by Fred McMillin
for October 21, 1998


Finespun Norton


"Abraham Lincoln supported Gustave Koerner (a distinguished German-immigrant lawyer) recalled serving an old Norton to a visiting German poet who disliked american wines. "He drank [the Norton] with gusto, remarking that the very fine wine must be a burgundy."

1867—author-critic Charles Loring Brace reported that, "no red wine has ever been produced in America the equal of that made by the Germans of Missouri from the Norton."

1970—In Missouri, proprietor-winemakers Mr. And Mrs. James Hofherr (a fine German name) open their St. James Winery.

...Prof. Thomas Pinney, A History of Wine In America

The Rest of the Story

History set the bar pretty for the Hofherr's Norton wine. Could they make a wine from this native American grape that would draw anywhere near those accolades of 150 years ago?

St. James Winery The latest San Diego National Wine Competition provides the answer... a Double Gold and Best of Class for their Reserve 1994 Norton. Furthermore, the Wine Enthusiast rated it the best Norton in the country. Here's more about it.

The Wine

1994 Private Reserve Norton, Apln.—Missouri
St. James Winery, Bonded Winery 94, St. James, MO.
Tasting Notes—concord is the best-known native American grape (Welch's grape juice). My tasters were shocked at the high quality of the Norton. For a genuine sip of history, you must try it... with pizza, robust, pasta, dishes, or beef.
Contact—Sheri Hofherr, Marketing Director, phone (573) 265-7912


The grape is named after the Virginia wine pioneer who introduced it about 1830...Dr. Daniel N. Norton. It is most likely that it was found growing wild on an island in the James River. From there it made its way to Missouri.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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