Croteaux: Back to the Garden August 16, 2019

https://www.croteaux.com/home/

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After you enter, turn right to find parking on the grass.

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To get to the garden, you go through the door and are then escorted to a seat.

It was a perfect August day—sunny, 80 degrees, blue sky with puffy white Magritte clouds—so we decided to check out the newly re-opened (under new ownership) Croteaux garden.  The good news is that it is still a lovely setting in which to sit in the shade on a summer afternoon, surrounded by flowering shrubs, enjoying table service.  Unfortunately, we were not as happy with the wines, except for one which is still a favorite.  We also got the herbed cheese and baguette basket, which came as before with a sprig of fresh mint.  However, that too disappointed.  Previously, the cheese was goat cheese mixed with fresh herbs, while now it is a cream cheese mixed with dried herbs.  So much for nostalgia.

On the other hand, the many groups seated at the rustic tables seemed quite happy, hanging out and chatting, enjoying the afternoon.  So if you prefer rosés that are so light they could pass for whites, this may be the place for you.  Like the other winery bought by the Frankel family, the general goal seems to be to make safe, easily accepted, wines.

A tasting of all six still rosés is $18, and all three sparkling rosés is also $18.  We opted to share one of each, which was plenty of wine.  The still tastes come in nice little round-bottomed glasses, on carefully labeled little trays, and the sparklers are served in tall glasses.  All wines are the 2018 vintage.

 

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Our first three tastes, with the basket of cheese and baguette in the back.

1.        Merlot 181 Rosé            $28

Croteaux uses three clones of merlot, labeling the wines accordingly.  This one looks almost clear, with just the faintest tinge of pink (color and taste are determined both by the grape and by how long the juice sits on the skins).  It smells like cut grass and flowers, and tastes like a citrusy white with a touch or berry flavor.

2.       Merlot 314 Rosé             $20

This has always been our favorite, and still is.  We like its aroma of melon and mineral, and its strawberry flavor.  It may be a touch sweeter than in the past.  It would be a lovely aperitif wine, and is also good with food.

3.       Merlot 3 Rosé   $20

I get a bit of a funky smell, but my husband, who, it must be said, is suffering from an allergy attack, says the smell is “neutral.”  This is very like a white, with lots of lemon flavor.  The tasting notes say it has a “zippy finish.”  I say it does not taste like a rosé.  It definitely needs food, like scallops in cream sauce or a lobster roll.  This is a blend of all three clones:  181, 314, and 3.

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Second group.

4.       Sauvage 181 Rosé           $25

I’m always intrigued when winemakers decide to use the wild native yeasts—hence “sauvage”—giving up some of the control over the outcome of the wine.  It definitely has some of the strawberry taste I associate with rosés, plus some minerality and citrus.  Like all the wines, it is dry.  The end taste is a bit harsh, and my tasting buddy’s word for this is “meh.”

5.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé       $25

The tasting notes describe this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can’t argue with that.  Not surprisingly, this tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé, so it would go well with local oysters.  It has a “touch of cabernet franc,” but I don’t taste it.

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Jolie is, indeed, pretty.

6.       Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé            $25

Jolie means pretty, and this is the prettiest looking wine of the day, and also my favorite, along with the 314.  It has more depth than the others, and good strawberry taste with just a touch of citrus.  However, the menu describes it as a “red wine lover’s rosé,” which I don’t see.  I think it’s just a rosé lover’s rosé!

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The sparkling wines.

7.       Cuvée Merlot 3 Sparkle                $32

After we finished the six still rosés, we still had some cheese and baguette left, so we decided to check out the three sparkling wines as well.  They arrived well chilled, with a laminated sheet of tasting notes.  I smell melon, and think this might taste lovely.  However, as my husband notes, it tastes more like seltzer than like a sparkling rosé.  He says it has overly aggressive bubbles, and we chuckle over the image of attack bubbles.  It is refreshing, but so is Schweppes seltzer. 

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You can see that Chloe looks just like a white wine.

8.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Sparkle   $35

Though this uses cabernet franc skins to give it some color and taste, our conclusion is, not so much.  It should be like a champagne or a prosecco, but again, this tastes to us like seltzer.  There is a slight yeast aroma.  I guess this is a sparkling wine for those who don’t like wine. 

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Well, it looks pretty.

9.       Jolie Sparkle      $32

“Benign,” is the best my tasting pal can come up with to describe this final taste.  It smells like strawberries, plus some red wine smells, and has more taste than the previous two sparklers.  It is neither sweet nor tart, with some strawberry taste, but I don’t find it very appealing.  For years I’ve been comparing every other North Fork rosé to Croteaux, as the gold standard, but, alas, that is no longer true.  They do still have the prettiest bottles.

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Reasons to visit:  still a really lovely garden setting, with relaxing table service; the 314 and the Jolie Cabernet Franc; they have a nice menu of snacks, although the cheese is not as good as it used to be.

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They often sell out by the end of the season. If you buy a case, you become a member of their case club. with special deals.

Bedell Cellars: Price/Quality Question September 8, 2018

Bedell Cellars:  Price/Quality Question    September 8, 2018

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https://www.bedellcellars.com/

I’ve read a number of articles about the price of a bottle in relation to the quality of the wine inside it, with many opining that it is not a simple relationship.  Often, what you are paying for with an expensive bottle is some measure of prestige or canny marketing, not necessarily the experience of drinking the wine.  My husband and I have had the good fortune and pleasure to go to events which included very expensive wines—vintage Dom Perignon, premium Bordeaux—which we certainly enjoyed.  But the question is, were they that much better than the $20 bottles of wine we often have with dinner.  Better, yes, but exponentially better?  Not so sure.  I was thinking about this because the wines at Bedell, while mostly pleasant and drinkable, are overall fairly expensive for what you get.

On a surprisingly chilly day (It’s been too hot to sit outside most of the summer, and then today it was too cold!), we headed to Bedell Cellars, knowing they have a pleasant tasting room, and not planning to sit on the porch—which was good, since the outdoor area was closed in preparation for a wedding.  We stood at the bar in the elegant black and white room and studied the menu, which didn’t take long since they only have one flight option, of five wines for $20, though you can add tastes of any other wines for $5-$7 each.  They are already sold out of two of their wines.

Our server was enthusiastic and chatty, though somewhat self-conscious about my notebook, even though I assured her that our main interest was in the wines.  She informed us at the end of our tasting that we could take our receipt and go over to Corey Creek, now owned by Bedell, for two free tastes of the wines on tap there, about which more later.

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1.        2017 Sparkling Rosé      $45

Just as I said, “This would make a perfect bachelorette party drink,” as if on cue, a group of women surrounding one who wore a headband that proudly proclaimed “Bride” entered.  Pink, bubbly, fruity, with a touch of minerality, this blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot seems like it would be pleasant to drink.  However, we felt that ultimately it did not cohere and was a bit too sweet for us.  We still would prefer Croteaux.

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The label is certainly pretty.

2.       2017 Viognier    $30

Although only a few wineries on the North Fork grow viognier, we just happen to have visited both Palmer and Kontokosta recently, and their bottles of viognier are $25, while at Bedell it costs $30.  We liked all three of the viogniers, and Bedell’s is no better than the others. This one has an orange blossom aroma with a slight metallic tang.  It has some nice fruitiness, and while I found it a bit too sweet my husband felt it had a nice balance between sweetness and minerality.  While we were discussing the wine, several people stopped in for glasses of wine, and two of them got the viognier, so clearly it is a wine people like.  My tasting buddy said it was a good summer wine, and I theorized that it could stand up to an assertive dish like bouillabaisse. 

3.       2016 Taste White            $40

Both the wine and the image on the bottle are blends.  The wine mixes 64% albariño, 18% chardonnay,10% sauvignon blanc, and 8% viognier.  How is the image a blend?  According to our server, the artist did a composite portrait of five people to end with a face that looks like Marilyn Monroe.  (The owner of the winery sits on the board of MOMA, as we are always informed.)  The aroma and taste are both relatively complex and interesting, with smells of honeysuckle, baked pear, and something vegetal, maybe asparagus or grass.  I laugh and say it tastes like white grapes, because it seems funny to think that a drink made from grapes rarely tastes like grapes.  We also detect a hint of pineapple, and other fruits, plus pleasant acidity.  It’s not a white for sipping, nor would you want it with something very delicate.

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4.       2016 Cabernet Franc      $45

The tasting menu describes this light red as juicy and ripe.  I say meh.  It is barely aged—six to nine months in neutral French oak—and has no depth and a very short finish.  It evanesces, as we say.  The aroma is of dark fruit, but the wine mostly tastes of minerals and a little fruit.  If you want a robust red, don’t pick this nothing burger!

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It is a fairly generous pour.

5.       2016 Malbec     $50

I’m not too crazy about this red either, though I think people would find it easy to drink.  It’s a very simple, slightly cherry-flavored red, with no tannins.  It does develop a bit more flavor as it sits, and we think it might be better with something like lamb chops.

 

On to Corey Creek!

https://www.bedellcellars.com/the-tap-room/

 

              Just a little further east from Bedell is Corey Creek, which used to be a separate winery until Bedell took it over.  There they offer wine from a tap, like beer, and you can bring a bottle to be filled.  The building is pleasantly rustic, with a pretty back porch overlooking pinot gris vines.  The atmosphere is more informal than Bedell, and we saw families whose children were running around outside, plus several dogs on leashes.  The bachelorette party was here, too. 

              Many of the wines here are aged in clay vessels, an ancient method being revived, so we were interested to see if the cabernet franc here tasted any different than the one we’d just had.  They also offer Frosé, a frozen concoction of rosé, sugar, and water.  No, thank you. 

 

1.       Syrah

For a syrah, this is a very light wine, with not much in the way of aroma or taste.  My husband says it has “forward tongue tingle.” 

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Our Corey Creek tastes

2.       Cabernet Franc

This is another not-much-there wine, though if you found reds challenging you might like it.  Our conclusion?  “Free is the right price” for these tastes.

 

Reasons to visit:  elegant tasting room, artistic labels, the Viognier and the Taste White; Corey Creek has a pleasantly rustic setting and the novelty of wine on tap, plus a taste is free if you’ve been to Bedell.

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Look how big those grapes are getting!

Sparkling Point: Bubblicious? August 15, 2015

http://www.sparklingpointe.com/#

The entrance to Sparkling Pointe

The entrance to Sparkling Pointe

Every time we visit Sparkling Pointe we go home convinced that we should drink more champagne—or, to be precise, more sparkling wines, since only wines from the Champagne region of France can actually be called champagne.  Sparkling Pointe only makes sparkling wines, a focus that disappointed a couple who wandered in as we were enjoying our tasting and left, despite the best efforts of our very knowledgeable and passionate server to persuade them to stay.  “Here,” she offered, “try a little sample on me of two very different sparkling wines,” pouring them tastes of the Brut and the Carnaval.  They should have stayed.

A view of the chandeliers

A view of the chandeliers

The tasting room is a bright, airy space, decorated with large crystal chandeliers and paintings of Brazilian scenes (because the owners like the culture of Brazil, we’ve been told).  Outside there are more seats on a shaded patio overlooking the vineyard.  We could have opted for table service inside or outside, but, since there is room at the bar, we decide to stay there, which gives us a chance to observe the somewhat frenetic actions of the serving staff, as they quickly move from task to task.  “Like a beehive!” observes my husband.  Our attentive server not only (noticing our interest) gives us more information about each wine than I can cover in my notes, she also gives us an extra taste, about which more later.

A view of the mural, plus a very active server

A view of the mural, plus a very active server

The menu offers four tastes for $17, each one in a fresh champagne flute.  There is also an extensive menu of snacks—almost all of them of New York State origin, including cheeses and charcuterie, chips and olives, and Tate’s cookies—which is good, since they don’t allow outside food.  We also noted quite a few people ordering whole bottles for a table, plus snacks.  The shop off to one side is full of gift items, also featuring many New York State grown or made products, as well as the sparkling t-shirts many of the servers wear.

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  1. NV Brut               $29

This is their least expensive and most popular wine, a non-vintage blend, meaning they strive for consistency year to year.  This one is made from 38% chardonnay, 38% pinot noir, and 24% reserve wine—which means they use some of the wine they reserve from each vintage in order to make up the blend.  It ages for two years on the lees.  The aroma is toasty and yeasty, the wine itself very pleasant, with tiny bubbles that burst on the tongue.  The chard probably accounts for the lemony taste, more like a touch of lemon peel than fruit.  The wine is nicely dry, but could have more fruit flavors.  I think it would be better as an accompaniment for food than by itself.  Pretty label.

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  1. 2010 Blanc de Blancs $42

We clear our palate with our own individual bowl of round crackers, a nice idea—almost ruined by a man who comes to the bar to order a bottle for his table and helps himself to a handful.  An observant server quickly dumps the bowl and gives us a fresh one.  Nice!  This one is a 100% chardonnay, aged 3 ½ years on the lees, with a slightly funky green apple smell.  This has tastes of lime and mineral and fruit, and, though not complex, is quite good.  We recently had the Lieb Blanc de Blanc, made from pinot blanc grapes, which tasted very different.  We prefer this one.

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  1. 2006 Brut Seduction $72

Now we’re getting serious.  They only make the Brut Seduction in a good year for pinot noir, which is not every year on Long Island, as this is 54% pinot noir and 46% chardonnay blend.  This one has been aged eight years, and it shows.  Wow.  The aroma is yeasty and toasty again, but we also smell some bitter almond.  Mineral, fruit, layers of flavor—we’ve had excellent vintage champagnes (yes, from France) and this would give some of them a run for their money. Our server thinks it needs another six months in the bottle, which would make it perfect for New Year’s Eve. The tasting menu says it has a “super organoleptic profile”—which is a fancy way of saying it appeals to all the senses.  Yes indeed.

The servers are smart and attentive and know a lot about the wines.

The servers are smart and attentive and know a lot about the wines.

Our favorite--not counting the '05!

Our favorite–not counting the ’05!

  1. 2005 Brut Seduction

Not for sale, not on the menu, but we get a taste.  The server has noted our seriousness, and my note taking, and we have had a great discussion of sparkling wines.  She is so enthusiastic about them that she actually traveled to Champagne, France.  The ’05 earned scores in the 90s, and we can see why.  We smell a more complex aroma, with fruit and spice, perhaps fennel, and the taste…I wrote OMG.  This could definitely stand up to a French vintage champagne.

Our individual dish of crackers, which we almost lost!

Our individual dish of crackers, which we almost lost!

  1. NV Carnaval Cuvée Rouge $34

From the sublime to…not our taste.  This is described as a demi-sec red sparkling wine, made from 65% merlot, 23% pinot noir, and 12% chardonnay, having spent five days on the merlot skins, which accounts for the pretty garnet color.  The aroma is black raspberry, the taste is candy, or raspberry syrup mixed with seltzer.  Unlike the others, which are made in the méthode Champenoise, this is made in the méthode traditionelle.  If you like sweet, you can try this.  I would skip it!

A carnival outfit from the gift shop to get you in the mood for our last taste.

A carnival outfit from the gift shop to get you in the mood for our last taste.

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Reasons to visit:  you like bubbles; the only winery that only makes sparkling wines; an airy pleasant setting with table or bar service; lots of interesting snacks; smart, attentive servers; nice little gift shop; the ’06 Brut Seduction.

A view of the room during a brief quiet moment.

A view of the room during a brief quiet moment.

Looking towards the outside patio

Looking towards the outside patio

Some of the gift items

Some of the gift items

In a few years, these grapes will sparkle.

In a few years, these grapes will sparkle.