Over The Barrel: A Visit to Waters Crest Winery

1,000. That’s how many cases of wine – give or take – Jim Waters makes at his winery, Waters Crest Winery, every year. That’s small, very small. Wolffer Estate Vineyards makes more than nine times that – just in its rose program.

Waters’ tasting room is small too, tucked into an otherwise non-descript industrial plaza on Route 48 in Cutchogue. It’s a location that is easy to drive right by and easy to miss. But make the effort to visit, and you’ll be rewarded. Most days, you’ll find Water in the tasting room – which is mere feet from the garage-sized winery itself. His enthusiasms for wine, winemaking and the local wine community are infectious and despite the winery’s small production, he’s amassed quite a following – including nearly 400 wine club members.

Waters Crest isn’t just about its owner. That wine club isn’t a mere cult of personality. There are some standout wines in the surprisingly diverse portfolio. Here are some favorites from my visit last weekend: [expand]

Waters Crest Winery 2010 Rose ($24) is a blend of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay and it very well may be the best Waters has produced. Driven by strawberry and watermelon flavors, there is also a welcome zing of lemon-grapefruit and a subtle sprinkling of sweet herbs. There is a bit of creamy weight on the mid-palate, but it’s balanced very well by citrusy acidity. A beautiful and no-doubt versatile rose.

Another standout was the Waters Crest Winery 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($23) made with fruit grown at Palmer Vineyards. The fruit character here is tropical and dominated by passion fruit with understated grassy-hay notes and gentle, but present, acidity.

For the second year in a row, Waters purchased Riesling from Wagner Vineyards on Seneca Lake to make his 2010 Dry Riesling ($20) – with good results. Though still a bit taut and ungiving, it shows slate and flint qualities backed by sweet lime and subtle peach fruit character. It is dry with fresh, but soft, acidity. Another three to six months in the bottle will help lengthen the finish and unravel the flavors.

On the red side of things, the real star was the Waters Crest Winery 2007 Cabernet FrancGrand Vin” ($40). Ripe and intense on the nose, it shows aromas and flavors of black cherry and crushed blackberry with an intriguing earthy edge and sweet oak notes. Some 2007 reds – because of the hot, dry season and extended maceration – need time to soften. This one is ready to drink today. It has everything cab franc lovers are looking for. [/expand]

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