On All Things Norton

Reader rhodies left an incredibly detailed and informative comment regarding his foray into the world of  the Norton, the all American grape. However, the comment is on a post I wrote about a year ago and I didn’t think many people would stumble across it, so I asked the reader if I could republish the comment as a stand alone post.  So here you have it, all you wanted to know and more about wineries in MO that make Norton courtesy of a reader who has clearly gone to great lengths for the love of Norton!

“Curiously, I was introduced in South Carolina to a Norton wine nine years ago by a close friend whose relative had helped in establishing Robller Vineyard in Missouri(www.robllerwines.com). From that wine introduction I have made pilgrimages with my wife recently to twelve Virginia and twenty-five Missouri Norton vineyards! Before continuing, please understand that I have no great knowledge about wines, but only relate to you what I personally enjoyed tasting in dry red wines.

The two Virginia heavies in Norton wine production out of the state’s twelve Norton vineyards would be Horton (www.hvwine.com) and Chrysalis Vineyard (www.chrysaliswine.com). I would say that Horton’s mission is to introduce to the general public good wines at fair prices and to this they unquestionably succeed. Chrysalis, on the other hand, obviously wants to produce the very best Norton’s on the east coast regardless of price. And to that I would state, they do this quite successfully. Both are wonderful examples of the east coast Norton varietal. But I would like to add, our two favorite east coast Norton wines on this exploration turned out to be from two small farm-like venues: Cooper Winery (www.coopervineyards.com) and from Pennsylvania’s Stone Mountain Wine Cellars (www.stonemountainwinecellars.com). Both were wonderful variations on a theme of Norton grapes. As for a soft and easy tasting table-wine Norton, don’t pass up Abingdon Vineyard’s Norton (www.abingdonwinery.com).

On to Missouri where the choices became harder. Whereas Virginia has only 12 out of 133 wineries producing Norton wines, Missouri has 53 out of 77 wineries producing Norton wines! One statement made from a Norton web wine page was not to compare a Norton wine to any similar wine from Europe or from California. Likewise, I would say not to compare Virginia Norton wines to Missouri Norton wines since they are produced under different climatic and soil situations. The same grape, but two different scenarios.

We found several large producers of Norton wines in Missouri; as, Crown Valley (www.crownvalleywinery.com), St. James (www.stjameswinery.com), Stone Hill (www.stonehillwinery.com), etc. Crown Valley has an enormous wine production program which makes a nice Norton in tremendous volume. St. James Winery has a similar mission as the Horton’s Winery of Virginia in that they want to educate and introduce to its public good affordable wines. Don’t let these affordable prices dissuade you into thinking that these are only “cheaper” wines. On the contrary, they are bargain wines and stand up well to the best-that-Missouri has to offer. St. James goes the next step in offering “reserve” wines that are markedly finer, but still at wonderful prices. But to tell you our favorite Missouri Norton wine becomes a hard chore. Let me list a few with comments:

Chandler Hill Vineyards (http://chandlerhillvineyards.com/) may be the new kid on the block, but what a taste explosion they laid introducing their Norton “Savage” wine. After participating in a dinner tasting of six of Missouri’s Nortons at St. Louis’ Norton Wine Festival 2008, this came out an overall second at our table to a Stone Hill’s Norton selection that was not publicly available. An interesting winery that is proud of its historic surroundings and goes to great lengths to preserve this history.

Blumenhof Winery (www.blumenhof.com) produces a Norton they have cleverly named “Original CYN” which won the 2008 Tasters Guild International Wine Judging and the 2008 Missouri Wine Competition gold medals. Unfortunately they ship directly only to MO & CA and at this time have depleted their 2006 Norton wine holdings. This is a vineyard that works hand-in-hand with nature providing a vineyard tree edge which accepts a 10% loss of grapes to it’s fine fed feathered friends. I think it maybe possible to have their wines shipped by larger Missouri distributors, but more inquiry is needed here.

Montelle Winery (www.montelle.com) is a sister winery to Augusta Winery. Simply put, a fine Norton at great case prices after discounts added.

I throw in at this point another Norton wine producer for different reasons. And that would be River Ridge Winery (www.riverridgewinery.com). Friendly out-from-the-beaten path winery with a Norton offering that is unique in that you get to contrast two barreled Norton wines. The same grapes from the same location, but one called Norton (aged in American Oak) and the other named Cynthiana (aged in French Oak).

Röbller Vineyard Winery (www.robllerwines.com) makes a Norton that sits right in the middle offering a great value wine that successfully caters to tastes that go the gamete north-to-south / east-to-west. Need a picnic or dinner wine? This one can go either way.

And to conclude my Missouri tasting treats, let me add Heinrichshaus Winery (www.heinrichshaus.com). I include this small winery because its proprietor insists that Cynthianna grapes were a sport of Norton grapes and his wines are “true” Cynthianna. He’ll even show you the picture difference between the growing habits of the grape clusters. Supposedly there is not any controversy about the Cynthianna/Norton grape any more, . . . . . . . . . ., or is it?”

Many thanks to rhodies for all the information and for taking the time to write it all up and letting me republish it!

2 Responses

  1. I LOVE NORTON!!! My fave is the Missouri Norton from Augusta. I’ll being going to an Alabama winery this weekend that makes Norton. I’m interested to see what it is like. Great blog!

  2. Please pass along your findings. Only producer of Alabama Norton that I know is Ozan (never tried). Are there others?

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