Owners of Shinn Estate, The Menhaden purchase Croteaux Vineyards in Southold

07/11/2019 6:00 AM |

Two years after purchasing Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, owner Randy Frankel is thinking pink. 

The New Jersey financier has partnered with Kristen and Daniel Pennessi, owners of The Menhaden hotel in Greenport, to purchase Croteaux Vineyards in Southold. Real estate records show the group purchased the three parcels that make up the business for approximately $1.8 million earlier this year.

“It’s a great business that’s been built up over the last decade,” Mr. Frankel said in an interview Tuesday. Croteaux Vineyards, established by Paula and Michael Croteau in 2003, is the nation’s only winery that exclusively produces rosé made from estate-grown merlot, cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc grapes.

Mr. Frankel is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs whose various business interests include a minority stake in the Tampa Bay Rays baseball franchise and part-ownership of Windham Mountain Ski Resort in upstate New York.

“It’s a unique environment, it’s a unique backyard,” he said, explaining how he was struck by the lush green tasting garden and rich farming history of the property.

“When we bought it, I stepped into the shoes of the previous owners as far as all of the history,” Mr. Frankel said. “The good, the bad and the ugly.”

In 2018, Croteaux Vineyards’ tasting room was not permitted to open for the season following a 2017 Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals ruling that the tasting room is not located on a parcel where “at least 10 acres are devoted to a vineyard or other agricultural purposes.”

The tasting room sits on a 4.65-acre parcel on South Harbor Road in Southold. Another 9.37 acres of vines were planted directly across the street.

Croteaux Vineyards co-owner Michael Croteau has since challenged the ZBA decision in court, but no ruling has been made yet.

“Hopefully the matter can be resolved soon,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Tuesday, declining further comment on the ongoing litigation.

Earlier this spring, Mr. Croteau said the property had sold and indicated he would be staying on as a consultant. He declined to comment further when reached by phone Monday.

Mr. Frankel said the winery has been open to wine club members, who are permitted to pick up their club shipments at the property as a settlement is reached with Southold Town. “I’m trying to keep the brand alive,” he said. “Until we can dot all of the i’s and cross the t’s with the town.”

Ms. Pennessi said they were “diligently” working with town officials in order to reopen the tasting room. “We’re hoping that we can reach an agreement. We will just be thrilled when we open, whether it’s this summer or at a later time,” she said.

In December, Ms. Pennessi and her husband officially opened The Menhaden, a new boutique hotel in Greenport, and recently unveiled a restaurant, The Merchant’s Wife, inside the hotel.

“It’s been a busy year,” she said. “All really good and exciting things, though.”

The sale is part of a growing trend of Long Island wineries changing hands.

In April 2017, Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck was sold to Mr. Frankel and his wife, Barbara. The following year, Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead was sold to a family group headed by Mexican businessman José Antonio Rivero Larrea and his daughter, Maria Rivero González, who reopened the tasting room as RGNY in May.

Last July, it was announced that the Massoud family, owners of Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, had bought the neighboring Palmer Vineyards. Earlier this year, Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue hit the market for $17.9 million.

Mr. Frankel, who has made several renovations to the tasting room at Shinn, said he wants to keep the character and identity at Croteaux. “It’s not going to change one bit,” he said, adding that they currently have nine different rosé wines bottled and intend to continue the exclusively rosé production. “I’m pretty good at buying things that don’t need to be fixed,” he joked.

He’s holding out for a resolution to be reached with Southold Town soon.

“I have my fingers crossed that we can get this open this summer and hopefully it can be a fun place for a lot of people,” he said.

Caption: The garden courtyard at Croteaux Rose Vineyards in Southold prior to the winery closing. (Credit: File photo)

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