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Waters Crest Winery – A Passionate Profession

Originally Posted: July 20, 2006

Lenn Thompson

Jim Waters

Waters Crest Winery, co-owned by Jim and Linda Waters, is one of the smaller winemaking operations on the Island — tucked into a small industrial park in Cutchogue. But, a small tasting room and modest production facilities certainly don't mean that the resulting wines are diminutive.

Home winemakers turning pro aren't particularly uncommon, but the inspiration for Jim's decision to go pro sets him apart.

For years, he worked as a manager for trucking and freight carrier companies. Wine was his passion, but not his profession — despite award-winning success as a home winemaker.

Life changed for the Waters' in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy.

A volunteer fireman and fire commissioner, he found himself at Ground Zero shortly after the attacks. Working side-by-side with other rescue workers had a sudden and profound effect on Jim — and his outlook on life. Not long after, he decided that it was time to follow his heart.

His passion — wine — was about to become his profession.

Waters' production runs are small (he made only 50 cases of his sold-out 2001 Meritage) but he can honestly say that he has touched every single bottle coming out of his winery. He takes "hand crafted" to a whole new level.

The Waters don't own their own vineyard, but long-standing relationships with local growers ensures that the fruit they buy is top quality.

Waters Crest Winery has just released four wines from the 2005 vintage — three whites and a rose — which are well time for summer enjoyment.

Jim's 2005 Waters Crest Winery Rose, made with a combination of red and white wine grapes, is a pretty copper-pink and extremely fruity on the nose with bright aromas of strawberry koolaid, watermelon and lime. While lightly sweet, acidity keeps the wine tasting fresh with more strawberry character and a lick of lime zest on tart finish.

Waters Crest makes one of Long Islands best Rieslings — always a favorite in fact. The 2005 Riesling, such a pale yellow that it's almost colorless, is less intense than I expected, with and tight, austere nose and mellow melon flavors. I expect that in a few months this wine will open up and become more interesting.

Gewurztraminer can be abrasive and in-your-face sometimes, but Waters Crest Winery's 2005 Gewurztraminer avoids that pitfall while still staying true to the exotic variety. Medium-light gold, the nose is classic gewürztraminer — lychee nut, rose petals and sweet spice. The palate is floral and citrusy with distinct lemon flavors and a lime-inflected nutty finish. Just a bit more acidity would help focus this wine, but it's still a nice everyday-style gewürztraminer.

The best of the new releases, Waters Crest Winery's 2005 Chardonnay is a vast improvement on Jim's 2004 non-reserve chardonnay release. Tasted blind, this wine could be mistaken for sauvignon blanc with fresh, bright grapefruit aromas accented with just a hint of passionfruit. Clean and refreshing, this is the style chardonnay that I prefer — fruit without overbearing oak. Instead of butter and cream, this wine offers vibrant citrus, melon and mineral flavors. Steel-fermented Long Island chardonnay — it's perfect for summer and seafood.

Waters Crest Winery is located at 22355 Route 48, Cutchogue, New York, 631-734-5065, www.waterscrestwinery.com.

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