One has to hand it to Michael and Paula Croteau, proprietors of Croteaux Vineyards. They have taken seemingly simple concept -- producing only rose -- and yet continually find ways to keep it fresh, new and creative.
They started out with only three wines, each named for the merlot clones they used to make them: 3, 181 and 314.
From there, they've added a Charmat method sparkler "Cuvee Sparkle", a wild yeast fermented merlot rose "Sauvage" and an intensely colored cabernet franc rose "Ruby."
Each wine is unique, distinct and -- as of August 22 -- sold out. (They did hold back 30 cases of sparkling for the holidays). And when Croteaux Vineyards runs out of wine, they close for the season and Michael continues with his design business and Paula her cooking school.
Making rose and not needing extreme ripeness and making just enough wine to get you through the season (or not) seems like one of the most sustainable business models in the wine industry.
Still, running out of wine in mid-August, well before the North Fork's busy harvest/ pumpkin-picking season has even begun, is a missed opportunity.
On October 30, the winery will release the newest member of its rose-only lineup: Croteaux Nouveaux, a merlot (clone 181) rose. As far as I know, this is the only Nouveau rose being made here, or maybe anywhere.
When I asked Michael what the inspiration was behind the wine he told me in an email "Running out of wine and harvesting early -- we were finished by September 16. And Michael Kontakosta, our vineyard manager, asked me in the midst of harvesting 'How quickly can you make rosé?' so I said, 'Wow! lets find out this year!'"
Harvesting three weeks earlier than typical makes this style of wine possible because it offers those three weeks back as time for winemaking.
Nouveaux was made by Les Howard at Raphael from later press of the Croteaux merlot 181, which is darker in color than the early press juice.
They only made 100 cases, so it won't last long. In fact, Michael thinks it will "most likely sell out by Thanksgiving."
"This year is a test," Michael said "But, yes, we will most likely make it a part of our portfolio."
Come back here in a couple of weeks for another write-up -- after I've tasted it for myself.