There are, by scientific count, approximately 9,736 rosé-inspired plays on words in the known universe. They pop up on Instagram and T-shirts, spark a smile and maybe a pour with a toast to the witty creator, their true source remaining pretty much a mystery. Were we to write an origin story for Rosé All Day, however, the setting must be Croteaux Vineyards.
Step through Croteaux’s front door here in Southold, just past the light-blue VW Bug parked outside with the sun-faded wine bottles balanced on its rear bumper, through the small, rustic room and out the back door. The sensation is something like going through the looking glass, into another world entirely, one a bit more lively, more intimately festive and certainly pinker than the one you just left behind.
Time was not so long ago when this journey proved impossible. For some 18 months, starting in the spring of 2018, a Town of Southold Zoning Board of Appeals decision regarding a question of contiguous acres had kept the Croteaux tasting room closed. As people waited for the doors to reopen, founder Michael Croteau and the team still produced wine for sale at shops and restaurants, their Rosé on the Run truck and at pop-up tastings in intriguing locales.
One such pop-up arose at Greenport’s new boutique Menhadan hotel, which Kristen and Daniel Pennessi opened last December. As winter moved to spring, an opportunity arose to purchase the vineyard Croteau had founded in 2003. The Pennessis partnered with Randy and Barbara Frankel (who purchased nearby Shinn Estate Vineyards in 2017) to buy Croteaux, and various negotiations and stipulations with the town later, the tasting barn and garden reopened this August. Almost immediately, the crowds returned, filling colored chairs beneath swaying trees and umbrellas, taking in the bucolic view and a glass or two of Long Island’s most renowned rosé portfolio.
“There’s a very loyal following here,” Kristen says, looking out at the Wine Country oasis. “This is unique. It’s very beautiful, and there’s that laid back, casual feel to it.” She smiles, voices and clinking glasses from the garden offering a comforting background buzz. “We don’t have plans to change much.”
To that point, Michael Croteau remains as a consultant and a link to a past when, well ahead of the rosé wave that has swept up the East End, he decided he would buck the red-and-white-only trend. As it has been since the first 2006 vintage, Croteaux remains the only U.S. winery that exclusively produces rosé, its current lineup of nine wines made from estate-grown merlot, cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc grapes.
“I always said I wasn’t a serious wine guy, I was a serious beach guy, so that led to rosé,” says Croteau, who is in fact quite serious about the quality in those bottles. “I always felt like this was a wine region that was on the beach. I spent some time in the south of France, and that’s what you drink when you’re on the beach there, or in the Caribbean or wherever. At that time, rosé was basically third-string here, whereas other parts of the world really embraced rosé.”
That embrace has blossomed into a full-on love story with plenty of players from around the globe. “There is a lot more competition in the market, but rosé is the one wine where you drink local,” Croteau notes. “So whereas it’s sometimes a hard sell to get really serious wine people to drink a Long Island red, we’ll have tourists from different parts of the world here and they always want to drink a local rosé.”
Creating an unforgettable local experience, Kristen notes, is at the heart of both the vineyard and The Menhaden. “Aesthetically, the properties are very different. The hotel is super-modern, and this obviously is very rustic and kind of BoHo—polished and approachable. But with both properties, along with the same level of service, you come and you feel like you’re somewhere else.”
A late-summer breeze makes it clear that somewhere is right here—now and for any foreseeable future, as long a there is a glass in-hand. “The demand for rosé isn’t going anywhere,” Kristen says. “On a beautiful day, that’s all people want to drink. It’s rosé, rosé, rosé.”
For more information about Croteaux Vineyards, call 631-765-6099 or visit croteaux.com.