Located just outside of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, on the northern end of Cayuga Lake, is one of the Finger Lakes most diverse producers of handcrafted beverages, Montezuma Winery and Hidden Marsh Distillery. This business venture started over 35 years ago as a honey producer. Today they’ve expanded their offerings to include meads, wines, and distilled spirits. On a cold, snowy day in November, we traveled there to get more information and share in the diversity of all they have.
The winery building itself is very rustic, with a small stream in front and various wooden sculptures around the property. In wet weather, be careful in the parking lot. It can get a little muddy! The natural motif continues inside where a beautiful mural of the nearby Montezuma marshes is painted across the ceiling. What first struck me when I went into the tasting room was the size of the gift shop. Hundreds of gifts are available, from clothing to glassware, wine toppers, holiday items, and general trinkets to remember your visit to this area. Walk through the gift shop to the large tasting bar where the staff is ready to help with choosing a beverage to sample. We spoke with Devlin on our visit, and while fairly new, he was able to give us some information about the winery, distillery, and meadery. But first, a quick look at everything we had the chance to try.
- A nice Finger Lakes Riesling, very dry with good minerality.
- Blend of Vidal Blanc and Traminette.
- Very aromatic with lots of citrus and a bit of spice.
- Fresh and clean flavored, citrus and green apple.
- Blend of Chancellor and Marechal Foche.
- Definitely a blend of cold climate grapes! Tight acidity. Not a favorite.
- Very nicely made. Aromas of cherries, medium bodied with a hint of pepper.
- Blend of De Chaunac and Marechal Foche, oak aged.
- Another cold climate red wine, very tight with too much astringency.
- Subtle sparkling mead, sweeter than I expected.
- Made for an Ethiopian restaurant in New York City.
- Dark earthy nose, flavorful.
- Sweet and Tart, definitely pairs well with Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, we bought two bottles just for that purpose!
- Made with New York State maple syrup.
- Very pungent with an excellent maple flavor that does not taste fake.
- Honey brandy aged 3 years, 8 months in charred oak barrels.
- Very smooth, excellent use of oak, with nice caramel and vanilla notes.
- Aged 207 days.
- Dry and light, hints of oak. Very smooth with a quick finish.
- Combination of their Bee Vodka, Jalapeño, and Habanero Peppers.
- Very little heat, but could taste some green pepper notes.
Thirty five years ago, the owners started the business purely as honey producers. Then in 1999, a farm winery license was obtained and they started creating mead. 2001 rolled around and fruit and grape wines were added to the line-up. Finally in 2008, Montezuma added the distillery, allowing them to produce liqueurs, brandy, and vodka from local honey, apples, and other fruits. The winery is most well known for sweeter style wines such as the Fat Frog Red and Diamond, their most popular as of this article. Personally, I prefer drier wines; the sweeter varietals are too grapey for me. However, the fruit wines are unique and offer a refreshing change from the grape wines. We especially enjoy the Cranberry Bog as it balances sweetness and tartness very well, allowing fans of both dry and sweet wines to appreciate it. This has been a very popular wine for our Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends. Tej, an Ethiopian mead, is another unique product that is well worth trying. The earthy spiciness counterbalances the sweetness very well and makes for an enjoyable drink. The cost to try their wine is $3.00 and includes your choice of six wines. Or for $5.00 you also get a souvenir wine glass.
The distilled spirits make for some very interesting concoctions. It will cost you $1.00 to try a single sample so you might have to be more frugal in what you choose. Hidden Marsh Distillery is one of the few distilleries in the United States that makes its Vodka from honey. It has a rather unique flavor and is perfect for sipping. The Bee Hot vodka was not nearly spicy enough in my opinion, but those less accustomed to heat might disagree. The Brandy and Bourbon were nice but I was hoping for a fuller bodied experience that lasted longer in my mouth. It is exciting to see what they are producing and I look forward to seeing how the products evolve in the future.
Montezuma wines are sold throughout New York State. They also ship most of their products across the country and make it easy to order from their web page. The wine is all fairly priced and if you are a sweet wine drinker you can’t go wrong. If you are planning a day trip to the area, I recommend stopping here to check out the unique spirits, the various honey meads, and the fruit wines.
Just around the corner from Montezuma Winery and Hidden Marsh Distillery is the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of migratory birds pass through the marshes every year. A drive through the refuge gives you an excellent chance to see them. It is also the Summer nesting ground for Eagles, and other birds of prey. Visit during the fall migration to see over 100,000 birds as they make their way South!
Montezuma Winery & Hidden Marsh Distillery
2981 Auburn Road, Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Visited November 27, 2013
Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.