The All American Grape

I’m trying to stick to my goal of learning something new about wine every week. I thought I’d test it out and put the post up here this week.

This week’s bit of knowledge was inspired by our trip to Chrysalis Vineyards this weekend. Even before going, I looked at their website and saw much propaganda about the Norton grape and how they make wines entirely of this grape. I had no idea what to expect on tasting wine made with Norton grapes. It also intrigued me that it was referred to as the “true” American Grape.

Apparently there is a reason why Chrysalis touts this grape: It is believed to have been named by and is first attributed to Dr. Norton of Richmond, Virginia. Otherwise, it appears that most of the origins of this grape area mystery. It was first available for commercial purchase in the 1830s and was apparently a huge success, even wining an international wine competition from a vineyard in Missouri, which became the central producer of wines made from Norton grapes. Today, Missouri remains the most prolific producer of Norton Wines, though Virginia wineries continue to produce the wine and it appears to be gaining popularity here.

As a grape, it is very resistent to both pests and typical diseases that affect vines and the fruit. However, at the same time, Norton is a hard grape to cultivate. The vines do not do well if producers attempt to get cuttings to root. The mystery of why the Norton plants will not root has not been solved, and producers have to resort to other and more time consuming techniques in order to grow new vines.

There are at least two producers of wines made with Norton grapes in Virginia, Chrysalis Vineyards and Horton Vineyards. Though as far as I can tell, only Chrysalis makes a wine from 100% Norton grapes. As I mentioned in my tasting notes from Chrysalis, I found the 100% Norton wine to have a grape jam and raspberry flavor with a nose of grape juice. One page of information notes that Norton grapes can sometimes have the scent of a Concord grape, which I guess would be what gave me the grape juice nose! The blended Norton wines I tried displayed more red fruits and earthy characteristics than the 100% Norton wine.

Sources: Appellation America
The Wine Man

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It may be Wacky….(WBW #29)

But I’m all for good wine, even when I’m not totally convinced of the biodynamic process behind it. I’ll also be the first to admit that I don’t totally “get” the whole biodynamic thing. I’ve read about it over the past month to see if I could educate myself, but I’m still not sure I’m totally on the same page with what is going on. Protecting the environment and trying to use the land with the least harmful impact is great in my book, I’m just not sure I buy into all the swirling of things in a certain way and burying items at proper times in the skulls of animals. Nonetheless, what I drank tonight was a fabulous bottle of wine.

This bottle of Zind Humbrecht 2004 Pinot D’Alsace came highly recommended as a biodynamically produced wine from the associate at the Curious Grape after she kindly check in their computer for me to make sure that it was indeed biodynamically produced. It ran $23, had a real cork closure and is 13% alcohol by volume.

This is a blend of two different grapes, in 2004 it was made of 70% Auxerrois and 30% Pinot Blanc. On the nose of this wine I get honeysuckle, tons of minerals and exotic spices. There’s also a hint of citrus and I almost want to say that it’s a clementine orange. In the mouth there is citrus, with a hint of the honey I got on the nose. It is crisp and biting and has a long mineral filled finish.

I paired this with the last of Roz’s Zuppa Toscano recipe and it actually wasn’t a half bad match. The soup is both spicy (with the Italian sausage) and creamy (with the whipping cream) and the tart acidity and excellent structure of the Zind held up well to the flavors.

Given the opportunity I would buy this wine again. It’s a bottle right up my alley with the crip citrus flavors and the lasting minerals. I’m also a sucker for an aromatic nose that follows through in the mouth. Even Matt proclaimed this a “tasty wine” and he’s usually not one for a wine that is mostly tart and crisp on the flavors.

Thanks to Fork and Bottle for hosting this month’s WBW and for making me step out of my normal zone to search for a new wine.