The first time ice cream maker John Pastore made Frosae, an Italian ice-style treat made with wine, it was for a private party in 2010.
The brainchild of Pastore and his retired English teacher friend Ben Amato, the product seemed promising but they didn’t know how their invention would be received.
Still, they offered patrons a batch made with Italian merlot during an event at Mastic Beach Yacht Club. And the response was stellar.
“The next day, my phone was ringing off the hook from people who were at the party,” Pastore said. “They said they never had anything like it.”
Frosae Wine Sorbae, a sorbet made with wine, preserves not only the alcohol in it, but the flavor of the base wine.
Pastore can make 10 gallons of Frosae using his secret, patent-pending process at his business, Ice Cream Cottage in Mastic, in just 15 minutes.
The product comes in three varieties: Elegant White, made with Peconic Bay Winery’s sauvignon blanc; Royal Red, made with Peconic Bay merlot (Frosae bought out the leftover stock from the now-closed Cutchogue winery); and Chocolate Merlot, made with chocolate wine from Dutch winemakers ChocoVine.
The frozen treat doesn’t have an overly sweet aftertaste like a product made with high fructose corn syrup. It’s gluten-free and the white and red varieties have just 110 and 120 calories per serving, respectively. The chocolate flavor has 160 calories.
“The taste of the wine is the taste of the dessert,” Amato said. “On the second bite, the wine taste moves to the front [of the mouth].”
At 1.8 percent alcohol by volume, you’ll probably get a brain freeze before you can catch a buzz. Still, the product is only available to consumers 21 and older.
Pastore and Amato were able to move forward with the business in 2012, after the state amended liquor laws to allow foods with less than five percent alcohol content to be sold without a liquor license.
Frosae is now available for order through the company’s website. The partners hope to one day make it available nationwide, piggybacking on the nation’s growing love affair with wine, according to Frosae partner Neil Koenig.
U.S. wine sales more than doubled from about $17 billion in 1998 to $36.3 billion in 2013, according to the Wine Institute, an advocacy group for the California wine industry. Americans also spent $10 billion on ice cream and frozen novelty items in 2011.
“You have the ice cream industry and you have the wine industry,” Koenig said. “Somewhere in between, we fall. But it is such a unique product, we knew people were going to be blown away.”
Frosae can be found on the shelves of local grocery stores like select King Kullen locations and North Shore Farms chains in western Long Island.
Once the company runs out of Peconic Bay wines, Frosae will switch to merlot and sauvignon blanc from Jamesport Vineyards in Jamesport.
“It’s another avenue to have your brand out there and be part of a company that sells a local product,” said Jamesport Vineyards general manager and winemaker Ron Goerler Jr. “They want to expand the product’s reach and, going further, hopefully we will be a part of that.
Frosae can also be made into wedding favors mixed with wine and served at receptions.
“It’s a dessert and it’s a conversation piece at parties,” Koenig said.
Last month, Frosae launched an online delivery service that brings an insulated cooler of Frosae to any doorstep from Westchester County to Montauk.
Amato said the company will also soon tap into the Florida market as well.
“We’re learning that Frosae is a year-round dessert,” Amato said. “Hey, it’s wine — it’s simple as that. And people are loving it. And we love being able to reach out and deliver to somebody’s door.”
This story was originally published in the fall 2014 northforker Long Island Wine Press