Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waters Crest: The Quiet Winery in the North Fork (LI)

When I was a kid, there was an ad campaign that ran for years… The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, The Quiet Company. They presented themselves as reliable, rock solid, quality, and no fuss. In fact they were a gold mine for years for investors and customers alike. That reminds me a little of Waters Crest. They’re not loud or pushy or showy. They don’t use a lot of lingo to dazzle you or fancy winemaking tricks to impress. They won’t win any awards for fancy packaging. They’re not using amphora or bottling their wine in kegs or boxes. They are just solid, rock solid.

Long Island’s North Fork is home to Waters Crest Winery, a family-run operation owned by Jim and Linda Waters. Jim Waters, home winemaker turned award-winning professional, produces limited edition, high quality, boutique wines. They might produce as few as fifty cases of something. The product in the end is always quality.
Waters Crest is one of the wonderful, small, boutique wineries on the back stretch of the north fork, over by Shinn and others. It reminds me very much of the Lampoc Wine ghetto in California. It reminded me very much of Fiddlehead (which is located behind a Home Depot) or a number of those other wineries, as Waters Crest is located in a strip mall. But don’t let that stop you. Because you’re in for a treat when you go visit Waters Crest. Waters Crest is that quiet winery that sneaks up on people. But they are no stranger to good news. They've been featured on MSNBC.

Howard G. Goldberg wrote in the New York Times just recently, noting, “The food-friendly whites made at Waters Crest in Cutchogue and sold in its adjacent tasting room, in the North Road Commons industrial park, are noteworthy for their texture.” Mr. Goldberg also went on to describe his love of some of their other whites, writing, “Mr. Waters’s suave, appetite-whetting dry riesling ($19.99) is redolent of young peaches. His graceful sauvignon blanc ($22.99) possesses an attractively floral scent and a rich grassy flavor.” This was high praise indeed.

Waters Crest won Platinum at the 6th Annual Critics Challenge International Wine Competition staged in San Diego over Memorial Day weekend. Waters Crest Winery walked away with a platinum medal for their Private Reserve 2006 Cabernet Franc, only 66 Platinum medals were awarded. A total of 327 medals were given. But medals don’t always impress….

Adour at The Saint Regis Hotel is one of Manhattans newest Wine Lounge as mentioned in Spectator and Food and Wine Magazine. It is managed and run by World Renown Chef Alain Ducasse. Ducasse chose the 2004 Waters Crest Private Reserve Cabernet Franc for their exclusive wine list.

When I arrived I met Linda behind the bar, who was my pourer. When you taste at Waters Crest there’s two tasting flights you can choose – three whites and a rose’ or a rose’ and three reds. I had tasted their very nice chardonnay some time ago, and I was intrigued to try the reds…so off I went to the rose’.

The tasting room was anything but quiet. More and more people kept coming in. Many were returning customers, a sure sign a winery is doing something right. I bellied up to their barrel-and-marble bar, and sampled a flight of reds along with their rose. All of Waters Crest’s wines are made, bottled, and labeled right on site; and visitors are always welcome to a winery tour. Linda could not have been nicer. I could not have been more at ease. She was lovely, pleasant, and conversational, easy to talk to. And behind her, behind the bar, one could see the winery at work with husband Jim working the barrels as I and others tasted at the bar.

2011 RosĂ© is an exotic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was a big glass full of strawberries. The nose also had grapefruit and lime at the end. A great nose! The strawberries came through as promised, also watermelon and a finish of bright, tar rhubarb. Absolutely fantastic!!! This was a wonderful rose’.

Next was the 2008 Merlot. Made from 100% Merlot. It was a beautiful ruby color to it. This is a wonderfully rich, medium bodied wine. It had nice body to it. There were hints of plum and red bright cherry and raspberry, even a hint of darker berries. There was also the expression of tobacco, a whiff of pepper, and a rounding aroma of vanilla. There was also some mocha? Nice fruit up front was accompanied by firm acidity and tannins. Very, very nice. A good food wine as well. This was delicious!!! A really wonderful wine!

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Vin is an excellent representative of the stellar 2007 vintage of the North Fork (one of the best in the region’s history). This is a sizable chewy wine at 13% alcohol. 149 cases of this wine were aged 18 months in 95% French and 5% new American oak. The purple/red color is deep and difficult to penetrate. The nose is dark berries like blackberries and cassis, mixed with other exotic aromas of barnyard, dark powdered cocoa, and other spices. There is big dark fruit up front, and again the berries and cassis stay with you. The acidity and tannins are well balanced. There’s lots of complexity here, and the wine keeps tasting better and better as it opens up. This is an incredibly lovely wine. Fantastic! One of the best Cabernet Sauvignons on the North Fork.

2007 Cabernet Franc Grand Vin comes from a small three acre vineyard in Peconic that has wonderful light soil and great sun exposure. This hand harvested Cabernet Franc experienced a three day cold soak resulting in fantastic ruby red color with hints of purple. The wine was racked off the sediment repeatedly to prevent filtering. The wine was aged 18 months in New French Oak. Cherry, cassis, and a hint of baryard again foat out of the glass. Beautiful berry flavors, rich a deep, with solid acidity and good tannins make for a lovely expression of Cabernet Franc. A really lovely wine.

Toward the end of the tasting, Jim came out from barrel area to say hello. I am a big fan. We chatted for a little bit, but the customers piled up and another tour and tasting had to be done. It was time to move on.

So have yourself a quiet time. Go to Waters Crest. Not a lot of fanfare and dialogue. Just really, really great wine. Enjoy!