The outdoor area of the Croteaux Vineyards tasting room in Southold,...

The outdoor area of the Croteaux Vineyards tasting room in Southold, shown in 2017. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

At the height of rosé season, for two summers running, those hoping to visit the East End’s only winery devoted to rosé were thwarted. Croteaux Vineyards' tasting room had been shuttered since the spring of 2018 due to a zoning board decision by the town of Southold.

The pink began flowing again in late July, said Kristen Pennessi, who with her husband Daniel and partners Randy and Barbara Frankel purchased the winery this spring. A  few weeks ago, they reopened the tasting barn and garden, changing little, at least aesthetically. “It’s kind of like, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Pennessi. 

The Pennessis also own The Menhaden hotel in Greenport, which they opened in December 2018. During the winter, they sold Croteaux wines at the hotel, said Pennessi, and are "thrilled" to have reopened the Southold tasting room. Original owner Michael Croteau, who started the winery and planted vines in 2003, remains a consultant; the Frankels also own Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, which they purchased in 2017.

At Croteaux, visitors will find a lineup of nine still and sparkling rosés, produced from merlot, cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc grown on the winery's own 10.69 acres. Because that acreage is divided by South Harbor Road, Croteaux was judged in violation of a town rule that dictates a winery with a tasting room must have a contiguous 10 acres of vines. In April 2018, the town of Southold zoning board ordered the tasting room closed, for that and other concerns, and it was still closed the following April when the Frankels and the Pennessis purchased the main winery for $1.365 million, and a second 9-acre parcel for $229,700.

An August 2 settlement between the town's zoning board of appeals and the new owners takes into account Croteaux's use as a farm since the 1700s and its "unique circumstances" of having its acreage divided by a road. It also contains restrictions on drainage, parking, capacity, production volume and tasting room hours; the ruling also bans buses and limousines, limits site capacity to 150 guests and calls for an evergreen buffer between the winery and its neighbors.

Food trucks are also verboten in Southold, but snacks such as cheese platters, olives, nuts and lobster sliders are on hand at Croteaux, said Pennessi.

Despite not making immediate changes at Croteaux, there is one issue hanging in the air: increasing output. The 2018 vintage, produced partly on site and partly at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck and bottled in February, is already running low, Pennessi said. "Grape demand is high on Long Island," Pennessi said. "We've talked about planting additional vines in the future."

The tasting barn at Croteaux Vineyards is open daily from noon to 6:30 1450 South Harbor Road in Southold. The phone number is 631-765-6099.

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