Norton, rich in history and promise

My column in the Trib last night talks up Norton. 600 words isn’t much to dive into the truly remarkable history of this grape and review six bottles, but I did what I could. The Wild Vine is a great read for those interested in the full Norton story. As for thoughts on particular bottlings, I’d be interested in hearing other favorites.

  • 2004 Hermannhof Norton, $20. A textbook example of Nortons’ promise, this wine offers grass and blackberry on the nose and looks like a deep cabernet sauvignon but ends that flirtation with the first sip. Its Norton: grassy, wild-tasting and distinctive. One of my favorites.
  • 2005 St. James Norton, $12. Balanced acidity and fruit but still sharply grassy and spiced. Hints of a brassy version of Cotes du Rhone. A wine of real distinction.
  • 2006 Stone Hill Norton, $19. Mellow and familiar on the nose, not unlike a cabernet sauvignon. While still clearly Norton, this is more laid-back and refined. Like a Norton gateway drug for cabernet fans.
  • 2006 Stone Hill Cross J Norton, $25. Dark purple in the glass, with blackberries and a refined wildness on the nose. I get some spice, subdued green flavor.
  • 2007 Les Bourgeois Premium Claret (Norton). Soft, supple with some gentle spice on the finish. 2007 was a tough year for grapes in Missouri, so this is an impressive effort from the folks in Rocheport.
  • 2008 Westphalia Norton Reserve, $18. Soft, mellow with lots of fruit. Some spice on the back end. A nice wine.
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Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

6 thoughts

  1. You might want to try the Baltimore Bend Cynthiana/Norton. They are located out west near Lexington. I buy a case of it to bring back to Texas everytime I am in KC for the holidays. The last vintage I had has not their best (seemed to be pushing the bold fruit taste, as if they were imitating a mass appeal Zinfandel), but most of the time they have been more subtle and balanced. Certainly worth a try.

    And if you have never been to Heinrichshaus near St. James, you need to go now before Heinrich dies. His Cynthiana/Norton is not my favorite, but he is a character that you should not miss. (Okay, I might be a bit biased here, but it was trips to Heinrichshaus 15 years ago that really made me learn to appriciate wine. Lots of happy memories tied up in that little place. Just opening a bottle of Cynthiana/Norton brings it all back..bottled happiness.)

    If you are every in Austin,Texas, you need to try the Stone House Claros (their name for Norton). The Texas terrior has given it a bit different taste than anything I have ever had in Missouri.

    My wife and I had a bit of fun there during a tasting. The guy poured us our samples of ‘Claros’, we smelled them, turned to each other and said “It’s Norton.” He was astounded to have two people there that had even heard of Norton before, let alone that could identify it by smell.

    Ah…I wish I had good way to store wine. My father in law saved a bottle of the basic Stone Hill until the first grandchild was born. It was 8 years old when we opened it and it had aged wonderfully. I have paid far more for wine that I have enjoyed less.

  2. I read a lot of good things about Missouri Norton wines, didn’t have a chance to experience them ( not really available in Connecticut, where I live).
    This summer, I was able to experience a few different Norton wines from Chrysalis Vineyards in Virginia (here is the link to my post: http://talk-a-vino.com/2010/08/25/chrysalis-vineyards-in-virginia-definitely-worth-a-trip/) and found all of them very well made and pleasant wines. I wish these wines would be more readily available…

  3. @talavino: There seems to be a Norton belt forming from Missouri east to Virgina/Georgia. Makes me happy.

  4. In fact there are now 207 Norton wine producers in 23 states. Found mainly in the mid-to-Southeast, good examples are not limited to just Missouri and Virginia. To get a handle on Norton wines, read Todd Kliman’s new book The Wild Vine.

  5. That Norton winery count has increased to 236 producers! We have found the best examples by state as White Oaks (AL); Mount Bethel (AR), Three Sisters (GA); Century Farms (TN); Elk Creek (KY); Castle Gruen, Cooper, DuCard, Chrysalis (VA); Stone Mountain Cellars (PA); and Blumenhof, Heinrichshaus, Stone Hill’s Cross J, Montelle, Peaceful Bend, Westphalia (MO).

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