“We’re small,” said our very well-informed multi-tasking server, “only 3,500 cases per year.” She added that they have just eight acres of vines, and we discussed the issues Croteaux is having with Southold town over how many acres you need to have in order to do a tasting room. But Clovis Point is in the town of Riverhead, so no problem. Small also describes the one-ounce pour (which she warned us about in advance), but not the reputation of this boutique winery, which has garnered a number of high ratings from wine judges.
The tasting room, a former potato barn, is a nice size, and there is also a covered porch to one side. The walls are adorned with a display of art for sale, so the space functions as a gallery as well. The flower garden leading to the door is also esthetically pleasing!
The menu offers two flights: a Cold Flight of four wines for $13 and a Red Flight of four reds for $15, plus a few premium wines at $5 per taste. We were with friends, and decided each couple would do all eight wines, given that the pour is so small. We also bought a generous tray of Spanish cheeses and baguette slices for $12, plus an eight-dollar jar of delicious fig spread, much of which we took home. While we often don’t order food with our tastings, it is true that having wine with food enhances the experience.
- 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $28
“This is a seasonal wine,” our server informed us, “and we usually sell out of it by winter.” I can see why, as it is a light, easy to drink summery wine, with a floral and mineral aroma and peach taste. Steel fermented, it is tart and dry.
- 2015 Chardonnay $25
Another steel-fermented wine, this chardonnay is mixed with 3% gewürztraminer, which might account for a touch of pineapple taste. The aroma is mineral, earth, and pine, and our friend says it tastes like a Granny Smith apple to her. We agree. Our server explains that because it is steel fermented it does not undergo malolactic fermentation, and therefore gives you the “pure expression” of the grape.
- 2015 Black Label Chardonnay $28
A nice touch—before each new taste, the server rinses the glass with a bit of the next wine. This is better than when they rinse the glasses with water, as a little water always is left behind and can influence the taste of the wine. And when they don’t rinse the glasses at all, you may get a bit of the previous wine mixing with your next taste. In any event, this chardonnay is a mixture of steel and oak fermented wine, so it is not heavily oaked. Not being fans of oaky chards, we are pleased with this one, which has lots of citrus taste and only a touch of vanilla. It’s not fruity.
- Rosé $22.50
Also seasonal, according to our server, the rosé tends to sell out by the end of summer. It is composed of 100% cabernet franc, and is made by the saignée method, where the grapes sit on the skins for three days. This is such a light rosé that we agree one might, if tasting it with eyes closed, not know it was a rosé. It’s steel fermented and quite dry, with only a faint strawberry aroma and a taste more like raspberry than strawberry.
- 2014 Merlot $29
All the reds are aged in either French or Hungarian oak, we are told, as our server puts out fresh glasses for the red tasting. A blend of 85% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon, this is not as complex or deep as one would think given all the ingredients. However, it is a good merlot, dry and pleasant to drink. “It’s my after work wine,” notes our server. Yes, it would be relaxing to sit and sip a glass of this, perhaps with some cheese.
- 2014 Cabernet Franc $35
Yum. This time I agree with Robert Parker, who has given this wine a score of 90%. A blend of 96% cabernet franc with 3% cabernet sauvignon and 1% petit verdot, this has fascinating aromas of mushroom, forest, and smoke, plus what our friend describes as “really ripe plums.” It is delicious, dry at the end with some nice tannins, tasting of over-ripe cherries. Nicely complex. If I were here for a music event, this is the wine I would get by the glass.
- 2014 Syrah $34
Syrah is usually blended with other wines, but Clovis Point decided to try bottling it by itself. Since they didn’t have that much of it, they also decided to use 500 ml. bottles, so that price is quite high. I insist that it smells like black olives, and my friend adds that it actually smells meaty. It is dry, tannic, and spicy. I like it.
- 2014 Malbec $34
Meh. Another 500ml. bottle, this is a blend of 94% malbec, plus 4% merlot, 1% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% syrah. It has a nice fruity aroma, but the wine itself is rather light, with no depth. “Flat,” says my friend. I add that it lacks body.
Reasons to visit: small winery with a nice room and some good choices; the 2015 chardonnay, the Black Label chardonnay, the 2014 Cabernet Franc; you are the designated driver but you want to taste the wines where the pour is small.