Croteaux: Still Our Favorite Garden August 26, 2016

http://www.croteaux.com/

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It’s a hot Friday afternoon, but in Croteaux’s shady garden it is just pleasantly warm.  We settle into the pair of Adirondack chairs the hostess indicated, and peruse the simple menu.  We have plenty of time to do so, since service is a bit overwhelmed by what is clearly a larger-than-expected crowd in the garden, but when our waitress appears we order two tastings of all six of their still rosés for $15 each, plus a basket of delicious herbed goat cheese and fresh baguette slices for $10.  They have a few other snack items as well, which is good since they don’t allow outside food.  We could have ordered a tasting of three of their sparkling rosés, also $15.  The first three on the list are $20 per bottle and the last three are $25.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, all they make is rosé.  The name also hints at the style of rosé, which is lean and flinty and dry, in the manner of French rosés.  All their wines are steel fermented and made to be drunk young.  We just finished the last of the case we bought last year, and we are here to decide whether or not to get a case this year.  As you will see, vintage clearly matters, as we found some of the wines quite different from last year.  Another difference—they used to have a rather extensive boutique with clothes, jewelry, etc., but that is no longer so.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

  1. Merlot 181 (Pomerol)

“181” refers to the clone of merlot used for making this, the lightest of their rosés.  The aroma has a hint of strawberry, and also flowers and, believe it or not, asphalt.  No, really.  There is a distinct chemical smell.  The wine itself is dry, mineral-y, and salty, with not a lot of fruit.  It is very refreshing, with a long finish of the mineral and salt flavor, but not our favorite.

All our tastes at once!

All our tastes at once!

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

  1. Merlot 314 (St. Emilion)

Sniff.  “Auto repair shop,” opines my tasting buddy.  I counter with one of my favorite aromas, though not one usually associated with wine:  “hardware store.”  For the last few years 314 has been our favorite rosé on the North Fork and we’ve bought cases of it.  Not this year.  It’s not bad, despite that aroma, but it is very tart and subdued, with very little fruit.  Some might even say sour.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

  1. Merlot 3

This is a blend of three clones:  181, 314, and 3.  More fruit “on the nose,” as wine people like to say, though it always conjures for me an image of someone balancing a glass of wine on his or her nose.  It would be a mistake to limit your use of this wine to a balancing act, as it is quite nice.  Still there are notes of mineral and salt, but not overwhelmingly so, with nice strawberry flavor.  “More interesting than the usual rosé,” says my husband.  I agree that it has layers of flavor, and we both agree that we’ll get a case of this.

Just barely pink

Just barely pink

  1. Sauvage (Merlot 181)

“Sauvage” means wild, or savage, and this wine is made with wild yeasts.  We like it better than the other 181.  Though it has a touch of that chemical smell, it is much fruitier and sweeter than the other wines, with just a touch of minerality.  Red candy, I say.  It would pair well with spicy food, like Thai duck salad.

  1. Chloe (Sauvignon Blanc with Cabernet Franc skins)

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and indeed it is more like a sauvignon blanc than like a rosé.  It has a sweet pine smell, like a Christmas tree, and tastes a bit like pine as well.  Quite dry, it would pair well with oysters, which gives us an idea.  When Happy Hour comes we will head to the Old Mill Inn for their dollar oysters and $3 glasses of wine.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

  1. Jolie (Cabernet Franc)

Bright pink, this looks more like what one expects a rosé to look like than the other types.  The aroma is somewhat vegetal, maybe like a salad, but also with some fruit.  The wine is still dry, but with a fuller flavor.  A “red wine lover’s rosé,” they call it.  There’s a touch of Meyer lemon on the finish.  I like it, but my tasting companion does not.  I think you could sip this by itself, though of course it would be fine with roast chicken (as are many wines).

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance--it is quite pretty.

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance–it is quite pretty.

Reasons to visit:  all rosé all the time; a very pleasant garden setting where you can relax and sip at your leisure; better-than-average snacks; prettiest bottles on the North Fork; they allow dogs; the Merlot 3 and the Jolie.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

They've created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

They’ve created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

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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.

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