty setting for pretty wines.

Pretty setting for pretty wines.

The Winemaker Studio May 11, 2013

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

I love spring on the North Fork.  We stopped at the Bay View farm stand and bought fresh local spinach and asparagus and leeks and rhubarb and duck breast and bacon, and at Briermere for a blueberry crumb pie.  And now a short pause for a disquisition on Briermere pies…Yum.  Later that evening we had sautéed duck breast with a local red wine, garlic, and maple syrup reduction, accompanied by spinach salad with bacon and hard-boiled egg, with a dressing made from Vines and Branches olive oil and Cara Cara Orange White Balsamic vinegar, and steamed asparagus. All seasoned with artisanal North Fork salt!  Pie for dessert, of course.  With it we had Bordo wine from Anthony Nappa, about which more later.

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After all that shopping we felt thirsty, so we decided to stop into the Winemaker Studio on Peconic Lane.  This attractive store front used to be called The Tasting Room, and though the name and cast of characters have changed, the idea is the same:  to showcase smaller wine producers who lack a place of their own.  Run by Anthony Nappa, it features his wines as well as wines by others whose “day job” is as winemaker for other vineyards.  They buy their grapes, some from upstate, and make their wines at Premium Wine Group, a facility housed at Leib Cellars but used by many.  Nappa used to make wines for Shinn; Russell Hearn, originally from Australia, was the winemaker for Pellegrini until he and his wife Sue decided to make their own label, SuHru (Sue and Russell, with an H for Hearn); John Leo works for Clovis Point and also makes his Leo Family wines; and Erik Bilka works at Premium and also makes his own Influence brand.

The Studio has several features which causes it to stand apart from most tasting rooms, aside from the variety of different labels it offers, because in addition to wine it also offers a beer taste from Southampton Publick House, some coffee drinks, and local gins and whiskies, plus cheese or cheese and salumi platters for $15.  The gin brands include McKenzie and Glorious, and the whiskies and ryes include Pine Barrens and Greenhook.  If you go there for Happy Hour—from 5-7 p.m.—you might want to try them.  The airy room includes a nice bar plus little tables and chairs, with art on the walls by local artists.  Sometimes there is a dog or two in residence, though not today.  Oh, and the room is attached to a pleasant little food shop which includes both local brands and some hard to find labels.

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The wine menu offers nine tastes, at $2-$4 per taste, and we opt to share four whites and four reds, skipping the lone rosé.  Chris, our server and we believe the manager of the shop, is impressively knowledgeable.  We overheard him giving very good advice to some neophytes to the region on which tasting rooms to visit based on which wines they had liked of his selections.  He also knows all about the wines he serves, and yet was tactful enough to let us sip in silence when he saw that was what we preferred.

  1.  2011 Nappa Anomaly                                    $19

This wine is an anomaly because it is a white wine made from pinot noir grapes, and since it spends no time on the skins it is white, not the rosé one would expect.  Yet the aroma reminds us of strawberry candy, a smell one would associate with a rose.  However, the taste is very much its own thing:  some earthiness, some citrus—perhaps key lime—some minerality, dry but fruity and quite delicious.  It is all steel fermented, so it is quite a refreshing, clean drink.

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2.  2012 SuHru Pinot Grigio                                              $16

I often drink pinot grigio, but this does not taste like any I have had.  The aroma is sweet, like white grape juice, with a bit of that cat pee smell.  The taste is also sweeter than a typical pinot grigio, maybe because the grapes come from upstate.  The tasting notes say pear, and I don’t disagree. Though many would like it, it’s not for me.

3.  2012 Nappa Luminous Riesling                                 $18

This is another wine made from upstate grapes, and though Chris categorizes it as “on the dry/off dry cusp,” we find it a bit sweet.  As is typical of the wines in this room, it is not typical!  An aroma of honeysuckle heralds a goldenrod honey and pineapple taste, with a hint of citrus.

4. 2012 Nappa Sciardonné Chardonnay                       $18

Pronounce the name of this wine in the Italian manner, in which “sci” is pronounced like a soft “sh,” and you’ll get the joke of this Italian-style wine’s name.  Although this is a steel-fermented wine it does undergo malolactic fermentation, and so has some of the buttery taste associated with chardonnays.  However, it does not have that overly buttery flavor of an oaked chard, and the aroma of “pine forest after a rain”—my husband’s idea—is quite lovely.  Very buyable.

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 5. 2012 Nappa Bordo                                                           $20

We sniff and discuss—tomato leaves?  Maybe.  Definitely vegetabley, with a hint of minerals.  Good fruit, with some typical cabernet franc tastes of berries, but not too heavy. The color is a light and pretty red.  This would go perfectly with the duck we just bought, we think, and are later proven correct. Buyable.

6.  2011 SuHru Shiraz                                                           $22

The syrah grape is called shiraz in Australia, and Hearn is from Australia, so…I tend to like syrahs or shirazes, whatever they are called, and this is no exception.  A slight cardamom aroma leads to dry but good berry tastes with some nice depth.  Unlike some shirazes, this is not overpowering.  They say a taste of Earl Gray, but I don’t get it.  However, this is definitely a buyable wine.

7.  2010 Nappa Dieci                                                             $35

To get the reason for this name, look no further than the date.  A blend of 37% cabernet sauvignon, 44% merlot, and 19% cabernet franc, this is a Bordeaux style wine, though not as interesting as a French Bordeaux at this price point.  However, it is a pleasant wine and would be good with food.

8.  2007 Leo Family Cellars Red Blend                           $40

Aromas of mineral, earth, and blackberry are not surprising for this merlot/petit verdot blend.  This wine is really interesting, and we comment that it is a humble name for an ambitious wine with lovely depth of flavor. We also admire the label!

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Intrigued by the liquors on offer, we try the McKenzie and Glorious Gins, and end up buying a bottle of Glorious Gin, which has a really interesting herbal flavor and makes a very good Gibson later that night.  We also get two each of the Sciardonné, Bordo, and Shiraz.

Reasons to visit:  A chance to taste some experimental and interesting wines in a pleasant setting; availability of local liquors and beer as well; Happy Hour ; with the little shop next store you could buy dinner (except for produce) and something to drink with it as well; an ever-changing roster of wines.

Which Wineries to Visit: A Summary

After several recent requests for specific guidance as to which winery to visit, I realized that, while my blog does detail my week-by-week impressions, I had given no summary of recommendations.  So, here are some suggestions:

If you are going East with a group, and you are interested in a party atmosphere, with a likelihood of live music (though many places now feature live performers, some are more likely to than others—check their web sites), two good choices would be Peconic and Vineyard 48.  Both have some good wines and both are often quite crowded on the weekends, with a number of vans and buses in the parking lot.  The last time we were at Peconic (in February of 2011) we liked the La Barrique Chardonnay 07 and the 08 Merlot.  We also visited Vineyard 48 that February, and liked the Sauvignon Blanc and the 05 Merlot Reserve.  We tend to visit these crowded places in the winter, as you may deduce.

If you will have children with you, Martha Clara is probably your best bet, as they do quite a bit of agritainment and they have a farm with interesting animals—llamas!—you may visit.  We haven’t been there in a few years, so I can’t really recommend any wine in particular, though I do remember being favorably impressed with their sparkling wines.  Pellegrini would also be okay, if it is nice weather, as you may take your tray of tastes outside and the children can play on the lawn.  A few wineries, such as Diliberto’s, specifically say no children.

If it is a beautiful day and you would like to relax in a pretty courtyard setting—and you like rosés (though if you’re not, Croteaux may make a rosé convert of you)—Croteaux is a lovely place to spend some time.  French music plays in the background, and it has comfortable Adirondack chairs and a laid-back atmosphere.  Another good outdoors spot is Old Field, with its mis-matched calico tablecloths and country farm background, though seating is not as comfy.

On the other hand, if what you are interested in is possibly chatting with the winery owner or a server who is very knowledgeable about the wines, and you like a small intimate setting, there are several wineries we like very much.  One is Diliberto’s, which we have been to frequently, though not recently.  It is just down Manor Lane from an apple orchard, so you can combine apple-picking (or just buying a bag of apples and a pie) with your winery visit.  On occasional Sundays, “Grandma” (a.k.a. Sal Diliberto himself) does cooking demos, making pizza or pasta, tastes of which he then distributes. He also sometimes has a singer and/or musician in. The room is small, painted in trompe l’oeil fashion to resemble the town square of a little Italian town, and we tend to like his reds.  Water’s Crest, which I have reviewed in the blog, is also a small intimate space, as are One Woman, McCall’s, Sannino Bella Vita, and Mattebella.  Though we’ve never encountered an owner at Shinn’s, it also has a cozy tasting room a bit off the main roads, though we only liked a couple of their wines.

Jamesport has some nice whites, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc, and often sells local oysters to consume with them.  We have been there on nice days when it feels like a big family party, with children playing on the lawn and musicians performing under a tent.  One time we were there and the guitarist played Blues Sonata, one of my favorite jazz pieces.

There are a couple of wineries I do NOT recommend (lest you think I like everything).  One is Duck Walk, which despite multiple tasting rooms on both the North and South Forks and the presence of crowds every weekend, had several wines we actively disliked, and a rather coldly commercial atmosphere.  The other is Raphael, which has a beautiful tasting room they often rent out for weddings and other parties, but which again had wines we did not particularly care for.  However, they do have a nice selection of wine-related gifts.  Baiting Hollow, also not one of our favorites, sells real food and lots of gift items, if that is what you are looking for.

Finally, there is one rather all-purpose winery which is probably our favorite:  Pellegrini.  We like most of their wines, and they tend to do a rather better job with reds than many North Fork wineries.  In addition, you can either stand at the bar and talk with the servers (especially Judy, who is quite passionate about the wines and knows everything about them) or take your carefully arranged tray of tastes to an inside or outside table.

To me, an ideal fall day on the North Fork would start with breakfast at Erik’s, go on to pumpkin or apple picking at Harbes or another farm and/or a stroll on a beach (Even if you’re not a resident, you can now park since it is after Labor Day. Head south on Cox Neck Road, go towards Cooper’s Farm stand—best eggs ever—and on to Breakfront Beach for a good walking beach.), then lunch at Love Lane Kitchen, a visit to a winery such as Diliberto’s, a walk around Greenport to check out the galleries and antique stores, and then another winery stop at Pellegrini’s or Old Field before stopping at Briermere to buy a pie and then heading home—or to Riverhead for dinner at Tweed’s.

Well, there’s much this leaves out, but you get the idea!  Enjoy.