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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.