Stop number one was at Croteaux Vineyards in Southold. Croteaux is Long Island's only, and in fact America's only dry rose specific vineyard that utilizes all of their own estate grapes to produce their wines. What does that mean?
It means that the manner in which the grapes are grown and harvested is strictly for the benefit of the production of top of the line rose wines, no whites or reds here. You can taste the love, care, and attention to rose specific wine making techniques in each of their wines - what a difference!
Image courtesy of www.croteaux.com
So what do they produce?
Three Merlot specific roses utilizing three different types of Merlot grapes from three distinct locations; two sparkling rose blends; and three premium roses.
Merlot 181 Rose utilizes grapes that are a clone of the 181 French Pomerol Merlot grape and is fermented in 100% stainless steel. The lightest in color of any of their roses - think picnics on the beach, lazy summer Sundays by the pool, the perfect companion to fireworks on July 4th -- sun, sand, and summer in a bottle! Crisp and bright, this has the feel of a classic Southern French rose. The most versatile pairing partner of all of the roses, this guy can go with anything!
Merlot 314 Rose utilizes grapes that are a clone of the 314 French St Emilion Merlot grape and also is fermented in 100% stainless steel. This has slightly more weight to it -- with a depth of flavor profile that extends right through the finish. Complex and unique, it stands alone and does so excellently. Great with a simple fresh goat's milk cheese from the local goat dairy, Catapano. You want this wine to have the opportunity to shine!
Merlot 3 Rose utilizes grapes that are a clone of the 3 American UC Davis Merlot grape and is 100% barrel fermented. By far my least favorite of the three Merlot roses - this had more of a weight to it with a robust sweetness and a toasty vanilla finish. I would even pair this with Firefly Farms' Mountain Top Bleu - a surface ripened goat's milk cheese that has been infused with blue mold - tangy, citrusy, bright and grassy goat's milk notes with a nice burst of blue spicy piquant-ness.
And what of their three premium roses?
First up is Sauvage - 100% French Pomerol Merlot grapes fermented with wild yeasts in 100% stainless steel. Think the 181 but with a dialed up flavor profile. Soft and smooth yet mineral forward and alive, this is a wine to serve at your dressed up summer gathering. It will pair wonderfully with Bijou, Vermont Butter and Cheese's ode to Crottin de Chavignol, an aged goat's milk cheese.
Next up is Chloe their only wine blended with white wine and it is a blend of 99.5 % Sauvignon Blanc with .5% Cabernet Franc fermented in 100% stainless steel. Think classic Sauvignon Blanc characteristics mixed with classic Cab Franc notes -- bright, chalky, citrusy, grassy notes with that herbaceous aromatic tang of a Cab. Complex and flavorful in all the right sorts of ways. Pair with a young goat gouda to bring out the chalky brightness of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
And lastly and by far the most unique is Jolie -- a 100% Cab Franc rose fermented in 100% stainless steel. Caramel and nuttiness on the nose but with a medium bodied lightly cherry mouth-feel and a nice bright smooth finish. A real award winner in my book as it really challenges your palate in the most interesting ways. This is not a rose you will find anywhere else! I would enjoy this all on its own.
Moving right along to their Sparklings, of which there were two:
The first was the Croteaux 2011 Cuvee Sparkle crafted in the French charmat style. Delightful, fanciful, light and crisp with a nice dry fruit forward finish. Great for any celebration!
The second was the Cuvee Rouge Sparkling Cab Franc Rose crafted with Cab Franc grapes and more of a medium bodied rose sparkling -- darker in color with deeper berry, chocolate, and toasty notes.
For an avid rose lover, this was paradise. But even more so, what was wonderful about the entire experience was that it truly was a small production vineyard where what was important was their love of the craft, the grapes, the wines produced, the people who created them, the environment that they served them in and more. Unlike many winery tasting rooms that are large, expansive, and impersonal, Croteaux had a small barn upstairs with lively bright colored accents and Carla Bruni playing in the background. For a vineyard whose tagline is "rose with a purpose," I don't think they could have done better.
What an amazing way to start the weekend, I cannot wait to return.
1450 South Harbor Road
Southold, NY 11971