Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, focusing primarily on wines that are either kosher or Israeli.

Norton

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Craig Winchell

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Norton

by Craig Winchell » Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:35 pm

If you will recall, Rogov didn't really think much of Norton, and we argued about it more than once. Interesting thread on the other forum entitled "Horton Norton ...", (playing on a Dr. Seus book title), but the thread is about a pretty spectacular Norton. Norton has interested me for several reasons, but primarily because it is a grape which could be made kosher close to major Jewish population centers, and has the ability to be a world-class wine. It is self-serving, but I would like to see more small local producers of kosher wine. Norton, probably a hybrid of Vitis aestivalis and Vitis vinifera, is growing in popularity, and may well be responsible in the future for having consistently world-class wines come out of states which now are only footnotes in any major treatise on the US wine industry. Imagine a major kosher produce from St. Louis or Kansas City or Silver Spring, (or Philly or New York City) however. If people can make a living producing wine for local consumption, then the export market is just more money in the bank. By being the indigenous wine industry in these major urban center, the fact of the kashrus of these wines automatically becomes secondary to the local nature of the product, and the wines can more easily be sold in the general market, expanding its base, and therefore its viability.
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Gabriel Geller

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Re: Norton

by Gabriel Geller » Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:44 pm

Hi Craig, interesting. Can you give some examples of wines made (or mostly made) out of Norton? Never heard of that grape before. What type of wine could you make with that?
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Craig Winchell

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Re: Norton

by Craig Winchell » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:18 pm

It is dry or sweet red wine, but the dry, aged wines had quite a history of acceptance even in Europe in the late 1800s, then were, of course, hurt by prohibition, and didn't bounce back as quickly as California.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/booze/2010/ ... ton-grape/

David M. Bueker wrote:1994 Horton Norton (Orange County Virginia)
Gifted to me 2 years ago as a bit of a lark, this was served blind this evening to Salil. The shock heard round the table would be an adequate description. The cork totally crumbled as I pulled it, lessening already low expectations, but the first sniff was a revelation of leather and meat. To say this was alive and well would be such a gross understatement, as to be likened to saying Rick Perry has memory lapses. Served with some spicy pork, the fruit of the wine actually came out to play rather than hiding in the background, and ultimately made this a delicious wine to drink. I recall the quality of older Hortons from back when i lived in Virginia in the late '80s, and the disappointing showings of the same wines from the mid 2000s, so this wine is something that just speaks of a different method, a different intent, and clearly a different result. In a word - wow. That the humble Norton grape could produce such a wine is not shocking but rather inspiring.


or The Wine Curmudgeon:

Norton grape: Let us sing its praises

I have three bottles of wine in the closet, and I’m waiting for the right moment to share them. They’re not red Bordeaux, Napa cabernet, or even white Burgundy. They’re nortons.

The norton is one of the great success stories in the American regional wine business, a native American grape, probably a naturally-occurring hybrid that was first identified in Virginia in the mid-19th century. Nortons made in Virginia and Missouri are well-known and respected around the world -- big, dry red wines with bright berry fruit and big tannins that can age for a decade.

So why haven’t you heard about norton before?

“It’s because too many winemakers and winery owners go ‘Oh, ick, gooey, it’s a hybrid,’ ” says Dennis Horton of Virginia’s Horton Vineyards, which has been making norton since 1989, selling as much as 3,000 cases a year. “They’re more concerned abut the image of their winery than they are about making good wine.”

In addition, since it’s a hybrid, it’s not as easy to make norton as it is cabernet sauvignon or merlot. Plus, when it’s made poorly, it can be really bad – a nasty smelling wine that tastes dirty and doesn’t have any of the fruit that a well-made norton shows.

But when it’s good, it’s very good. The Wine Curmudgeon regularly does Missouri norton in a blind tasting, and no one has guessed it correctly yet. Big time wine types usually peg it for Australian or California, and are more annoyed than happy when they find out the wine is from Missouri.

Norton is cropping up elsewhere, including Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Oklahoma. I have bottles from Horton, Missouri’s St. James, and Oklahoma’s Stone Bluff. (Norton is also grown in Arkansas, where it’s called cynthiana, but it’s made in an entirely different style. There, it’s usually sweeter, which produces a less complex and less interesting wine.)

These are some of the highlights of the norton universe:

• Virginia: Horton’s wine ($12) is produced in a distinctly Virginia style and perfect for barbecue. Chrysalis Vineyards takes a more sophisticated, French-style approach with its Locksley Reserve ($35), which pairs with prime rib. Chrysalis’ Jennifer McCloud is one of the world’s great norton advocates – even bigger than me, which is saying something.

• Missouri: St. James and Stone Hill make wines more in the style of Australian shirazes, though the fruit is livelier and there is little of that Aussie inkiness. Stone Hill’s norton ($19) is a classic example of the varietal, made to drink now or to age just like a fine French or California wine. St. James’ reserve norton ($15) is a little less big than the Stone Hill, which doesn’t detract from its quality.

• Texas: So far, Stone House has had the most success with norton in the state. Every time I taste the Claros ($22), it gets better. Drink it with grilled steak
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Gabriel Geller

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Re: Norton

by Gabriel Geller » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:49 am

Thanks!
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Alek W

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Re: Norton

by Alek W » Tue Dec 06, 2011 4:11 pm

Well, I've visited Chandler Hill Vineyards near St.Louis two months ago and tasted their reds, Norton among them. They were

Craig Winchell wrote:
really bad – a nasty smelling wine that tastes dirty and doesn’t have any of the fruit .
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Craig Winchell

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Re: Norton

by Craig Winchell » Tue Dec 06, 2011 6:35 pm

Don't judge a grape just by 1taste at 1 winery. To be honest, I've not had the opportunity to try Norton at all, yet. I've heard it requires time in cooperage and glass. In its youth, it resembles Concord (pretty nasty), according to all I have read. A lot is evidently about winemaking. Many times, these wineries have not had trained or credentialed winemakers. I personally feel a winemaker with an understanding of his trade has a better chance of producing something inspiring wonderment among avid wine lovers.
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Yehoshua Werth

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Re: Norton

by Yehoshua Werth » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:10 pm

Has there ever been a kosher version?
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Craig Winchell

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Re: Norton

by Craig Winchell » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:56 pm

Ever is a long time. I've never heard of one, doesn't mean there's never been one. But I guess the point is not necessarily Norton, but rather consistently making world-class wines in the USA in places other than CA, WA, OR, places with Jewish infrastructure, sure, but places with potentially interested local clientele as well. Long Island and Finger Lakes, Niagara area, British Columbia, Ohio/Lake Erie all have made world class wines, but on an inconsistent basis- often due to somewhat underripe grapes. The border states tend to have less of a problem with ripeness. Choose the proper cultivars and one can minimize rot and mold damage from rain and humidity. Now that world class wine can more consistently be made, I would expect less reliance upon West Coast grapes, as indigenous vineyards are developed.
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Peter May

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Re: Norton

by Peter May » Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:59 pm

Repeating what Craig said - you can't judge a variety on one wine from one winery.

Norton is an interesting wine -- its a big red powerful wine with a gutsy flavour but I don't think you'd guess it was't a vinifera. It ages well and loses its exuberant edges becoming softer more elegant.

I've had Norton from Missouri (Augusta Winery) and Virginia (Horton and Chrysalis). I really enjoyed the Chrysalis Reserve - but it ain't cheap.

Chrysalis has the largest Norton plantings.

Norton is the subject of an interesting book that came out last year - The Wild Vine by Todd Kliman
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Re: Norton

by Craig Winchell » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:11 am

Thanks Peter. I wonder whether Norton might be a candidate for some of the English vineyards, as being a variety that could probably ripen more than Pinot in normal years, produce bigger wines than Pinot there, and is better than most direct producers. I know global warming has done a major service to the vineyards of England and Wales, but probably not yet enough of one to consistently ripen reds into consistently superior product. Any interest there in Norton as a commercial cultivar?
Last edited by Craig Winchell on Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Norton

by Peter May » Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:53 pm

I don't think anyone here has heard of it.

Planting of PN here is amlost exclusively for making sparkling wine, using the classic Champagne grapes.

If - by some remote chance - someone here wanted to plant Norton they'd have to get it approved by the EU which has a total ban on non-vinifera vines (for anything but rootsock) and an almost total ban on hybrid varieties.

England has some exceptions on growing hybrids like Seyval Blanc because of conditions here, but wines made from them cannot get any quality designation and can only be described as 'table wine'.

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