Warriors guarding the wine cellar.

Montezuma Riesling 2011, New York

Cost: $13-15

What: Early in the last century wines from the Finger Lakes region of New York were considered as prestigious as those from California. But tastes changed, and a laundry list of factors pushed California to the top of wine drinkers’ minds.

Even though out of the spotlight, New York growers continued to produce great wines, especially white wines. I love California wines, but I don’t want to ignore other regions. There are many great wines from New York, especially in the Finger Lakes region.

What winemakers and an increasing number of wine drinkers have discovered is that the soil and weather conditions in New York produce outstanding Rieslings, often on a par with the great Rieslings of Germany.

Montezuma Riesling

The Montezuma Riesling is a great example of that. It is a beautiful wine, dry, refreshing and full of citrus and stone fruit flavors. There’s a hint of ginger and pleasant minerality on the finish.

I could drink this wine over and over. It has a bright, lively flavor and is low in alcohol (11.8%). It reminded me how great a grape Riesling is in the right hands. This particular Riesling is dry, but the Finger Lakes region also produces other style of Riesling, including some slightly sweeter wines that are a match for a good German spatlase.

Our warriors

Winery: The Montezuma Winery grew out of a bee keeper’s passion for his work. Located on the north end of Cayuga Lake, Montezuma today produces more than 30 fruit, grape and honey wines ranging from sweet to dry in taste.

George Martin had been a bee keeper for 30 years, building a honey production and pollination business that had 2,000 hives in Maine, New York, Florida and South Carolina. His wife Virginia and son Ed also were in the business.

Dropping honey prices in 1998 led the family and another son Bill to find new ways to market their honey. Bill had tried making a little mead and the family got a winery license in 1999 to make honey wine.

The business in Sterling, New York, was in the middle of New York’s fruit belt, so the family decided to make fruit wines as well. Montezuma Winery (named after a nearby wildlife refuge) was the result, beginning in 2001. The wines were so popular the family moved to a bigger facility in Seneca Falls.

The Hidden Marsh Distillery was added in 2008 to make brandy, vodka and liqueurs from local fruit.

This is a photo with which the Chinese had some fun. Recognize the face? He and Hilary visited the site.

Goes with: We had this wine as an aperitif with our friends Steve and Sandy, who came over to see our terracotta warriors that we bought when visiting China earlier this year. The wine was delightful. We sipped on this while munching nuts and cheese. The wine also would pair well with lighter food such as salads, fish and roast pork.

One figure is the general, the tallest of the warriors. The other is an archer, a replica of the first warrior discovered in 1974. I have placed them on either side of the door to my wine cellar, and Teri and I joke that they are protecting the wine. They are made from the same clay as the original warriors made more than 2,000 years ago. We love looking at them because they remind us of the incredible sight of seeing the warriors in Xian.
The terracotta army was made 2,300 years ago to protect China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in the afterlife. About 1,000 of an estimated 8,000 warriors have been unearthed and are on display in the pits where they were discovered.

The general with his bottle of Montezuma Riesling.

The archer with his bottle of Montezuma Riesling..

The real archer at the site in Xian.

This is the pit where the warriors were discovered.

One of the bronze chariots buried with the warriors.

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