For those of you who are home cellar winemakers thinking of making it big, then I have met your idol.
Jim Waters is the proprietor and winemaker at Waters Crest Winery. He has been doing this for many years. He went from award-winning home winemaker to the big time. It was not until the tragic events of 9/11 that Jim, along with his wife, decided to make winemaking, their lifelong hobby into something. Jim always loved making wine and was content with his little hobby. However, being at Ground Zero, Jim is volunteer firefighter, changed everything.
Waters Crest Winery is like no other winery on Long Island. It is located in a storefront of a strip mall along route 48 in Cutchogue. Yes, when you pull in, you will not see acre upon acre of Merlot or Cabernet Franc or Chardonnay. There is no grand tour of the many blocks of grapes that Jim grows. What Waters Crest Winery may lack in its physical appearance, it certainly does not lack anywhere else. What you do see at Waters Crest is some of the most beautiful crafted wine that is given the utmost attention by one man, Mr. Jim Waters.
Waters Crest is the only Long Island winery of its kind. Jim makes his own wine, but you may be wondering where does he get it from? Jim visits all of his grapes. He inspects and oversees the growing of all the grapes that goes into Waters Crest Wine. Jim may buy a block or two of chardonnay from one vineyard, and another from another vineyard. He only takes the best of the best from a certain cluster of vineyards. Because he is able to do this, he is able to select what he feels is the best grapes that will make the best wine of vintage that year. Jim has complete control of what he puts into his wine. If he feels that a certain varietal is not doing well then he will not use it. Jim makes sure that whatever wine bears his name is the best of the best.
When I first arrived at Waters Crest, I was greeted by Jennie who works in the tasting room. Jennie had a great personality and really makes you feel welcome. As you look around the tasting room there are many eye-catching items for sale. Form cookbooks to wine gadgets to crackers and spreads and various clothing items. However, the main reason you go there is for the wine.
I was very nervous going on my first winery visit as a blogger. I did go on some winery tours while in Virginia, but they were more for my pleasure, I did not announce who I was. I went to them for my enjoyment. The visit to Waters Crest was for my blog and for me to report to my readers. I was going to be meeting with the winemaker and owner. Moreover, I was also very nervous about spitting, something you should do when tasting wine. I had a hard time with spitting.
So back to my arrival. Jennie kept me company and my glass full until Jim returned to the winery. I was first offered Waters Crest 2008 Rose ($17.95). This rose is a new release. It is a blend of 40% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 25% Chardonnay. It is made in the saignee method, allowing the skins of the grapes to be in contact for about 3 hours with the crushed berries before taking the juice and starting the fermentation in the same manner as white wine. This also gives the Rose its color. I was getting a lot of strawberry on the nose and a little cantaloupe. The strawberry carried over on the taste. There was a lot of acid, which made this rose very dry. I found this to be crisp and refreshing.
I then had 2008 Chardonnay ($17.99). This too was a new release. This is steel fermented and did not touch any oak, which in my opinion is the way Chardonnay should be done. This was very fragrant; I was getting lots of lemon, citrus and green aromas on the nose of this one. The taste was even better. There was a creamy buttery texture to this wine. I was getting some nice vanilla at the end. The acidity level was perfect; it balanced out the wine and made this very enjoyable. It was a clean and crisp wine that was very refreshing.
The next wine I had was the 2007 Reserve Chardonnay ($24.99). This wine is aged in new French Oak Barrels for 6 months. There is Malolactic fermentation that takes place with this wine. Malolactic fermentation is a process in winemaking where tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. I was getting a subtle toasty aroma on the nose. I was not getting any fruit, but once I tasted, wow. I really liked this Chardonnay. There was a nice creamy like texture. I was getting lots of citrus and some honeydew and a little vanilla. There was some acidity that helped balance out this wine. Now, I said in the review of the 2008 Chardonnay review that I like my chardonnay to be fermented outside of steel. However, if more vineyards tried this method, I would not mind. I liked this Chardonnay allot, and in fact, think it is one of the better Chards I have had. After this, I knew I was going to enjoy this visit.
Jim then poured me 2008 Campania Bianco. This was not released at the time of the tasting, but would be released very soon. This wine is a blend of 78% Chardonnay, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Riesling. I liked this wine a lot. You could taste all the elements of the different grapes. Allot of citrus, some buttery creamy notes. I was getting some green grass and fresh herbal notes. But what was surprising to me was the fact that I was getting a lot of Riesling considering the fact that there was only 7%. The taste had some nice mineral tones and was loaded with citrus. It had a nice clean dry finish.
I then tasted a new release, Waters Crest 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99). This is their first Sauvignon Blanc and let me tell you, what a way to make a first impression. This was tangy. Lots of grapefruit. The taste was very crisp with loads of citrus. There is a nice amount of acidity that finishes clean. I was getting some minerality in the finish. Man, this was a good wine.
I now tasted my first red wine, Waters Crest 2006 Merlot ($21.99). I am going to save my review of this wine for a full feature on my blog at a later date…but it was VERY good.
Next, I had some of their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($39.99). The first thing I noticed about this was the color. It was deep red. Very attractive in the glass. After a swirl, there was a lot going on. I was getting some earthy herbal aroma. I was getting some coffee and coca. There were some dark berries in the background. Taste was bold. I was getting big tannins, but not too big. I was getting some black cherry flavor and a little coffee. There were some earthy notes, a little tobacco and maybe some dried herbs. It had a spicy finish that had me craving a piece of chocolate. I liked this wine allot.
I then tried my favorite varietal, Cabernet Franc. This was a 2006 Cabernet Franc Private Reserve ($34.99). Again, check back later for a full review of this wine. Again, another winner.
Jim then took me to the cellar room, which is located just behind the tasting room. There is a big window where you can see where the magic happens. This is where he makes his wines, stores his wine in barrels and blends and bottles his wines. He explained to me his method of moving the barrels and how he stores them. He showed me how his stainless steel tanks and how he is very careful to only use the grapes and the grapes alone when making his wine. It is very important to make sure no stems make it into the fermentation. He gave me an explanation on how he bleeds off wine to make his Rose wine. Jim also talked about his membership to the Barrel Club where members actually buy a French Oak Barrel and receive tastings and shipments for the life of the barrel. When the barrel is no longer useable, about 3 years later, the barrel is yours with your name engraved on the top of the barrel.
Jim then offered me to taste two wines directly from the barrel. They were both 2008 vintages. The first was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. I was getting a lot of berries and some black cherry. It was extremely fragrant and aromatic. It was tannic, but it had a nice balance of acid that allowed the fruit to show. There was an extremely nice green herb flavor that was showing at the end. The finish was not to dry, it was just right. I like this and look forward to see how this shows in a few years when it is released.
We then tasted the 2008 Merlot from the barrel. I was not getting too much fruit. This was earthy and spicy. There was just a touch of currants. It was very tannic, but not in a bad way. I think this needed some more time to develop.
Jim and I then went back to the counter and he offered me some, in my opinion, liquid gold. No, it is not oil. It is a red from the 2007 vintage on Long Island. I have said before and will say it again. The 2007 vintage from most, if not all vineyards on Long Island, will be the best ever. I have had some 2007’s that have been released and some that have not. This is one that has not been released.
Jim popped the cork on a 2007 Cabernet Franc. (Are you giddy, because I am). On the nose, there were big bright dark and red berries. It was juicy. There were some herbal notes that were just what I look for in a Cabernet Franc. The taste was unreal. There were subtle oaky flavors, but the fruits were big, bold, and bright. I was picking up some flavors of black cherry as well. This was not a spicy wine at all. It was soft. It was delicious, it was a perfect wine. Keep in mind, this was not decanted or open for long. In addition, it was in the bottle for only a few weeks. It was not closed, it was very fresh. I really wanted more of this wine, but I, like the rest of the world until sometime next year.
Last but not least, I had their Late Harvest Night Watch 2007 ($44.99). Once again, I am going to make you wait…check back to my blog soon.
In summary, Waters Crest Winery has some well-crafted wines. Jim has produced award-winning wines year after year and some have done very well and rated high in various wine reviews. The ones you cannot miss are the following, 2007 reserve Chardonnay, 2006 Merlot, 2006 Cabernet Franc Private Reserve and the Late Harvest 2007 Night Watch. Make sure you add this to your list of wineries to visit the next time you are in Cutchogue. What Waters Crest does not have in ambience, views, and tours, but Jim Waters makes up in his careful and dedicated attention to the wines he produces. You will not be disappointed. Trust me. This is now on my list of stops because Waters Crest makes some of the best wines on Long Island.
Nice overview of Jim, his story and his wines.
I miss the days when Jim made varietal riesling and gewurztraminer…they were often delicious.
Jim is one of my favorite people in wine country. Passion oozes from him. Plus he and his family are just plain great people.
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