Croteaux Vineyards: Easy to Drink   Rosés           June 9, 2017

http://www.croteaux.com/

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The very first time we went to Croteaux we fell in love with the beautiful garden and its comfortable seats and the refreshing, easy to drink rosé wines.  In fact, we liked them so much that we bought a case, and then discovered we had joined their “case club.”  Now it’s our favorite wine club as well, and we start every summer season by buying a case. In addition to the reduction in price that is pretty standard at any winery for buying a case, you can also come to the winery and have a free tasting.  Then, several times a year, they invite you to special events.  The most recent one included oysters and glasses of rosé, with apparently no limit on either.  Oh my.

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The view from our table out to the vineyard.

However, I don’t recommend going to Croteaux unless the weather is right for sitting outside, since their inside accommodations are not nearly as nice as the outside ones.  Fortunately, June finally brought us a beautiful sunny day, with a slight breeze making the weather perfect for visiting the garden.  We decided to sample all their wares, and so had a tasting of their six still rosés, for $15, and their three sparkling rosés, also $15.  Feeling the need for a little snack, we ordered the artichoke tapenade with croutons (French bread toasted and brushed with garlic, herbs, and olive oil) for $10.  In the past, we’ve had their goat cheese basket and the roasted nuts, both of which are good.  The artichoke tapenade was quite nice, a combination of artichoke, olives, lemon, and herbs.  The baskets all came garnished with a sprig of mint “from the owners’ garden.  The mint went crazy so they decided to add it to all the baskets,” explained our lovely server.  (They have a sign saying no outside food.)  One other note—they allow dogs on the leash, and every time we’ve come we’ve seen at least one or two canine visitors.

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Today’s pooch is in the background of this photo. Note the nice comfy Adirondack chairs.

  1. Merlot 181 Rosé            $19

The particular clone of merlot is what gives this wine and the next two their names.  This is, as you would expect for the first taste, their lightest rosé, almost white in color, with a slight mineral aroma and a tart citrusy taste and a slightly sweet finish.  “You could drink a lot of this and never notice—until you fell over,” opined my tasting pal.  When we came for the oysters this was one of the wines we had, and it went very well with them.

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Our first three tastes. Note the differences in color!

  1. Merlot 314 Rosé $19

Our favorite this year—we bought a case of it—this one has more character than the 181, with a slight chemical aroma and a tart taste that combines strawberries and citrus.  My husband adds that he tastes a bit of pear, too.  It would work well to sip on its own, nicely chilled, and would also go well with lots of different foods.

  1. Merlot 3 $19

A blend of 181, 314, and 3, this one reminds us more of a white wine than a rosé, with lots of tart citrusy tastes.  Sort of like a sauvignon blanc, but without the pineapple tastes that wine often has.  The color is a pretty pink, and the smell has a bit of something funky as well as minerality.

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The second three of the still wines. A coaster under each glass identifies the wine.

  1. Sauvage 181 Rosé $24

“Sauvage” is French for wild, as this wine is made with wild yeasts, which means it can vary quite a bit from year to year.  This year is a winner.  More interesting than your average rosé, this is mouth-watering (which I insist means it has some tannins), with a taste that combines fruit salad and lime and an aroma of pineapple and guava.  If we had decided to get the newest item on their menu—mini lobster rolls from American Beech—I would have gotten a glass of this to go with it.  Well, the summer is just getting started.  We may have to come back…

  1. Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé $24

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can see why.  Made with sauvignon blanc plus a little cabernet franc (“for color”), this is another yummy wine, with aromas of pine forest and citrus plus peach tastes.  Delicate, it would be fine to sip on its own, or paired with a light white fish like sole.

  1. Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé $24

Described as a French Bordeaux, “for red wine lovers,” this is my least favorite of the day.  It’s the sweetest of the rosés, though there is some minerality to balance the sweetness, with a red candy aroma.  We get the tapenade as we’re still sampling this, and I like it better with food.

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Tapenade.

  1. Cuvée Sparkle $29

Now we move on to the sparkling wines, which come in tall slim glasses, held in a metal carrier.  I would put all three of them in the “fun” wine category, as they are not overly expensive for sparkling wines and are all easy to drink.  The first is a blend of their three merlot clones and smells like them, of minerals with a bit of strawberry. Tart and refreshing and very bubbly, this is a sparkler I would choose, though my husband notes that not everyone would like it.  If you are looking for a sweet rosé sparkler, this would not be for you.

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The bubblies. We had already tried the first one before I remembered to snap a photo.

  1. Chloe Sparkle $29

Like the still Chloe, this is made from sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc grapes, and is quite different from the Cuvée.  The aroma has, in addition to the expected smells, something vegetal about it, maybe a cruciferous veggie.  The taste is more complex than the Cuvée, a touch sweeter, and would go perfectly with a tray of charcuterie.

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Jolie means pretty, and indeed this is a pretty color.

  1. Jolie Sparkle $29

Pretty color!  More like what people expect from a rosé sparkler, this is the sweetest wine of the day, so you should not be surprised to hear that I didn’t care for it.  However, my tasting partner thinks “people would like it.”  The aroma combines red candy, strawberry, and a funky forest smell.  I compare the taste to watermelon.

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Reasons to visit:  the garden!!!; the only winery that only makes rosés; the best rosés on the North Fork, especially the 314, the Sauvage 181, and the Chloe Sparkle;  prices; good snacks; the garden, the garden, the garden.

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Roses and then  rosés .

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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: 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