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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.