The Norton Variety

two white hands holding a dark purple grape bunch

Many of you are familiar with Norton as the Missouri State Grape, but did you know that it holds the title of America’s oldest wine grape? Its roots trace back to Richmond, Virginia, where it was first cultivated in the 1820s. Norton’s reputation was established long before the Civil War, achieving worldwide acclaim when it secured the prestigious “Best Red Wine of All Nations” award at the Vienna World’s Fair in 1873.

These grapes, known for their deep color, give rise to wines with rich, fruity aromas, featuring notes of plums and tart cherries. Their adaptability to Missouri’s challenging climate, enduring harsh winters and humid summers, has made Norton grapes a staple in our state’s vineyards.

But here’s an interesting twist: Norton has also been used in crosses with California grape varieties at U.C. Davis, resulting in new grape varieties. You can find some of these exciting crosses in our vineyard, such as Crimson Cabernet (a blend of Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon), Crimson Dore’ (a fusion of Norton and Sauvignon Blanc), and Zinthiana (born from Norton and Zinfandel grapes). We’re eager to see what delightful wines we can craft with these grapes as they mature over the next few years.

To be candid, we’ve never been fans of Norton wine ourselves. However, we’ve come to realize that our initial impressions were likely formed when the wines were still quite young. What we’ve since discovered is that Norton is not only a robust grape well-suited to Missouri, but it also possesses the ability to age gracefully and improve with time – just like our fondest dreams, improving with age! With this in mind, we’ve acquired some Norton grapes and embarked on the journey of creating our very own Norton wine, aging it in oak barrels. We plan to let it mature for a few years before unveiling our first unblended, single-variety Norton wine (watch for it in 2025!). Stay tuned as we venture into this exciting new chapter together – let’s be surprised together!

Shamrock Hills Vineyard and Winery oak wine barrels

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