Rosé On Purpose
At Croteaux, we make Rosé, and only Rosé – We are the only vineyard in the United States dedicated exclusively to producing Rosé wines. Made from estate grown Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc our wines embody a distinct local style reflecting the seaside lifestyle and vacation culture of our wine region. All vineyard practices and wine making efforts are focused on making dry, crisp, fruit-filled, fun-to-drink Rosé wines. We call it "Rosé On Purpose".
Rosé wines are made quickly and released 4-5 months after harvest. They are consumed while young and fresh, and are an honest representation of the place in which they are produced. We dare to keep sulphur and sufites to an astounding minimum. Good Rosé is a clean, crisp, simple – the most honest representation of the vineyard, the region in which it is made, and the wine-making process. It is the one wine where “local and recent” trumps “heritage and vintage”.
When wine insiders discuss “terroir” the discussion is about soil composition, climate data, topography, location, weather, growing days and various agricultural details. Comparisons are made to other wine regions based on this protocol. Seldom is lifestyle part of the discussion. The East End of Long Island is often compared to Bordeaux’s maritime climate, soil types, latitude, average temperature, etc., prompting similar grape varietals to be grown here. However, when it comes to wine style, the most important question to be asked is “What kind of wines suit the region?” and “What wine is most appropriate for the region?”. Rosé is our answer.
Our wine region may well be the only one in the United States that is virtually on the beach. The East End of Long Island is surrounded by water – the Atlantic Ocean, Peconic Bay, and Long Island Sound. From the ocean beaches of the Hamptons to the inlets of the North Fork, Life here is about vacation homes, sun and sand for much of the year. Rosé is the most fitting wine for this lifestyle.
Provence is the dominant Rosé producer in the world. This sub-tropical Mediterranean region of France has always been an international vacation destination with centuries of wine-making and beach culture to support its reputation. While the grape varietals we grow may be different, the lifestyle and rhythms of the seasons are undeniably similar. Each year when we release our Rosé, it is permission to start thinking of approaching warmer days and the relaxation that comes with them.
We are dedicated to making dry Rosé wines styled after those made in the South of France for centuries, yet with varietals that grow well in our region. The results show in extremely drinkable rosés that strike a subtle balance of fruit flavor and crisp acidity. We make our wines with minimal sulphites and allow natural wine making processes to show through the finished wine.
Most other Rosés in our wine region are made as a by-product of the red wine-making process, bleeding off the first juice not desirable for full-bodied red wines. This first-run or “Saignee” becomes Rosé by accident. The taste, color and wine style are dependent on the red wine not what is best for Rosé as the primary purpose of wine making.
We approach Rosé differently. It starts in the vineyard, growing and harvesting our grapes specifically for the purpose of making Rosé wines. In a cool weather region, such as ours, it is difficult to consistently ripen grapes for making exceptional red wines. However, we can ripen red vinifera grapes early and consistently each year for making exceptional Rosé wines. Rosé allows us to harvest early when weather is optimum, when sugar and acids are balanced and the skins are just thick enough to allow for subtle color in the wine making process. We make our Rosés from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc, all vinifera Bordeaux varietals which grow well and are ready to harvest by early September thru early October each year. All of our grapes are hand picked then de-stemmed and pressed. The juice is immediately separated from the skins, giving the wines a pale pink or salmon color. Stainless steel fermentation rounds out the style of each wine using wild yeast in some varieties. Our sparkling wines are infused with bubbles using the Charmat process. Each year we release our Rosés in late February or early March.
Croteaux Vineyards was planted in 2003, careful planning, extensive soil preparation and determined land preservation actions. We planted specifically selected “clones” of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc, all vinifera grapes on rootstock selected for each soil type on the farm. Our Vineyards total ten-and-a-half acres on our fourteen acre site. The main vineyard block spreads between Main Bayview Road on the east and South Harbor Road on the west. A second block is located on the west side of our farm on South Harbor Road. The plantings are 8’ wide rows running north-south, with 5’ vine spacing, totaling 1089 vines per acre. The highest point of the vineyard is 28 feet above sea level and the lowest point is 9 feet above sea level. The southeast edge of the vineyard is just 100 feet from a tidal salt water inlet.Trellising is vertical shoot with wooden line posts. We cane prune each vine in the winter allowing our grapes to grow from new wood each season. During the growing season, extensive leaf pulling by hand, hedging and canopy management assure air flow and sun exposure on each grape cluster. Our grapes are hand-picked during harvest season so that only the highest quality grapes are sent to the winery. They say "great wines are made in the vineyard", and each season our vineyard is managed and maintained to provide us with the highest quality possible.
Croteaux Vineyards occupies the land of two historic North Fork Farms, each with a long agricultural history. The “Howell Farm” purchased in 1992, and the “Stepnoski Farm” purchased in 1994 were both active farms operating for generations in the same family. The Howell Farm, where our Tasting Barn is located dates back to the 1700’s, and contains an 1889 farmhouse, tasting barn and garden, and three additional historic agricultural structures. The oldest structure on the property is a three-bay, post and beam, Dutch Colonial barn of hand hewn oak timbers dating back to 1749. The old Stepnoski Farm between South Harbor and Bayview Roads also contained an 1850’s farmhouse and barn on 17.5 acres.
Our original goal in purchasing the farms was not planting a vineyard or making wine, but rather to restore historical structures preserving a natural resource and way of life that was quickly being lost. Southold Town was settled in 1640, making it the oldest town in New York. The small villages, rural atmosphere, and pristine shorelines have fought to keep their New England charm for centuries. The pressure of development and subdivision for housing, a dwindling market for farmland, aging family members, and a lack of financial viability for farming in the region were to blame for the farms’ demise. Both farms are now part of a land preservation program and cannot be sub-divided or developed. Growing grapes, making and selling Rosé has resurrected and preserved these two farms for future generations.