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

Ten Venues for Outdoor Wining

Memorial Day Weekend means summer really is beginning, so I thought this would be the right time to tell you about my favorite places for outdoor sipping on the North Fork.  There is something very civilized about sitting in the sun (or under an umbrella), sipping a lovely chilled white or rosé, or even a well-rounded red, enjoying the warm breezes, possibly snacking on some bread and cheese.  If that experience includes a pretty view over farm fields and vineyards, so much the better.

Almost all of the tasting rooms augment their indoor seating with outdoor areas in the summer, from Jamesport’s capacious lawn to Waters Crest’s two umbrella tables in the parking lot, but some are pleasanter than others.  Following this you will find a list of my favorites, starting with a few I particularly enjoy, and then others in no real order.  I also mention a wine or two I particularly recommend for sipping, but in a few cases it has been a year or more since I went there, so you may not find the same vintages on offer.  Note that some places encourage you to bring your own picnic, while others discourage or forbid it, so I suggest you check the web sites before you go.  The ones which don’t allow you to bring your own snacks generally sell their own.  If you’re putting together a bread and cheese picnic, you won’t do better than Love Lane Cheese Shop in Mattituck, which carries a wide variety of excellent cheeses and baguettes from Tom Cat bakery.  Stop at Harbes for some berries or Wickham for peaches and you’re set.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

1)       Croteaux

This is absolutely my favorite outdoor tasting area, plus all the wines are perfect for summer sipping.  You go through the tiny tasting room into a tree and flower-filled patio area, with comfortable Adirondack chairs and shady nooks.  Two of my favorite rosés are the Merlot 314 and the Violet, but any of them would work.  I also recommend their snack of goat cheese and baguette.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux's yard.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux’s yard.

2)      Old Field

If you like a rustic setting, this is the place!  Calico cloths on the tables plus chickens and ducks roaming around the old barns on the property really make you feel you are far from city life.  Though I don’t think any Long Island rosés are better than Croteaux’s, the Cacklin Rosé 09 (probably will be a new vintage by now) was lovely.

3)      Mattebella

Picnic tables and umbrella-shaded tables dot an expansive patio area looking out over the grape vines.  We liked the ‘08 Chardonnay and the ‘08 Old World Blend.  The last time we were there, small snacks accompanied some of the wines on the tasting menu.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

4)      Jamesport

Jamesport is the perfect place to come if your group includes children who would like some space to roam around, or even dogs (as long as they are on the leash).  Their large backyard lawn, with a variety of seating or picnic areas, some in shade and others in the sun, is perfect, and they sell thin crust pizzas made in an outdoor stone oven and freshly opened oysters, among other treats.  Their Sauvignon Blanc goes particularly well with oysters.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

5)      Pellegrini

Here the outdoor seating varies from pleasant spots out on the lawn or the interior courtyard to a few tables overlooking the vineyard.  What makes this a good place for an outdoor tasting (rather than just a glass of wine) is that they will give you your entire tasting on a tray, carefully labeled, so you can sit and sample at your leisure.  If you’re going for just a glass, we really like their Petit Verdot, which would pair well with brie and baguette.

6)      Paumanok

Paumanok is another place that often features oysters, though not as reliably as Jamesport.  They have a pleasant porch out back of the tasting room which looks out over the vines and fields.  The 2011 Festival Chardonnay was a good match for the oysters, though they may have a new vintage by now.

The deck at One Woman

The deck at One Woman

7)      One Woman

This is a small winery with a small porch which wraps around the tiny tasting room.  You are surrounded by the vines and a large field of grass as you sit and taste.  We found the One Woman Tribute ’11 to be a good sipping wine, and we are in love with the 2012 Grüner Veltliner.

8)      Comtesse Thérèse

This is another winery with a bit of a French accent, and outdoor tastings are in the charmingly disheveled intimate garden behind the Comtesse Thérèse Bistro.  Though the setting is pleasant, we found the service a bit lackluster our last time in the garden, though that could certainly have changed.  The 2011 Chardonnay was a super sipper.

9)      Shinn

Although it was too chilly to sit outdoors on the day we went there, we did admire Shinn’s remodeled outdoor seating area, with comfortable-looking chairs and a nice little snack menu. I’d recommend First Fruit for a sipping wine.

Outdoor area at Shinn

Outdoor area at Shinn

10)   Pugliese

With a pretty little pond and trellis-shaded picnic tables, Pugliese has created a very attractive outdoor seating area.  If it’s not overrun with limo groups, I’d recommend you go there with some cheese and crackers and get the Bella Domenica, a summery red.

Pretty pond at Pugliese

Pretty pond at Pugliese

P.S.  Just visited Mattebella for the first time in two years and their improved outdoor area means they should be added to this post!  (See review for details.)