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by Fred McMillin
for November 20, 2000

 

Worthless or Wonderful?


Prologue

Worthless—1850: The richest man in Ohio, and the state's foremost vintner, five-foot-one Nicholas Longworth declared the Norton grape "worthless" for viticulture...difficult to grow, marginal ripening and low yields in Ohio.

Wonderful—1868: America's leading enologist, George Husmann, professor of horticulture at the University of Missouri, declared "the best red wines of Europe are surpassed by the Norton as an astringent, dark red wine, of great body, fine flavor, and superior medical quality."


Who Was Right?

The Norton Grape

The Norton Grape.

1873—Norton Claret wins a gold medal in Europe (Vienna).

1878—Norton Claret wins a silver medal in Europe (Paris).

1991—Dr. Edward Hellman, Dept. Of Horticulture, Kansas State University, says the experts still feel that Norton has the potential to compete with the finest wines in the world.


A Thanksgiving Thought

With the wonderful American holiday of Thanksgiving approaching, why not include a bottle of wine made from what is arguably America's best native wine grape. In any case, a Norton is...


Our Wine of the Day

1997 Private Reserve Norton
St. James Winery, Missouri, owned by the Hofherr family.
Reviews:

  • Wine Enthusiast on a prior vintage—"Black fruit, roasted nuts, earth...rich texture...bold and pungent." An 88 rating = very good.
  • My panel on the 1997—Very good example of the Norton. [They scored it about the same as a Zinfandel of the same price.]

"Bland" Beginnings—Sometime around 1820 at Richmond, Virginia Dr. Daniel Norton inadvertently crossed the native American grape named Bland with Miller's Burgundy. The result was the Norton, that does not make Bland wines.

Much More About the Winery

  • See "Saint James Never Fails", WineDay of February 12, 1999.

    For More About How the Norton Reached Missouri

  • See "Norton's Number One", WineDay of August 14, 2000.

    St. James Contact—Ann Miller, (573) 265-7912, FAX (573) 265-6200
    Price—$15 range


    Postscript

    Missouri Wine Milestones—In 1867 Missouri surpassed Nicholas Longworth's Ohio as the nation's second largest wine producer.

    The first federally-approved American viticultural area was not in Caliornia or New York, but Missouri.

    Flattened by Prohibition, the wine industry in the state was virtually dormant until a resurgence started three decades ago. Among the leaders were Pat and James Hofherr, who risked their life savings and in November 1970 opened the St. James Winery!

     

    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

     
     


     
     

    This page created November 2000

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