July 14, 2012: Bastille Day, the perfect day to visit a French winery!
We are here after another day on the water with friends who like wine, but are not used to wine tastings. They are a little surprised that you do have to pay for a tasting, and tend to violate the “drink these wines in this order” instructions, but otherwise enjoy the experience. Croteaux is just off the main road, a little west of Greenport, and used to be somewhat undiscovered. No more! The parking lot (a grassy field bordered by rows of corn on one side and vines on another) is pretty full, and so is the tasting “room”–a lovely patio with umbrella-shaded tables and comfortable Adirondack chairs, bordered by a picturesque half-ruined barn. However, the very competent and attractive young staff guides us swiftly to a table, and asks us if we would like some bread and cheese ($10). A basket with slices of baguette and a crock of goat cheese quickly arrives. There are two tasting options: $10 for 3 of their $19 wines or $15 for 6 of all their wines (the more expensive group sells for $25 per bottle). We easily decide that each couple will share a tasting of 6 wines.
1) Merlot 181 (all named for their clones)
The server describes it as “summer in a glass,” and we agree. It is a light, rosy rose, with a taste of unripe melon and a lemony finish.
2) Merlot 314
This has a lovely flowery aroma and a tart strawberry taste, with some hints of citrus.
3) Merlot 3
The aroma is not too sweet but not unpleasant, and, even though it is 100% steel fermented seems to have a trace of vanilla.
As a transition between the two groups of three, our server turns over the little label in the tray that held the first three tastes (in attractive round-bottomed glasses) so that the next three are detailed.
4) 181 Sauvage
This wine uses the same Merlot clone as the other 181, but uses wild yeasts, and since Channing Daughter’s L’Enfant Sauvage is one of my favorite wines, I’m interested to see how this will taste. (By using wild yeasts, the winemaker gives up a measure of control and sees what the air brings to the wine.) The aroma has notes of mineral or clay, and though the flavor is more interesting than the 181, our friend dubs it “sour.”
This is a Sauvignon Blanc Rose with some Cabernet Franc as well. We like it. The aroma reminds us of ripe peaches and the taste is dry but with plenty of fruit. This is good, but not like what one expects a rose to be like.
6) Jolie (French for pretty!)
This is a Cabernet Franc rose, a Bordeaux style, and my favorite of the afternoon, with lots of ripe strawberry/raspberry tastes.
That should be the end of our tasting, but we have a nice surprise in store. In honor of Bastille Day, we are given free tastes of their two sparkling wines, the Cuvee Sparkle and the Cuvee Rouge Sparkling Cabernet Franc Rose, each $28 per bottle. The first is light, made in what our server says is the French “charmat” style, and the second I really like, with tastes of lots of berries. A final nice touch–as we sit and chat with our friends, the server brings a bottle of chilled water for us, a welcome treat on this hot day. Tres civilized…
Reasons to visit: great place to sit and relax on a warm day; best roses on the North Fork; you can pretend you’ve gone to France!