After spending several years searching for a centrally located tasting room space, Waters Crest Winery is moving into new digs on Main Road in Cutchogue.
Winemaker and owner Jim Waters expects the 1,350-square-foot, one-story brick building to be open to the public in mid-February, pending final approval from the State Liquor Authority.
“It’s taken time to find the right location,” Waters said during an interview at the handsome new space Monday. “Unfortunately, they don’t open up that often.”
Waters said the building hit the rental market on a Thursday in October. He saw the “for lease” sign on the building, which most recently housed North Fork Energy, the next day. He toured it that Sunday and signed a lease the following Tuesday.
“We came off the harvest and worked seven days a week [to get the space ready],” he said.
Waters’ tasting room was previously located in an industrial complex which faces Route 48 but is only accessible by Cox Lane. While about a dozen people could fit in that tasting room, the new space can accommodate about 20, he said.
“It’s not traditionally what people are looking for,” he said. “Some people had a bit of a difficult time finding us. We needed exposure. Our location over there is not conducive to the tasting room experience.”
Waters plans to continue to produce his portfolio of about 10 wines and host private events at his Route 48 location.
Inside the Main Road locale, tabletops made from old Waters Crest barrels stand next to leather swivel chairs. The walls have been painted white and deep burgundy — though Waters said that has more to do with aesthetics rather than a nod to red and white varietals. Barrel staves adorn the entranceway and two high-top tables will allow for casual conversation over drinks.
But the most striking furnishing in the new space is an L-shaped concrete countertop built upon a wall of bluestone-like pavers. An identical bar also lines the back of the room.
“We wanted that ‘bringing the outside in’ look,” Waters said. “I think we really captured that.”
Waters estimates he and his staffers did about 65 percent of the work themselves. Industry friends, like Anthony Sannino of Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard, also pitched in.
When Waters first opened his Route 48 location in 2002, it was the easternmost tasting room on the North Fork. It was also a bit of a novelty and a destination, as it was one of the few small-scale producers in the area.
“We strive to go after the wine connoisseur,” Waters said. “We keep it focused and centered around the wine.”
But after 2011, other boutique operations, like Coffee Pot Cellars in Cutchogue and The Winemaker Studio in Peconic, to name a couple, popped up. The new landscape meant Waters had to make a change to his business to stay competitive.
That’s not to say Waters Crest hasn’t garnered a strong following in that time. The winery has found success in part through its nearly 300 wine club members and from custom crush clients who want to make their own wine. It also received six 90-point scores from wine critics in the past year.
“We’ve made it just by word of mouth, consistency of the wine, referrals from other wineries and, of course, our wine club,” said Waters Crest general manager Adam Slater.
Expect the new space, located at 28735 Main Road in Cutchogue, to be open Thursdays through Mondays during the winter.