Waters Crest Winery, co-owned by Jim and Linda Waters, is still a relatively new winery, tucked into a small industrial park in Cutchogue. And while the tasting room and production facilities may be among the smallest around, the wines that come out of them are far from diminutive.
To the Waters’, the winery is truly a family affair. Visit on most any day and you’re just about guaranteed to meet Jim, Linda or even their daughters. They are a warm, charming family and they’ll make you feel right at home as you taste the wines and, if you like, get a quick tour of the barrel room.
In the past I’ve called Jim’s Riesling my favorite local version, so I was looking forward to tasting his 2004 vintage along with five other current releases.
I started, not surprisingly, with the Waters Crest Winery 2004 Riesling ($17). Super-pale straw in the glass, the nose is even more aromatic than the 2003, with peach, candied orange peel and faint mineral notes. Each sip of this light-bodied white offers stone fruit flavors – white peaches and apricots – that morph into citrus before finishing with crisp apple. The acidity is down from the 2003 bottling, but this is still a nice Riesling.
Waters’ 2004 Gewurztraminer ($18) is similar in color, but the nose is more austere, with rose petal, honeysuckle and minty-spice notes. Medium bodied and less aggressive than some Gewurztraminers, this is an approachable pour with citrus and faint lychee flavors and just enough acidity to tingle your tongue on the finish.
Jim made two decidedly differently Chardonnays in 2004. The Waters Crest Winery 2004 Chardonnay ($16) is steel-fermented, but does see some oak during aging. The nose is simple and light with pear and vanilla aromas. It’s medium-bodied and features a little acidity to go along with pear and apple flavors. The finish is a little disappointing and short and this wine seems to be between styles, searching for an identity.
The Waters Crest Winery 2004 Private Reserve Chardonnay ($25) is a much richer, more complex wine for more serious wine drinkers. Barrel fermented and aged, it’s a slightly darker, medium straw color and presents toasty oak, vanilla and smoke on the nose with just the faintest hints of citrus. The palate is filled with toasty oak, green apple, lemon and minerals. The finish is a bit short right now, but this wine has spectacular aging potential. Lay a few bottles down and watch how it develops.
Moving onto the Waters Crest red offerings, the 2003 Merlot ($18) has a nose redolent with blueberry jam, fresh plums and just a little oak character. It’s soft and delicious in the mouth, showing black fruit, well-integrated tannins and hints of tobacco with just a little background acidity. This is a great food wine, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing.
If you’re sick of drinking Long Island Merlot (even the good ones), splurge on a bottle of Waters Crest Winery 2003 Cabernet Franc ($30), a double gold medal winning wine at the 2005 New York Food and Wine Festival in Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes region. Some local Cab Franc can be a bit lean and lifeless, but this one is different from the second it hits the bottom of your glass. Extended maceration gives this wine a deep, rich garnet color and beautiful extraction. Aromas of cocoa, exotic spice and wet topsoil reach right up out of the glass. This red is full bodied and mouth-filling, with lush chocolate flavors. Jim made only 130 cases, with long-term aging in mind.
Visit www.waterscrestwinery.com or call 734-5065 for more information or to order wines. But, to get the full Waters Crest experience, you really need to join Jim and his family in the tasting room this fall.
(This piece appeared in the 9/2 issue of Dan's Papers)