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The All American Grape

January 18, 2007
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


  1. Barrld said...

    I think the Norton was the root stock sent over to Europe at the turn of the 19th century when France were battling phyloxera. At any rate, check out my blog when you feel the urge,

    Cheers, Barrld

    1/18/07, 7:04 PM  

  2. Sonadora said...

    You are more certainly right Barrld. But it didn't work out so well, the soil wasn't right for the vines to take root in!

    Thanks for visiting!

    1/18/07, 7:32 PM  

  3. Dezel said...

    Hi Sonadora,

    Very good info! I did a piece on Norton a while back and have been trying to get my hands on the Missouri stuff but have had no suchluck. Wine Compass has tried some and said it was very well done there and the best he has tasted. Matter of fact it was promoted to their state grape and to add to the mystery of its origins its believed to be a cross.

    Veritas also does a very good Norton that is nice and jammy, somewhat Zin like.

    Since you do very well with pairings, what would you pair with the jammy Nortons ?

    Happy Sipping!


    1/18/07, 10:03 PM  

  4. John said...

    Yeah norton! I've been a fan ever since I visited Horton Vineyards. I think their norton has a bit more complexity than other versions, but it is a blend. Plus, it's one of the few VA wines I can get down here in SC.

    1/19/07, 10:39 AM  

  5. Sonadora said...

    Dezel-When I tasted this, it struck me that it might do really well with a slightly spicy lamb dish or a hearty lamb stew. I like a jammy zin with my lamb, and I think the Norton could hold up quite well to the lamb too!

    John-I'm looking forward to a day trip to Horton Vineyards. We haven't been to that one yet. It seems like they garner a lot of praise for their Norton blends though!

    1/19/07, 12:41 PM  

  6. huevosconvino said...

    I like the way the phrase "Horton Norton" rolls off the tongue...*)

    1/19/07, 2:50 PM  

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