View Full Version : Cynthiana / Norton
Drinking one of the few "native" red grape variety wines that produces a good drinking wine. Tonight it is a Mary-Michelle Cynthiana (aka Norton) 2004 produced in southern Illinois.
It is a very smooth, berry rich wine:
"It is a dry, red wine “of the big shoulders,” with a deep red hue, a long lasting middle, and rich finish. The bouquet has hints of cassis, dried cherries and cedar."
I definitely pick up the cherry hint....not overwhelming at all. It is a very enjoyable wine...easy to drink..and as American as you can get.
"It is also America’s most unusual wine grape in that it is the only high quality red wine grape grown in America that is a cross between a European wine grape and a native American grape. Cynthiana (a.k.a. Norton or Virginia Seedling) is highly particular when it comes to soil and climate and grows well only in a narrow band stretching from Virginia through Illinois and Missouri (where it has been declared the official “State Grape”.)
Re barrels for the Red
"plus a mixture of both French and American oak to add complexity."
White wine goes into French oak barrels.
Several Virginia winemakers produce Norton wines. My understanding is that Horton, down near Charlottesville, led the revival of the grape.
Horton Vineyards is proud to re-introduce the famous Norton wine, the original Virginia Claret. Norton is a native Virginia grape that produced the internationally prize winning clarets of the Monticello Wine Company of Charlottesville in the late 1800's.
Chrysalis, in Northern Virginia, claims to have the largest planting of the grape, and has a list of the many vineyards that plant it:
One hundred and twenty five years ago, Norton wines were deemed the “best red wine of all nations” at a worldwide competition in Vienna.
Chrysalis Vineyards has now established what is believed to be the largest planting of Norton in the world, with additional vineyards to come.
If only it was easier to find some of these wines....eventually I expect more regional then national distribution. VA certainly is historically home turf and the grape has spread in a fairly narrow geographical area from the mid-Atlantic to the midwest. Per wiki it is among the highest in beneficial polyphenols..anthocyanin. The nation is still recovering from prohibition in all kinds of wine and spirit production.
I like the Norton and have had several of the Missouri bottlings. As the eagle flies I live probably 15-20 miles from Augusta Missouri, which is America's 1st recognized AVA. However, because of the curvature of the Missouri River and where I live in relation to the bridges, it takes about 50 minutes to drive to "wine country."
It's a very pleasant dry red wine when crafted well. Sometimes I get an intensity that just starts to cross over into grape juice land, but it's minor and not unpleasant. It's a good match for grilled beef, pork, chicken, and even slow-smoked BBQ. After a trip to the farmer's market I often get in the mood to go locovore for a night and then a Missouri Norton becomes essential. I think the downside is price/value. Where you can find a solid but not particularly complex NoCal or Washington red for $10-12, you have to pay $16-18 for a Norton of similar quality. Just my opinion.
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