Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The United Grapes of America - Missouri - Stone Hill Winery Norton Port

Missouri=Norton. That's basically what you need to know about the Missouri wine industry. Yes, there's Vignole, Chardonel, Chambourcin, & St. Vincent; but Missouri wineries have raised the Real American Grape!® (thanks Chrysalis Vineyards) to a new level of quality and consumer acceptance.   In order to learn more about the native Virginia grape, we recommend Todd Kliman 's The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine.  And it was Kliman who recommended the Norton wines from Stone Hill Winery in the The United Grapes of America. And why not. The winery is listed in  Paul Lukacs book, The Great Wines of America: The Top Forty Vintners, Vineyards, and Vintages because of their ability to produce quality Norton wines each and every year. Before prohibition, it was the second largest winery in the United States and was "winning gold medals in eight world's fairs, including Vienna in 1873 and Philadelphia in 1876". All that fell apart after prohibition until Jim and Betty Held purchased the property in the mid 1960s. They restored the winery, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and resumed producing quality wine recognized by Lukacs and seven Missouri Governor's Cups since 1994. As detailed in Kliman's book, cuttings from Stone Hill were used by Dennis Horton at Horton Vineyards to revive the Norton grape in its native Virginia.
The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
Norton is so popular in The Show Me State that we attended a National Norton Festival in St. Louis which showcased the versatility of the grape. It can be vinified into a full bodied  tannic wine or as a fruit forward summer wine served slightly chilled. Or it can be fortified into a Port style wine like the Stone Hill Winery 2002 Port. I purchased a couple bottles of this wine years ago in Kansas City, in a forgotten time when wine was allowed on-board planes. At the time it had just received some love from Wine Enthusiast magazine who had selected it as the best American Port. And two previous vintages had been awarded the  Missouri Governor’s Cup.

We learned in at the National Norton Festival that Norton wines should mature in the bottle for at least three years after bottling. Most Missouri wineries join Stone Hill in cellaring the wine for you for a couple years before releasing. The same holds for their Port. Along with their vinification methods, the wine does not possess any of the highly acidic and grapey characteristics of young Norton.  The flavor is rich with a blackberry profile and a hint of nuttiness & spiciness that is usually associated with Old Aged Tawny Port. Yes this wine isn't Portugal - but it is a very good American and Missourian port styled wine. 

Talking Norton and DLW with Jennifer McCloud

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