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The Norton Wine Travelers's Wine Journal Entries

Harkness Edwards Vineyards (written Feb 17, 2014)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: What a surprise HEV 2009 Norton wine. Norton, a grape cultivar believed to be largely derived from Vitis aestivalis, is grown mainly in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic States, but this new Kentucky vineyard endeavor nailed it with their ‘Night Heron’ release. All the balanced varietally correct attributes of the Norton grape are presented in this full-bodied, fruit forward, peppery, with spicy earthed overtones wine. The dark ruby colored ”Night Heron’ is as good as the best Nebbiolo (small Baja California winery) I’ve ever tasted and compares well with the better California Zinfandels. Any problems, ~ yes. I only bought two bottles on my visit. I’m truly pissed. [Old Barn setting in the middle of a field with no bathrooms. Be forewarned]. Did I mention their Viognier? Spot on. // From their web site: "Due to a fire that destroyed our winery and inventory, our wine is currently out of stock. We apologize for the inconvenience. We hope to have the wine back on the market soon."

Cedar Creek Vineyards (written Oct 27, 2013)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: I was pleasantly surprised to find Cedar Creek Vineyards producing a Norton (Cynthiana) wine. Produced from eleven year old vines, this thin Norton had a slight bitterness that I don't think typical in bottle aging will benefit the long term taste. There were several offerings in this home style winery, but I settled in on a couple Chambourcin for a 'courtesy' purchase.

Deep Creek Cellars (written Aug 14, 2013)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Upon crisscrossing the scenic intersection of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania one can find Friendsville, Maryland and a small, but an important winery which has commanded the respect by many for its Norton wines and its owner’s research and understanding of the background of the Norton grape. Paul Roberts, author of From This Hill, My Hand, Cynthiana's Wine, and his wife are more than happy to graciously meet you. You can find fine examples here of a Vidal, Pinot Gris, Seyval blend and Ursa Major (Zin/Norton blend). After hiding away our previously more reserved 2007 Ursa Major (84% VA grape Norton/16% Zinfandel) for four more years, we were greeted with an astounding knock-you-down bouquet and full mouth presentation of Norton flavors. Only two regrets, ~ regret #1 is that we did not buy a case of this ‘best of the East Coast’ Norton example vintage and regret #2 is that today this winery has reversed their Ursa Major blend (65% Zin/35% MD grape grown Norton). Now for the good news, ~ Deep Creek Cellars plans on releasing their first 100% Maryland grown Norton wine mid-2014. Our bags are packed!

Chapel Creek Winery (written Aug 11, 2013)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Supposedly, wine is produced now in all 50 states, and one that you would not suspect of having such is Oklahoma. Yes, it most probably has its own unique Terroir, but in the case of El Reno, OK, ~ someone knows what to do with what they grow. Get over ambience looking across mountain lakes, sea scapes and large cool tasting decks. You are located here on a rural community college campus next to an abandoned chapel surrounded with an agricultural grape vine study setting. There is lots of experimentation going on here with, you the visitor, benefiting from their Oklahoma wine research. Explore a rich cross section of reasonably priced wines (most $12, some $14 and only the Norton combinations being a worthwhile bit more). Though the Norton I tried had not settled down, the taste gave wisps of good things to come from this setting. If available, don’t pass up trying their Cab Franc/Norton ($18) blend.

Abingdon Vineyard & Winery (written Jul 22, 2013)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Abingdon Vineyard is not near the core center of Virginia wineries, but in the far west stretch of I-81 in a delightful town which offers tourist biking, theater & gastronomic surprises. And one of these attractions is a family operated winery. What a nice cross section of very reasonably priced wines, including their Norton and Norton blend wines. A dry Norton ($15) table wine can be found here, but for those that wish to have an ever so slightly sweeter Norton, try their 'Our Special Red' ($16 barrel aged blend of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Norton). I've down graded, but maybe a bit generous, my rating since our last visit in 2010. Their Norton wine today is 'thinner' than in years past with less bouquet and not holding deep typical flavors. Weather and harvest could have lots to do with this current production. I will return to this delightful location in the years to come to taste their future Norton wines.

Seven Springs Winery (written Jul 04, 2013)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: Seven Springs Winery may be a new endeavor, but their 12 wine offerings will completely surprise you. Their serious approach offers unique wines in this lake, tourist town setting. A fruity, lightly oaked Chardonel ($23), a stainless steel Dry Vignoles ($25) with non-offensive orange citrus overtones, a surprisingly crisp Traminette ($18) and other fun whites are available. I was enticed to this winery by a fellow Norton wine enthusiast. Though the two of us have many similar favorite locations, this winery also showed our different approaches to specific wine tastes. For instance, she loved their Syrah ($27), but I found it to be a big wine with a hard bite. Admittedly, after the wine settled down with time to breathe during our pleasant light meal at Seven Spring Winery, I must concur that the Syrah came full force to inform me I should listen to what others consider a truly satisfying wine. Being relatively new to the Norton wine world and not ready to properly release a wine from their immature vines, Seven Springs Winery purchased their grapes from an established vineyard near Columbia, MO. Their recently released 22 month Missouri oaked 2010 Norton ($25) was very well controlled and gave an appearance that it had been French or Pennsylvania oak barreled. With only a few more years in bottle, this Norton example will stand up well to being a credible Norton wine. I look forward to the years ahead at Seven Springs Winery.

Casa de Loco Winery (written Jul 04, 2013)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Bella Dolce, Schizo Bianco, Group Therapy Champagne, Made Yu Blush, Bipolar, Labottleme Zinfandel, Straight Jacket Syrah, Maddening Merlot, Call Me A Cab, ~ are you getting the point that this winery’s name says it all: Casa De Loco Winery. If the wines don’t intrigue you, opt out for staying here overnight in a restored historic insane asylum and take in a float trip hosted by the gang that makes you brick oven pizzas. My Missouri hostess wanted me to experience this place for another reason, ~ this winery is selling out the last Norton wines of the now closed Stover, MO Grey Bear Winery. Unfortunately, there was no tasting of this soon to be non-available Norton wine. And this must have been for good measure, ~ how else were they going to be able to get rid of their final bottles of this wine? After getting home, I was sorely disappointed with my soured tart Norton blind purchase which regrettably, time-in-bottle will not cure. I’ve just got to stop these blind purchases with the exception of Hermann, MO Stone Hill’s six, seven, or ten year old $$$ Norton bottles. Go for the fun of really crazy Casa De Loco wines, but don’t take anything seriously with the offerings. I could not help myself in purchasing for the label alone a couple bottles of Casa De Loco “Bipolar’ wines (California Pinot Noir / Missouri St. Vincent). My left side of my brain was to be at fault here.

Genkota Winery (written Jul 01, 2013)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: GenKota Winery is located on a busy I-57 intersection. They produce wines from their six acre vineyard plus accumulate grapes from other growers. Though there was a twelve offerings list of reds, whites, blushes, fruit and a port, three were not available (2 fruit wines and the $33 fortified Norton port). I tried hard to find here one unique white or red wine, but that was just not going to happen for me on this pass. The grapes used for their Norton ($15) wine came from an Illinois location 30 miles east of GenKota’s location. It had a dark, sour cherried taste which I did not welcome. Again, even the more locally reliable Chambourcin ($17) was slightly sour and did not make it all the way up to the table this day. My ‘courtesy’ gift purchase was an alternative semi-sweet Chambourcin ‘Dulce Russo’ ($14) which was described as having a slightly drying finish? Sometimes you think “maybe not this year, but possibly the next.”

Forsee Vineyards (written Jul 01, 2013)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: Occasionally you stumble into an out-of-the-way winery which just does everything correctly, and in this case, ~ Forsee Vineyards. This is a ‘no apology’ eight acre location, which reveals what they have and what they aspire to become. Several wineries that I have visited try to pretend that their first released Norton wines may be special, but not here. The family wants you to experience their developing productions from relatively young 2003 planted vines. A good short tower wine sampling exhibits their willingness for you to try their 2008 first initial, dirty tart tasting Norton, followed by a flat with quick decay 2009 bottling, and ending with their latest complex, sharp malic 2010 Norton ($20) worthy of putting away for a couple years. This last release was produced in stainless steel laced with French oak chips. Is this developing Norton success due partially to their very close proximity to the Missouri state line? What a nice assortment, though leaning toward sweet and fruity wines, is offered here for a classy tasting, which includes a separate glass for each pour! This newly built farm setting has a no-rushed, almost Southern, appeal. Let me encourage you to try their various wines, to include a butterscotch aroma, but not in taste, uniquely dry red Corot Noir ($17) and an Endless Summer ($14) sweet, fruit lovers Norton variation.

The Winery at La Grange (written Apr 19, 2013)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Nicely restored home houses The Winery at La Grange. As was its relatively new setting, so were the wines. A few palatable whites, but we didn't understand why their Norton wine was awarded a bronze medal at St. Louis' 2007 National Norton Festival. Went online to look at the awards distributed at this festival and found practically everyone who participated seemingly got a bronze medal if not in the running for the silver and gold awards. We went to the 2008 Norton Wine Festival and understandably La Grange's Norton was not to be found. Virginia has several nice Norton wine examples, but The Winery at La Grange's wine was not one of them.

Winery at La Grange (written Apr 19, 2013)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Nicely restored home houses The Winery at La Grange. As was its relatively new setting, so were the wines. A few palatable whites, but we didn't understand why their Norton wine was awarded a bronze medal at St. Louis' 2007 National Norton Festival. Went online to look at the awards distributed at this festival and found practically everyone who participated seemingly got a bronze medal if not in the running for the silver and gold awards. We went to the 2008 Norton Wine Festival and understandably La Grange's Norton was not to be found. Virginia has several nice Norton wine examples, but The Winery at La Grange's wine was not one of them.

Rising Sons Home Farm Winery (written Apr 19, 2013)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Rising Sons Winery has only been opened since the summer of 2012, but planted their first vines fourteen years ago. Their three acres of Norton vines were planted in 1999. Most of their wines are sweet or semi-sweet (a Blackberry dessert wine, Cayuga, Vignoles and Baco Noir), but they do usually offer a dry Norton and Chambourcin wine. Too bad the Chambourcin was not available when I arrived, but to make up for that I was offered two Norton wines. One a 2009 Cataldo’s Salute Norton aged in American Oak barrels for 24 months. It had a striking tart taste to me that not only did not seem ‘ready’, but I have reservations on if it will ever settle down in the future. The second 2010 Norton was produced only in stainless steel and be forewarned that I was told they had only six bottles left, ~ one she opened for me to taste and one I bought leaving only four $20 bottles left (plus tax and tasting fee). This was a bright Norton taste compared to what is usually found in Missouri Norton wines. If you are already visiting Lover’s Leap Winery, this is a Norton comparison location only fifteen minutes away.

Hyman Vineyards (written Nov 04, 2012)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
This is not a winery as much as it is a farmer's market exploration. Though fruit juice and wines are bottled here, wines are sold next to vending stalls of pumpkins, tomatoes, collard greens, beans, canned goods, etc. Only two, one red and one white, muscadine fruit juices can be tasted, but not the sweet/semi-sweet/semi-dry/dry muscadine wines. The winery bottling area is only open on some weekends. What makes this farmer's market different is that you literally drive through a 45,000 sq. ft. covered arena picking up your locally sourced produce. As for Hyman's Red Southern Nights 'Dry', ~ a muscadine is a muscadine is a muscadine which is more apt for eating than drinking.

Hightower Creek Vineyards (written Aug 26, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Hightower Creek Vineyards is a new venture, opening its doors to the public only six weeks before our initial visit in mid July, 2012 Though some wines are now produced on site from Georgia sourced locations, many of the initial offerings were produced at Frogtown Winery, approximately 40 miles SW as the crow flies. Grapevines have been set out on the local property only recently; therefore, it will be years before we see what truly can be produced on this 2200’ elevation property. Available initially are a couple whites (Vidal Blanc and a blend), a Cab Franc Rose and three reds (‘Cynthiana’, a big red blend and a duplicate blend with 1% residual sugar to please the locals). Surprisingly for this new venture, one or more of the wines will have an appeal to most people. The 2009 Hightower Creek ‘Cynthiana’ [Norton] was held in American Oak and did not display the usual high malic to tartaric acid ratio typically found, making this perfect for drinking now. I doubt that this wine will develop further by holding much longer. With the introduction of yet another Norton winery, this wine’s popularity is spreading across the Southeast and will soon be a recognized red alternative to Zins and Malbecs.

Frogtown Cellars (written Aug 04, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Frogtown Winery perches scenically atop a high hill looking down on their vineyards and those of Three Sisters Winery. To be honest, we went here only for their good panini sandwiches since our previous impressions of the wine experience three years ago had been a 1 Star, at best. Oh rutabagas, tastings are now $15 for a white flight of five, or red flight of five, or a five combination. With that fee you also get the rudest tasting room attendant we’ve ever encountered and the waived tasting fee with the purchase of three bottles. What a deal!#$@#!%&*)? Quality wines only becomes apparent after passing the $25 a bottle sticker line. The one white we tried was their 2009 Viognier with initial buttery taste (I know that description is supposedly reserved for Chardonnay wines), but the tasted flavors quickly dissipated. Here’s the kicker. We bit the bullet and bought their non-vintage, full bodied, best of the tasting ‘Shotgun’ blend (Tannat, Touriga, Cab Franc, Merlot) to accompany our lunch. We purchased a couple of first impression, astringent Cab Francs crossing our fingers, hoping that extended breathing would cure what ailed these bottles. We added 2008 Norton wines to hold for later comparison to Georgia's Three Sisters, Tiger, Cavender Creek and Crane Creek Winery’s ‘Norton/Cynthiana’ wines. The 5% Petit Verdot addition to Frogtown’s Norton smoothed out the rough corners of this wine we unsuccessfully previously tried. Later at home, we opened the Cab Franc, tasted a small glass, reclosed the bottle and waited until the following day to try again. I can conclude positively saying that my wife is not a Cab Franc fan, but she especially enjoyed this Cab Franc. Here’s to good anticipations when we open Frogtown’s 2008 Norton wines in a couple of years.

Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery (written Aug 04, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Cavender Creek Vineyards’ dedication to the Norton grape and their love of donkeys is easily understood when you notice that six out of their current ten donkey labeled wines are Nortons! First, you have a slightly tart, yet interesting Petit Manseng (my wife liked it, but we had already picked up another $$ PM from a nearby winery), a Dulcinea White (a sweeter Petit Manseng which was made as an “elegant sweetness” tribute to Donkey Hotie’s lady friend), a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon followed by the Nortons. Here we have a 2010 ‘attitude in a bottle’ Jackass Red (86% Norton 14% Touriga National); Donkey Hotie Red (82% Norton 18% Cab Franc) which had a red clay mineral soft taste; a nice tame One Eyed Jack (Norton 80% 20% Merlot) drink now winner. Following was a slightly tannic example from vines only planted in 2007 which may age gracefully for a few years, 2010 100% Norton. No problem of vine plant vigor here having been planted in a farm area formerly dedicated to chickens and cattle. We unfortunately could not finish the Norton offerings since two were sold out (Reserve and Estate). It seems that we now have two missed Norton reasons to return to this vineyard in the future. On Cavender Creek’s web home page you will notice a pictured 1820s two story log cabin. This will be their B&B, available for reservations by the time you read this note. Come for the beautiful white Pyrenees guard dog. Come for the donkey(s) who also protects the grounds. Best of all, come to meet the enthusiasm the owners bring to this new, and already successful, Georgia wine venture. Hopefully early tasting hours will be a bit more flexible in the months to come for those who are on area wine tours. Because of their confusing duplicate ‘donkey’ grape wine labels, I would suggest they provide a descriptive scribble sheet so patrons can write notes to themselves in helping with their purchase decisions. Maybe something as wine name, varietal make up of each wine, how aged in SS or oak, alcohol percentage, residual sugars, winemaker tasting notes, cost and space for your own tasting notes. We look forward to returning and watching this vineyard mature into something special in the world of Norton wines.

Boutier Winery (written Jul 27, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: As you walk up the nicely landscaped path to the winery, you are immediately greeted by a Mississippi artist Stephanie Dwyer’s bottle bush. For me that was an indicator of something unusual to come. Boutier Winery is a fun place where you get to choose tastings from wines made from California grapes and such Georgia fruit varietals as Diva ‘Licious peach, Skinny Bitch blueberry, Cranky Bastard blackberry, Water Melon Wonder and Sun of a Berry strawberry. They also offer servings of Georgia grown varietals which include a delightful nine month barrel aged Chardonnay, a pleasant Geordaux blend (Cab Sauv, Cab Franc & Merlot) and Cynthiana aka Norton from SS tanks which had been oak laced. The 2010 Cynthiana is lighter than anticipated. As compared to the dark 2008 Norton, it seemed a bit lean without the expected full body we generally associate with Norton wines. I don’t see any reason to hold and age this particular Norton vintage. Another tasting plus was the larger than usual, handsome stemware with a pour that gave credence to one’s judging of Boutier’s wine character. Though the diverse crowd was heavy on this Saturday, the winery’s celebratory disposition was controlled and up beat with good services from the winery’s proprietors. Being with Mary and Victor Boutier makes the rural drive worth the venture to find this relatively new Georgia setting.

Tiger Mountain Vineyards (written Jul 23, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Tiger Mountain Vineyards has made an effort to introduce into the northeast region of the state three Norton wines. Because we live fairly close by, we made the trip here three times in five years to re-evaluate our original disappointing thoughts of their Norton wines. And the results have us changing our Norton thoughts from 1 star to 3 stars. We came for tasting the 2008 Norton and left with bottles of Viognier, one of the best Petit Mansengs we've ever tasted, Mourvedre, Norton and Tannat. Part of the fun today was being served by a knowledgeable host, ~ thank you Jon. We also enjoyed the contrasting Cabernet Francs, Touriga Nacional and various blends. Tiger Mountain Vineyards serves three Norton wines. Rabun Red is a 40% Norton plus Cab Franc, Tannat, Malbec and Mourvedre blend and is a reasonably priced crowd pleaser. We were also served Mountain Cyn, a 50/50 blend of Norton and Cab Franc. Their $17 value Norton with 6-to-8% Mourvedre is a 'drink now' or hold wine. Somewhere between that $15 and $40 per bottle range, you are going to find a NE Georgia wine surprise.

Crane Creek Vineyards (written Jun 19, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Our first attempt at securing Crane Creek Vineyard’s Hellbender was not to be since they were already sold out in late summer, but they were hoping to have more available later. O.K., I know you are wincing from this Hellbender term, so understand that this wine is named for the rare, locally found, orange-red, 20" long, largest salamander in the western hemisphere. So mid-November, 2010 I drove again over two hours one way through beautiful back roads to see if Hellbender was back on Crane Creek’s menu (and it was). Hellbender is produced on a nineteen acre vineyard at 2100’ elevation with only one acre set aside for these non-lyred Norton vines which were set out in 1996. 225 cases annually can be produced if all goes well with the harvest. This is a no excuses dry 100% Norton wine with a typical Southern slight sour taste. Immediately one would conjure negative thoughts with such a description, but in the opinion of the proprietor, most Southern wines, be they Merlot, Cabernet Franc, etc., have “sour” overtones because of the regional clay soils. This is a nice Norton that doesn’t portray being overly oaked in spite of the fact that this 2007 wine had been held in Pennsylvania Oak barrels (very similar to French Oak according to the vintner) for over 25 months. Weather, setting, host, visitors, a stunning black bean soup, two well behaved dogs, and a pleasantly different Norton made for a great day. I will “lay down’ this case of Hellbender for four or five years to see what time will bring to this interesting animal. *[Note posted online three months after visiting Crane Creek Vineyard: Results of the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition which was the largest competition of American wines ever, with over 4,900 wines submitted and a panel of 60 judges. There were 480 wines entered in the Native American Red category and Crane Creek’s 2007 Hellbender Red (Norton) took their gold medal.] I opened my 2007 Hellbender case and tasted a bottle for 2012's Father's Day. Oh my, this is going to be good. I guess 2014 will do this Norton correctly.

Enoch's Stomp Vineyard and Winery (written Jun 17, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: It is so much fun to be totally impressed with what you can find when touring a new area of the country, ~ in this case, the extreme Eastern countryside of Texas along I-20 (about 60 miles west of Shreveport, LA). We went looking for a Texas Norton, but got so much more. The pictured winery on Enoch’s web site houses a French cuisine restaurant and retreat. The actual winery is a side structure with its own parking lot. Our hostess made our day in this unadorned setting. She sized us up so very quickly and then began to pour one surprise after the next. How can such a young winery get it all put together so quickly? Enjoy such wines as Villard Blanc, Blanc du Bois (dry, off-dry or sweet) and two Nortons. In the extreme summer heat of this area I was only expecting a pale blush Norton, but got side swiped with a bold, deep garnet wine with a taste of Texas. Missouri, Virginia and the deep South all have their own unique Norton tastes and now add Texas for another venue. Our hostess noted our preference for dry wines, but insisted we try Enoch’s Cweet Norton (not listed on their web site). I would not have imbibed in such if it were not for her personality. Oh my, Cweet it was and what a crowd pleaser this will become. After distributing a half case of this to friends, all we hear now is “when you going back for more?”

Tara Vineyard and Winery (written Apr 08, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
The pictured Inn on Tara's web site is on the vineyard's property, but not where the tastings and more informal meals are served. Once you make your way around this mix of rooms, you'll quickly find yourself "letting your hair hang down." Some of the best blends here use locally grown Black Spanish grapes. For a unique white, try Tara's Blanc du Bois offerings. This winery venture was a bit more appealing for the entertainment rather than for the wines.

Stone House Vineyard (written Apr 08, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: What wine can accompany fried chicken? I selected a recently received 2008 Claros Reserve Norton. Upon opening, we were greeted with a total surprise! Stone House Vineyards nailed it. We were taken back with this selection which did not have the earthy aromas found in most Deep South Nortons, nor the dark oak cherried flavors of the Midwest, or the indiscriminate tastes that bounce back and forth in Virginia. I know this is a sacrilege statement, but this Texas Norton had some of the refinements found in the best of what California can offer. A sleek, pure native wine that was a delight to drink on its own, or as in our case, with fried chicken. Who would have ever thought fried chicken could have been complimented with a really nice wine? The bouquet was totally unique in that I could not have identified or told you that this was obviously a Norton wine. The aromas, to be honest, were not a positive wine descriptive, but in this case did not detract from the wonderful "drink now" qualities of Stone House Vineyard's Norton wine. I have some doubt if this Norton wine will benefit from aging, but I'll put up a bottle just for the fun of it. I have still a 2008 Claros, picked up a couple 2009s on a recent visit and was graciously given a 2010. What fun it's going to be tasting these together.

Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery (written Mar 11, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Small, friendly winery station that is complimented with ten wines. At their barrel tasting, their 2010 Zinfandel was as good as any Dry Creek Zin we had tasted during our California stay. What caught our attention was a delightful 2008 'Station 10' Zinfandel blend (68% Zin, 21% Petit Syrah, 9% Carrignone, 2% Alacante Bouschet). This was a fun winery to visit.

Suncé Winery and Vineyard (written Mar 11, 2012)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Suncé Winery does wine attitude correctly. At this year's 2012 Barrel Tasting Futures event they presented twenty (and a couple more if you asked) different examples. We tried first the barrel selections and then bottled selections from years past. We went to Suncé for their reputable Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Docetto and Petite Sirah, but got side tracked by our own wine tastes. This was a fun comparison that led to picking up cases of 2011 Mourvedre and old vine Carignane wines. The chef's Philly cheese steak and free message enhanced an already special event.

Old World Winery (written Mar 10, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
A limited selection, but what a selection! I'm going to sum it up this way, ~ have you ever had a Basque Abouriou wine? Enough said. Expect to be surprised and bring an extra few bills. Meeting the vintner, Dereck Trowbridge, will set the tone for your visit and introduction to some fascinating wines.

Joseph Swan Vineyards (written Mar 10, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
A last minute swing by this winery produced a nice surprise, ~ tasting a barrel selection of 2011 Tannat and then a 2008 comparison of a Matthew's Station Vineyard Tannat. A friendly staff made for a relaxed setting. A surprising balance of white and red wines to try.

Stryker Sonoma Winery (written Mar 09, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Though the offerings were limited, what was available more than adequately added to the charm of this vineyard setting. Be aware that quite a few of the offerings are for Club members only (diddly). We were treated to their 2004 Petit Verdot recently that absolutely knocked our socks off. Though I have a couple Virginia Petit Verdot favorites, this example takes the prize. Nice Russian River Zinfandel that needs to breathe an exceptional long time before consuming.

Truett-Hurst (written Mar 09, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Like so many other northern California wineries, Truett-Hurst is enduring late frosts and ravaging high summer heat of the last two years with their wine productions. Offered at this time are only a handful of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel examples. We have pleasant memories of past visits and are not dissuaded with possible future wines.

Soda Rock Winery (written Mar 09, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
A new holding of the Wilson family of wineries. The Soda Rock Winery building was the site for the first bonded California winery. Though a nice cross section of wines are explored here, none of them have that 'Wow' factor yet. Nice setting, but a little more time is needed to round out this new venue.

Thomas George Estates (written Mar 08, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
A comparatively new Sonoma Valley winery venture which departs the area's emphasis on Zinfandel wines. A nice cross section of the usual Chardonnay offering with additional examples of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. A Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley Zinfandel were complemented with three Syrahs and seven interesting Pinot Noirs. Here we have new possibilities at a much too high price point.

Wilson Winery (written Mar 08, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Three years ago we visited this winery and left with a case of two lovely Sawyer and Carl's vineyards Zinfandels. This week with a revisit and high aspirations, we left disappointed. With wine prices ranging $20-to-$80 you certainly have many choices. Wilson Winery had seventeen Zinfandels in which three are for club members only, one pre-sold and three sold out (why list them?). The grounds were unkempt and not inviting (to include their porta-potties).

Mauritson Family Winery (written Mar 07, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Though we had traveled here to taste their white wine offerings, only one Chardonnay was available at this time. Overall the remaining six red wines did not finish well.

De Lorimier Winery (written Mar 07, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
What a cross section of wines from Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. There were thirteen limited production Cabernet Sauvignon selections alone. Then add into the mix Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay , Malbec, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Merlot, Petit Verdot, two Meritage and a dessert wine which were all enjoyed by our group tasters. What fun participating in a 2012 futures barrel tasting of four selections. Their 2011 Harris Kratka Vineyard Zinfandel nabbed us quickly (our case should arrive in 2013-14).

B. R. Cohn Winery (written Mar 06, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
If reds are what you came for, you will not be disappointed in the offerings. Bottles range from standard format 750 ml-to-ginormous 6 liter containers ($1,000, $2,000, & $3,000). We were fortunate to arrive when a limited production Primitivo was served / available and were charmed with their estate bottled 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Olive Hill. The standard listings of this vineyard area was supplemented with an award winning 2009 Mednocino County Barbera. The typical acid tastes of this grape were strong, but the wine overall was quite entertaining. Don't miss trying their estate Olive Hill Cabernet Port.

Benziger Family Winery (written Mar 06, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
A little bit for any budget ($12-$250 per bottle) at this beautiful setting. One of the best vineyard and cave tours we have encountered to date. Wonderful cabs, zins and blends. We left with a smooth gift Pinot Noir and their 2007 'Three Blocks Bordeaux Blend'. A respectable 'Obsidian Point Estate Blend' (Cab Sauv, Cab Frank, Petit Verdot) is offered, but is priced $30+ out of line.

Stephen & Walker (written Mar 02, 2012)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
The awards are lined up for a good reason at this "cult" winery, ~ you could use all sorts of adjectives, but 'yummy' can sumarise a good portion of the offerings. Three whites and eleven reds were available when we passed by with friends. Their $40+ Pinot Noirs were better than the $60-$75 offerings found in two other notable nearby settings. A grand selection of 2006-2010 Zinfandels and two great Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons. We left with a rich 2010 Dry Creek Valley Petit Sirah. Nice experience.

Twomey Cellars - Healdsburg (written Mar 02, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Only three varietals represented, but one Sauvignon Blanc, four Pinot Noirs and a Merlot was more than enough to perk our interests. The layout of the tasting room and its views are stunning. Though typically high priced wines are to be found here, it was a nice gesture on Twomey Cellars' part to drop the tasting charge with the sale of their special priced nice 2010 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

Thumbprint Cellars (written Mar 02, 2012)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
A store front in down town Healdsburg, CA which delivers on the movie theme of "The Good, the Better, the Best". A powerful selection at a typical too high price for the common Easterner, but if you are going to just blow it all away for the experience, as we did, we were so impressed with their Zinfandel. Mark on your travels west the Red Wood forests, the Golden Gate bridge and a few of these neat boutique wineries.

Beavers Family Vineyard and Winery (written Feb 16, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Before you get all excited about the Norton grape possibilities in Texas, realize this family endeavor is strictly a ‘work in progress’. The vines are planted all around the house and serious experimentation is in the works for a wine not yet available for public purchase or consumption. My wife and I were the luckiest people ever to be invited into a relaxed family February porch tasting (burr) served by Jeff Beaver, his father, James Beaver, and five wonderful very large dogs. Wow, we were the fortunate ones to get to try this Norton wine since during harvest time, not one of the seventeen additional family members helping drink red wine. A star is starting to appear in a humble Waco, TX setting. Currently there are eight or nine vineyards in Texas working with the Norton grape and this self taught vintner already has a hearty, head turning Norton wine which can compete with the likes of Enoch Stomp in NE Texas and Stone House near Austin,TX. After tasting Jeff Beaver’s 100% Norton wine from relatively young vines, I’m convinced that Texas has an unique Norton wine taste which is going to surprise many Napa Valley Cabernet drinkers in the years to come. Beaver’s Norton is not a totally soft edged wine yet, but its aromas are starting to cut rough corners and is revealing the essence of a new taste in Norton wines which will carry the Texas brand. Neat, a special Texas Norton terrior that stretches for a couple hundred miles. Amazing. (Ignore Winery & Ambiance rating since this is a private home / vineyard setting)

Landry Vineyards (written Feb 16, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Eight wines are currently being offered from this relatively new nine-acre vineyard. Though this winery has been very adventuresome in experimenting with several of the newly offered Norton crosses (Norton x Zinfandel / Cabernet Sauvignon), to date only three grapes are being expanded at this setting, ~ a Blanc Du Bois grape from the University of Florida, the Norton grape and the Lenoir “Black Spanish” grape. The dry Blanc Du Bois had a light distinctive taste with pineapple overtones, much like some traminette wines which can be found elsewhere. Landry Vineyards’ Envie Rouge was most unique in its blend using 70% Norton and 30% Black Spanish grapes. I’m glad I caught this vintage since Jeff Landry let us know that his next release will most probably be a 50/50 example of these grapes. Jeff was quite adamant that Deep South Norton wines all tend to have a ‘blush’ color tendency. He gave Arkansas examples of the same which we did not experience when tasting five out of Arkansas’ six Norton produced wines. I just wished that the tasting examples at this winery, which were free, had been a bit more generous to have had the ability to fully taste what one could possibly purchase. A nice setting with regularly scheduled country music concerts is already bringing many to this out of the way venue.

Whippoorwill Vineyards (written Feb 16, 2012)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: I presume the name Whippoorwill was easier to spell than naming the vineyard for its location, ~ Notasulga, Alabama. A relatively new, large 14 acre vineyard set in a rural setting east of Montgomery, AL along I-85. Only four of the fourteen offerings could be considered dry. After visiting a few Deep South wineries, it’s obvious that Southerners like their wines as sweet as they like their tea. We tackled five of their offerings which included a Lenoir “Black Spanish”, Cynthiana, Noble, a very dry ‘Harvest Moon’ muscadine and one semi-sweet Saugahatchee Creek muscadine. Though interesting to taste the sharp dark Lenoir wine, we were disappointed that they would serve a wine that they admitted had been opened for four days previously. We left with another bottle in hopes of a better unique tasting. The Noble muscadine wine had an unpleasant musty scent with a clouded taste. The white ‘Harvest Moon’ muscadine wine surprised us how dry such a grape can be prepared. As for their venture in working with the Norton grape, they succeeded in presenting an ‘easy’ drink now wine. Not very complex in its short lived tastes, but interesting with the hints of oak coming from the use of American medium toast “oak spirals”. The vines and wine are much too young to seriously compare to other mature offerings found in other states, but still, we had fun visiting this ever so cooperative host. Time will present them with a niche they are searching for and the Montgomey community will learn about them soon.

Hidden Meadow Vineyard (written Feb 16, 2012)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Hidden (like try to find this place) Meadow Vineyard in Jemison, AL is a new community treat if and when you figure out where its true address can be found. Here you will find an enthusiastic Bill Bailey and his wife, Jeanette, ready to show off what they have created from scratch. They are more than willing to show off their home built, nicely appointed tasting room, the working end of the winery and a comfortable out door seating area to view the rural setting of their vines. At this time they have four sweet muscadine wines to appease their neighbors, two fruit wines, Niagra and Concord examples, a New York juice, dry Riesling worthy of purchase and a 2010 Norton from vines set out in 2005/2006. Unique to me was the fact that the wine had been aged for six-to-nine months in 30 gallon Michigan oak barrels that supposedly react quicker to the oak than in customary 60 gallon barrels. Next was the fact that the Norton wine color appeared as a blush or rose. Yes, it did detract from the taste visually, but as in another nearby Norton winery which had the same Norton attribute, you just have to psychologically override your visual prejudices to the presented wine color. I think more needs to be studied to understand this Deep South phenomenon. As for taste this Norton example needs more time in the bottle, but in its current presentation, lots of atypical strawberry overtones can be found in this young wine. Again, this is a spanking, brand new endeavor and time will tell the final tale.

Odessa Country Winery (written Jan 01, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
NEVER VISITED. HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DELETE THIS FROM MY JOURNAL ENTRIES. SUGGESTIONS!?

Pontchartrain Vineyards (written Nov 09, 2011)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Almost a year back I responded to this Norton 2004 Rouge Militaire wine in fairly caustic terms. After letting another bottle sit quietly, we bravely ventured yet once again to see if by any chance Louisiana could produce a palatable Norton wine. Well, ~ a plum color, sharp aroma, and a Norton wine unique in it's very dry, lightly oaked approach. The two previous bottles had a burnt orange color, but this bottle, though not truly satisfying, did escape the kitchen sink. Is something going wrong with Pontchartrain Vineyards' 2004 corks? [Ignore our Winery & Ambiance rating since we did not personally go to the actual vineyard]

AmRhein Wine Cellars (written Oct 30, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
AmRhein is a beautiful place to visit as you travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Friendly staff members and really nice selection of wine varieties grown on 40 acres at unusually high east coast 2500' elevations. Though we are not generally white wine drinkers, we left this vineyard with an incredible selection of Viognier, Traminette, and gang buster Petit Manseng wines. It was all up hill from there being very impressed with AmRhein's different Greek Aglianico grape wine and a great Petit Verdot. Oh boy, we shall return for the location, wines and genuinely friendly staff.

McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks (written Oct 10, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Up the hill you can find this family vineyard with a small selection of vinifera wines, a NC Blackberry fruit wine and two Hard Ciders. For something different, try their 2009 Ring of Fire Red with a “secret” blending of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. I left with their “a bit hard to rationalize” $$ 100% Petit Verdot Reserve which was not on the tasting schedule. A few weeks later we opened the blind purchase Petit Verdot and were sorely disappointed in its almost astringent attributes. When will I learn not to buy in the blind?

Windsong winery (written Sep 19, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: WindSong Winery is another typical hard to find back woods small winery which explores their own Virginia wine niche. This seemed to be a nice place to sit on their deck to observe wildlife in the nearby fields and woods. I noticed a migrating South American red tanager on my walk up to the winery. I was lucky to still find their Muscat which I’m sure will sell out quickly. This had such a unique taste that I had to implore my host to give me a suggestion what to do with this wine. Her response was to poach a wild salmon with this “hints of lemon” Muscat wine. That was an instant buy on my part. Though vines were only planted in 2002, an interesting Norton variation is already bottled. Offered is their 2009 Garnet which is a Cab Franc/Norton blend which is a charming embellishment with the theme of Norton. Of interest to me also was their offering of a German Dornfelder wine. I could only find eight other wineries in the U.S. that offer this grape’s wine (Falukerson in NY; 8 Chains North in VA; Huber and Mukelumne in CA; Starr Hill, Presque Isle and Stargazer in PA; and a DeChaunac/Dornfelder blend from Retting Cellars in IN). Could this German grape be a Norton substitute, ~ no, but it is almost as curious in taste. I sure hope I bought enough to get me through next winter. // This is a Dornfelder wine response I got from my brother-in-law: "I opened the Virginia (WindSong) bottle last night and was favorably impressed. It has a mild fruity aroma which didn't prepare me for how strongly it exploded in my mouth, like humming birds swooping in and dumping blueberry jam on my tongue. That flavor stayed and just gradually faded away. Very low tannins, mellow and smooth. I liked it. I would say it was the best Dornfelder I ever had but, of course, it's the only one."

Byrd Cellars (written Sep 10, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: I enjoyed Byrd Cellars so much that I scribbled all over my tasting sheet to the extent of not being able to decipher anything written. Sue Anne and Paul Klinefelter are true farmers from Ohio. They now maintain 134 acres of soy, wheat, something else I cannot read on my sheet and almost 15 acres of grapes split onto three vineyard sites (5.5 acres of Norton, plus Cab Sauv, Concord, Chardonnay, Vidal, Muscat, etc.). They have a nice tasting note sheet divided into columns: 1) Notes 2) Wine Name 3) Cost 4) a unique Dry-to-Sweet wine graph and 5) Description notes. A landscape printing of this would give more note room to “eulogize” the positive aspects of each tasted wine. Listed are three Apple wines (not lower alcohol % ciders) which I declined politely three times, but Sue Anne poured one anyway. Dern, she knew what she was doing, ~ I bought a bottle. Their first 100% Estate grown 2008 Norton produced from four year old vines in stainless steel was quite tart. Byrd Cellars’ second delightful Norton offering was a Raven Red meritage of sorts (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Syrah, & Norton – French oaked). Third on the list was a more controlled light, yet full bodied “drink now” 2008 Norton Reserve (with an approximate 60/40 American oak back blend). I was a little concerned with Byrd's use of Zork corks since I've not heard good words on using these for wines which one may wish to put away for a few years. There were seven other delights, but I’ll let you look them up on their Internet link. I was also lucky to get one of their last eleven bottles of Petit Verdot . Yep, I bought this one on blind faith, but was rewarded with unique dark lavender floral aromas and the pleasure of experiencing another one of Virginia's fine 100% Petit Verdots. Bottom line, go out of your way to find this remotely situated new vineyard and enjoy the fruits of their labors in a delightful hand-crafted small setting. Be one of the first to discover Byrd Cellars. Good today, and I bet better tomorrow.

Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery (written Sep 08, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
45 acres surround this mountain like Italian villa setting with views stretching in all directions. Yes, I prefer reds, but here I left with a big, bright refreshing 2010 Pinot Grigio (they nailed it with this 2010 vintage). Want to try something different, why not the East coast’s only planting of Vermentino, a native grape with rich citrus flavors of the southern Italian island of Sardinia. The theme here is Italian with all the red wines being blends except for their Sangiovese.

Valhalla Vineyards (written Sep 08, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: Let me get a few items behind me before I start tempting you with Valhalla Vineyards. First of all be aware that this winery has very constrained hours since the owners have other professional jobs. Next, the final four mile drive to the vineyard is very, very step on a mountain-like paved road. I would discourage RV travelers or people with Yugo like automobiles from attempting this drive. Lastly, if you read Todd Kliman’s The Wild Vine and your visit was predicated on just picking up a Norton wine, there are better selections elsewhere in Virginia. Though you are offered an aged organically grown 2004 ‘Tarnhelm’ Norton, the tasting notes are rather bland for such a normally robust wine. I found sour undertones I would not usually associate with an aged Norton wine. Rarely do I not pick up Norton wines to do later comparative notes, but here I passed this temptation. Now for the good points why you should cruise up the mountain to Valhalla Vineyards: you will be rewarded with an incredible view from 2000’ looking down over the Roanoke valley. Bring a picnic to sit out on the veranda with one of Valhalla’s selection of wines all produced from their 21 acres of grape vines which were initially planted in 1994. Here you will find a Richard Wagner score of wines to entertain you as Rheingold (Reserve Chardonnay), two Valkyri wines (Cab Sav, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Malbec), and a couple Gotterdammerungs (Cabernet Franc-Merlot blends). It should be noted that Valhalla Vineyards produces wines with as few chemicals as possible. I would suggest traveling up the 'mountain' to try Valhalla’s 2005 Alicante Bouschet wine. This is a grape only produced today by nine vineyards in the U.S (CA 6, WV 1, VA 1, OK, 1). During prohibition , this was the “Dago Red” that kept the Speak Eases running with a wine that did not need the skins tossed back into the mix to make the wines red. Though, for the most part, their prices are reasonable, they do offer an additional 20% off on case prices.

Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery (written Sep 07, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Drove a bit out of my scheduled trip’s way to take in this interesting horse stable winery setting. Twenty vineyard acres locally at this site and ten acres at a lower elevation in Troutman, NC (near Statesville, NC). All wines tasted were good, at reasonable prices. Most of the time five whites, three rose/table wines and six reds are available. Dog gone it, the ’06 Cabernet Franc was sold out at this time, but a ‘08(?) will be available in a week or so. I enjoyed trying their ’08 Italian Barbera of which they only produced 105 cases (Gold Medal winner at the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Southern Wine Competition). Their ’07 Chambourcin tempted me with its great aromas, but the follow through was rather bland. Their ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon provided the best tasting and if I had not already bought locally other examples, I may have picked up a few bottles of this wine.

DelFosse Vineyards & Winery (written Sep 06, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
If you want to just do a wine tasting and run, DefFosse Vineyards is not for you. First of all, your GPS possibly will not find the given street address, but don’t fret since the main highway signs clearly will point you in the right direction. Then follow the winding mountain road and have faith in the signage that tells you “You are almost there, 3.4 miles / 2.5 miles / 1.3 miles”, etc. Your driving efforts will take you to a mountain-like setting, though you are only at 900’ in the well appointed tasting room which is large enough to make you feel the hillside air. Because of bad weather (remember Hurricane Irene) I arrived late, but Claude, the owner, and his server host did not rush me through my extensive tasting. And oh, ~ there is so much to taste with one wine surprise after another. Viognier, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and many blends that will have you reaching deep into your pockets for appropriate funding. My favorite of the afternoon was DelFosse’s Meritage (41% Cab Franc/29% Petit Verdot/18% Merlot/12%Cab Sauv). Enjoy the day at DelFosse’s Vineyard and enjoy the well scripted wines

Glass House Winery (written Sep 06, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: So many new wineries are popping up in Virginia and all trying to identify themselves uniquely to their area. Glass House Winery succeeds architecturally with their facilities and with their wine offerings. Though the first six acres of grapes were only planted in 2007 and their stunning greenhouse winery/tasting room was only opened in 2010, already unique wines are coming aboard and disappearing quickly. Their 2010 Pinot Gris, Meritage blend, and 2009 Barbera were already sold out in August of 2011 (bummer). Their C-Villian (60% Chambourcin/30%Merlot/10%Cab Franc) was extra soft with slight sour notes at the back of the tongue disappointed me, but their 2010 Viognier and 2009 Meglio del Sesso dessert Norton resurrected my enthusiasm for this new venture. The Meglio del Sesso was not your typical chocolatier wine with its blend of predominantly Norton/then Chambourcin and Cab Franc. Added 82% ground chocolate was steeped into this blend for two months and then settled and completely filtered out before additional aging occurred. Oh, will this bring out smiles to lucky friends who will receive these gift bottles.

Cerminaro Vineyard (written Sep 06, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Traveling early to North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley I passed by Cerminaro Vineyard. Alas the sign at the small family 4.5 acre vineyard stated clearly Saturday 12:00 o’clock, but I had arrived Thursday at 9:30 AM. So not to disturb the family, I quietly walked around the vineyard just to get a mental picture of this Mom & Pop vineyard setting. As I prepared to leave, Bob Cerminaro (owner & vintner) approached me with a friendly “may I help you.” I apologized for arriving much too early, but in spite of a family emergency, he invited me into his house basement winery. What a delight to find a bright, clean and dry Seyval Blanc. I missed his Vignoles which was to be bottled next week. As for the reds, I found a very acceptable Merlot and a better yet DeChaunac (a Chambourcin cross?) with 1% added sugar. A grape normally found in the New York Finger Lakes area surprised me with its aroma and taste that held remarkably long. What a delight to be treated so nicely at such an early ridiculous hour in this vineyard only producing between 4000 to 6000 bottles (not cases) of wine each year.

Molliver Vineyards (written Sep 05, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Marshall Molliver and Diane Huff obtained their new 135 acre setting near Nathalia, VA in 2001 and planted out approximately 10 of these acres in grapes. Today they are already bottling at Molliver Vineyards & Winery a Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay, Traminette, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and two variations of a 2009 Norton wine. Before tackling their Norton wines, I was offered their most popular red, a 2008 Cabernet Franc which was not terribly complex, but appreciably smooth. This was followed by a Chambourcin with great lingering floral aromas not carrying through in the actual tasting. Then came their 2008 Black & Green Top Nortons. The Green Top Norton was made from fully fermented grapes with the skins on. The Black Top was processed half pressed and half with skins on and later combined. For whatever the reason, the Black Top Norton taste held up better with little tasting decay and had a considerably milder, yet Norton like, taste. This was fun to compare at the same time two processes from the same year grapes. This Black Top Norton was mild enough to drink now and I’m not so sure it will appreciably mature by storing. I look forward to sharing this wine with friends.

Daveste Vineyards (written Sep 05, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Producing about 1000 cases per year, Daveste Vineyards is a small winery near Statesville, NC along I-77. Here you find Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Chambourcin estate grown grapes. Situated at approximately 900' elevation, other grapes are brought in from nearby higher vineyard locations as Viognier, Rkatsiteli and Traminette. A $5 tasting fee includes six wines of the day (though kind words can produce more offering examples) and a nice souvenir glass. The wines we tasted were thin, with quick decay. Only their La Brisa (a Riesling take-off) and Chambourcin provided any distinct aromas, but alas no appeal to our tastes. This was a start of tasting NC wines from different areas in a state which has vineyards stretching from sea level to high mountain tops.

Bright Meadows Farm Vineyard & Winery (written Sep 04, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Bright Meadows Farm Winery is a ten year old vineyard venture growing grapes on a former tobacco farm. I met Shirley Archer here, who treats her plantings with the attitude of a Master Gardener (which she is). Not only do they not use additional sulfites in their wine processing, they also try not using fungicides on their grapes. Living in the hot and humid South almost mandates spraying, but BMF tries to provide something quite unique in the wine world. How can they do this? Their Burley Red (named for a type of tobacco) is a mighty dry 100% 2009 Chambourcin grape wine. So dry that it comes across as quite tart. Their 2009 Rebellion Red Norton is complete with a hard to read Revolutionary War history on the back of the bottle. There is nothing typical about this young Norton wine. I do not generally appreciate those who compare Norton wines to heavy Merlot or Zinfandels, but in this case I will stump you by describing this unusual Norton to a fine-like-Oregon Pinot Noir (a lot of imagination has to go into that comparison). A charming light Norton, but am not implying ‘thin’. An ever so soft, almost floral, bouquet is down right Norton atypical. Do you ever buy wines at a location because you are enamored with your host? Sure happened to me. Of course, I can tell my wife I bought theme strictly for health concerns. I wonder what it takes to be considered an organic wine? Can these be stored for years to come without all those wonderful chemicals we have in everything else we consume? I tend to think not, so go enjoy the Bright Meadows Farm setting and their wines today.

De Vault Family Winery (written Sep 04, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: DeVault Family Vineyards tasting room was in a location hard to describe. Yes, kinda in the town of Concord, VA; but placed on property behind a small gate, behind a formal family home, behind an enclosed all seasons pool, behind a mechanical shed, and next to several acres of grapes. The tasting room itself was a large renovated horse stable. Why did I feel as if I were in a compound? Fortunately the visit provided a healthy mix of mainly dry white, blush and red wines, with a few sweet offerings to add to the general appeal. Though opened in 2010, the seven acre vineyard was already six-to-ten years old with the Norton grapes being first planted. Whites were limited to two Chardonels and a Niagara. DeVault provided two 2009 Norton wines, one produced in stainless steel and the other ‘American oaked’. The first had an unusually light bouquet for a Norton wine with a sharp initial taste quickly decaying in the mouth. The Darion’s Reserve, the oaked Norton, was considerably darker in color and gave way to more promises for future examples from this winery. I’ll put this maiden flight DeVault Family Vineyard Norton away for a short while to see what develops. With a second family generation already involved with the vineyard, hopefully we will continue to see this operation mature for many years.

Sanders Ridge Vineyard and Winery (written Sep 02, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
An interesting array of estate grown wine grapes from this relatively new 15 acre vineyard. I went specifically to try their 2008 Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc, but came away a bit disappointed in these wines that lacked substantial aromas and body. But for a plus, I got sucked into their Thursday night family style dinner. Wonderfully lightly fried catfish, herbed corn, snappy dark green local beans, home made bread, fabulous cabbage relish, a grand squash casserole and all this accompanied by live Blue Grass sounds. What an interesting winery building made all from massive trees found on this site’s farmland forests. Tasting fees were $5 for 5 and $10 for all available wines.

Laurel Gray Vineyards (written Sep 02, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
This is a small 10 acre roadside winery trying to do the impossible in the deep South, - producing six out of their nine wines as dry flights rather than sticking to the more traditional drippy sweet selections found elsewhere. Eight wines were available when I was there from their plantings of Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Pinot Gris. Though a comfortable small country store like setting, the wines were a bit overpriced for what was being offered at this time. There was a $7 tasting fee for all wines, slightly less if you wish to just try a few.

Shadow Springs Vineyard (written Sep 01, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Over ten acres of grapes were planted in 2005, but already some remarkable wine examples are coming from this new well placed setting. Though the tasting schedule is set at 7 wines for $5 and 14 wines for $9 (with Riedel tasting options), I opted to try only their ’08 Cabernet Franc (soft and easy), ’08 Chambourcin (fun, but thin), ’07 Meritage (Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Merlot, and Petit Verdot), ’07 Reserve Cab Sauv (drying effect on the tongue) and Crimson Sunset (a pleasant 60% Merlot/40% Cab Franc blend). The best way to describe the offerings at this time from this new venture is that all the red wines tasted were good, but none were destinctive. The wines benefited from not tasting “earthy” and typically “Southern”. Curiosity note, ~ have you ever been to a winery where they add tax to your tasting fee? For those who enjoy white wines, their 2010 Viognier took a gold medal recently at the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition.

Buck Shoals Vineyard and Winery (written Sep 01, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Seven acres of vineyards producing Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Traminette, Barbera, Petit Verdot, Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese grapes. Except for a Chardonnay, a Cab Sauv, a port style wine made with a NC brandy and a honey mead wine, all other selections were blends. The owner/vintner, JoAnn Crater, heads up a big production project on her own in this rural setting.

RagApple Lassie Vineyards (written Aug 30, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Up to 6500 cases of wine annually comes from 32 acres at 1200’ elevation at this tobacco farm turned grape winery. Grapes planted eight-to-ten years ago are now maturing into stable production vines. A surprising varietal array are being grown at this location, to include Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Traminette, Marsanne, Semillon, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and North Carolina’s only estate grown Zinfandel. RagApple Lassie Vineyards is working hard to show that North Carolina can produce substantial wines. I enjoyed their tame, soft tasting Syrah and a Zinfandel that did not have to apologize for not tasting like what you have gotten use to from that west coast state. I look forward to opening with friends my painted bottles of Yadkin Valley RALV Syrah. A little note on their tasting fee(s): Choose from 15 different wines @ $1.50 each per taste, - you do the math.

Weston Farm Vineyard and Winery (written May 20, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: When you come to Weston Farm Vineyard you will be hosted by the owners, Bobby & Penny Martin (and their French bulldogs). Though relatively new, this six year old, twelve acre vineyard is carefully guided by Italian, Gabriele Rausse, who is a very respected Virginia vintner. The offerings already include a Chardonnay made from grapes brought in from the Shenandoah Valley, a Cabernet Franc that will mellow with time, their Rosso which makes for a compatible Cab Franc/Norton table wine, a soon to be released Petit Manseng, a couple fruit extract flavored Cab Franc Rose wines and a 2009 Norton wine produced from vines planted in 2005. Though very young, this light with no harsh tannin Norton holds future vintage promises for tastes to come.

Grove Winery (written May 19, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: A relatively new winery that produces 4,000 cases of wine from its own eight acres of vines and grapes brought in from nearby locations. Though not to our taste preferences, a remarkable cross section of wines are attempted here (Chardonnay, Viognier, Traminette, Tempranillo, Norton, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, etc.). To be honest, the Norton wine in the past was just plain horrid, so we returned to reevaluate. Obviously the vintner did some reevaluating also. Today's Norton is softer with little harsh tannins. Not a truly quality Norton wine at this time, but it is nice to see the beginnings of efforts being made to provide such a wine from this hard to produce truly American grape.

Cooper Vineyards (written May 19, 2011)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Though I want to limit myself to Cooper's Norton wine, I just can't help mentioning they have some lovely Virginia white wines. Now for a warning, - if you want Cooper wines, check with them first since they quickly sell out of their yearly productions. The reason I give them 5 stars is that Cooper's produces the BEST east coast Norton wines yearly. I have had their wines annually since 2001 and can say that each year they have gotten better and better. Would I state that they have the very best Norton wine, no, but out of over 100 Norton wines we have had so far, Cooper's is among the top seven (the other six are all from Missouri). If their Norton wine is available, treat yourself to a leisurely visit to Cooper's new vineyard setting. Though their Norton wine can be enjoyed young, a couple years of storage adds additional character. As with all Norton wines, let your Norton wines breathe for an extensive amount of time before enjoying.

Fetzer Vineyards (written May 19, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
NEVER VISITED. HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DELETE THIS FROM MY JOURNAL ENTRIES. SUGGESTIONS!?

Newport Vineyards (written May 14, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
This winery surprisingly has grape vines up to 40 years old and currently is expanding its planted vineyards to 75 acres. Almost thirty wines available, but we opted for a tasting of only four wines (they kindly waved the tasting fee). We tried a thin Cabernet Franc, a Blaufrankish (Lemberger) which had an initial nice nose, but the taste quickly decayed, a dark fragrant red Landot Noir which I found interesting enough to purchase as a reminder of our pleasant visit to the state of Rhode Island while participating in an international Magnolia Society meeting, and we also purchased a semi-dry 2009 Riesling which had many Gewurztraminer grape qualities with its rich aromas. We noted that many of their wines came with a low alcohol percentage (11-12%) which we enjoyed compared to many of the "jolt" California wines now available.

Beans Creek Winery (written Feb 09, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Beans Creek Winery offers 32 different grape and fruit wines. What a hoot. I picked up a bottle of ‘Tennessee Chambourcin Reserve’ and ‘Tennessee Cynthiana’ just as a sincere venture to finding a Tennessee wine memory. It's a chore finding wines in a state that produces only 600 acres of grapes annually. [Wife’s addendum: I found the BCW’s Norton an acceptable table wine. No exceptional Norton wine character, but during last night’s 2010 Super Bowl we had this wine accompanying shrimp & grits and a bowl of spicy chicken with a more accepting comment from my New Orleans Saints' fan-for-the-evening. If you are in the Manchester, TN area, you might want to try Beans Creek Winery’s Norton wine as a dry table wine alternative.] Because of a thoughtful gift, we celebrated again this year's Super Bowl with a BCW 2006 Cynthiana (Norton) and my favored Packers team won again!

Peaceful Bend Vineyard (written Nov 17, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: While visiting Peaceful Bend Vineyard we got a twofer; first an introduction to well made Missouri wines and second having the opportunity to meet owner and vintner, Clyde Gill. Peaceful Bend Vineyard reflects what is going well in Missouri’s wine industry, good wines and learning opportunities while visiting a vineyard first hand. This site had been the location of a former successful vineyard which had unfortunately turned hands unsuccessfully over the years and now is being resurrected by Clyde and his wife. Starting anew, original old grape vines are being ripped out now for replacement with select varietals. To make ends meet at this time, two-thirds of all PBV wines are being packaged under other labels, but unlike other vineyards catering to the public’s demand of sweet wine, Peaceful Bend Vineyard is successfully producing seven out of their twelve offerings as dry wines. Well described in their wine listings are top food pairings with each wine. After tasting each wine, we could easily envision the culinary suggestions as not only reasonable, but imaginative. Their Courtois (Cayuga with a splash of Chardonnay) was pleasantly dry. We were introduced here to Cornell University’s Noiret wine with PBV’s ’07 Forche Renault. Dry with a suggested pairing of pasta with marinara or portabella mushrooms. Keeping with the label tradition of naming PBV’s wines with surrounding rivers, we encountered their Meramec wine, a wonderful barrel aged Chambourcin-Norton blend which was appropriately described as “aromas of pepper and dried fruit flavors.” I really don’t know if I’ve ever tasted a better Chambourcin blend. Though we enjoyed and picked up other wines here, the last mention I’ll give is to Peaceful Bend Vineyard’s homerun, three year aged Norton wine. Again borrowing from their wine list description, “the tannin level is round and smooth – delicious!” Sorry, I can not describe it any better. Drink now or age a few more years (I bet that you’ll not have the constitution for putting this Norton away for long). ADDENDUM: Yesterday we treated ourselves opening a gift $$ 2003 complex Silver Oaks Cab Sauv as our afternoon wine followed with a smooth Pleasant Bend Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany our dinner. The PBV Cab did not have a strong nose, but was perfect for the Hungarian goulash meal. In spite of costs and Silver Oaks' reputation, several guests preferred the Missouri Pleasant Bend Cabernet Sauvignon.

Elk Creek Vineyards (written Nov 17, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Our last Kentucky winery of a day was at the beautiful park-like setting of Elk Creek Vineyards. Their Norton wine was ill named as “Sweet Owen Red”. But after tasting, we liked and agreed with Kim, our host, who stated “I can enjoy this wine in front of a fire or in the sun.” Not only did we enjoy our enthusiastic host, but we also enjoyed their vineyard grown, light colored, yet full bodied Estate Chambourcin along with a Cabernet Franc worthy of multiple purchases. The $$ Cab Franc was short oaked first in American oak followed by French oak for eleven months before being placed in stainless tanks. It took us over 90 minutes of tasting fun and an additional purchase of their burgundy-like Chardonel to get away from this site. If you find yourself traveling along I-75, go slightly out of your way to find Owenton, KY, - you will not be disappointed. ADDENDUM: a note from a Missouri Norton enthusiast ~ "...drank that GREAT Kentucky [ECVW] Norton last night. Totally sucked it down before dinner. It's like an 06 St James, it just keeps opening up, with the oak becoming more and more pronounced the longer it's open. Very impressive. Of course, if I ever saw it in a store, I'd never look at it because it has the word 'Sweet' on it."

Potomac Point Winery (written Nov 14, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: Great setting for a presentation of wines. Their well scripted wine list included wine name, pictured labels, appellation (Virginia vineyard locations), varietal make up of each wine, aging (SS, French & American Oak), alcohol percentage, residual sugars, winemaker tasting notes, cost, and space for your own tasting notes. Wow, we wish other wineries would mimic this layout. At Potomac Point Winery you get a choice of Classic or Reserve tastings ($5 / $10). Lots of average-at-best wines, but again we were here for their Norton wine. An unusual cocoa bouquet 2008 wine made from Orange county grapes (leased land near Horton Vineyards) which I was not immediately enamored with, but will put up for a few years and try again in 2013 or later. // ADDENDUM: Oh what a difference one year makes, ~ sometimes. Well, just one year later we decided to uncork a PPV 2008 Norton and the texture had turned into "velvet". Amazing with only this additional short storage how the nose and taste positively shifted our original thoughts to that of one of a nice Norton example. My wife stated that this would be a wine to use with a dinner which included guests who had not been previously introduced to Norton wines. Glad to see another Virginia vintner who just may have a good handle on the Norton grape.

Westphalia Vineyards (written Oct 17, 2010)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: We were given by a fellow Catch-Wine journal contributor a Westphalia 2008 Norton wine with no detectable sulfites according to the label. My wife’s comments were: "The wine is unsurpassed. Mellow on the palate, but great fruit finish. Norton character without the peppers and sours." This Norton was the blackest in color wine I've ever encountered. There were faint aromas that I could not detail. Damson plums? Currants? Freshly scraped Grenadian nutmeg? The new leather smells of resoled shoes? I know this maybe a sacrilege in the world of Norton wines, but was I confusing this wine with the essence of an exceptional Sonoma Valley Russian River Zinfandel? This Westphalia 2008 Norton was better than what I anticipate from the best of Missouri's bold Nortons, but all the while doing this with a medium distinctive oak finish. It's as close to the best of “drink now” Nortons that I've ever had, but willing to bet it could hold up well for a few more years. This is worthy of case investment. [Please ignore Winery and Ambiance ratings since I did not go to the Westphalia Inn for tasting.]

Durso Hills Vineyard and Winery (written Oct 14, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Isn’t it strange how on vineyard tours, literally, the last stop is the one that blows you over? And this was almost not the case while trying to find Durso Hills Vineyards in the teeny town of Marqand, MO. After reading a “For Sale” sign on the vineyard store property with closed doors, we slowly bemoaned the findings with an unhurried drive around the town’s square. When 180 degrees opposite the winery store front, a lady darted out, turning on an “Open” sign and placed a Durso Hills Vineyards placard on the sidewalk. Around we turned once more with sheepish grins. As we met Donna and Steve Lening our grins turned to smiles which eventually turned to giggles realizing that this tasting must have been providentially arranged since we found hosts that were a bit late from church who loves Norton wines as much as we do. To understand the misunderstanding, the winery literally had been sold, but was going to move down the street a bit (and being as small as Marquand is, a move down the street a bit can only mean feet, not much more) and the new owners wished to retain the Durso’s good name (owners, Ron and Kay Durso). So what you get today (late 2010) will be the last of the original Durso holdings though new vintages will still use the original 10 year old vine plantings and possibly grapes from other sites. Oh, what a line up of wines were generously presented to us in an unhurried manner. Right out of the gates we were amazed with Durso’s dry white 2008 Vivant wine. Vivant is a grape hybridized in Canada, but actually does best in more Southern climates. This was not only dry, but fruity with enough zing to pair well with stronger tasting white meats, as chicken. Our host thought the green apple overtones would be a bit strong for fish. They have an expectant top of the line 2009 Vivant coming up soon, but was not quite ready for bottling when we arrived (dern). Next was a knock down winner in their semi-sweet (but not too sweet) Chardonel which had a dash of Vivant blended in. Maybe one of the best Chardonel wines we’ve tasted in a long time. Again, it’s up to you how dry you like your Chardonel wine. Next we were in for a real tower tasting treat, four Norton wines! A 2003 Silver Medal winner, a 2004 Gold Medal winner, a 2005 two year barrel-aged oaked Norton, and another 2006 two year barreled age medal winner. Four completely different tastes. Steve preferred the 2003 oak chipped, young green , but not sour Norton vintage which was not going to change its character with age. The 2004 Estate Bottled Norton was noticeably softer. Then came my wife’s favorite, the real mellow two year oaked 2005 Norton, followed by my favorite, the 2006 Norton with an ever so slight tannin tartness and light peppery finish which I feel will mellow out correctly in just a few more years of bottle maturing. We left with ample examples of the 2004 and 2006 Norton wines. As if this were not enough, we were induced into trying their 2008 Durso Red 70% Norton 30% Chambourcin blend. Sweeter and maybe just perfect for Thai food. This will make for a nice gift to friends with sweeter tastes than ours. The days are counting down, so do yourself a favor and skip down to Marquand, MO to find the best of Missouri’s southeast offerings in Durso Hills Winery.

Vance Vineyards & Winery (written Oct 14, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Vance Vineyards and Winery is a tasting room and formal restaurant. This is a beautiful, relatively new, facility with tight traffic circle at the front entrance (larger vehicles be forewarned). The setting is accentuated with surrounding vineyard plantings and a silo belfry across a large pond which charmingly rings on the quarter hour. Tasting room hours are variable during different seasons, so double check hours if traveling from afar. The 13 acres of Norton, Catawba, Chardonnay, Chardonel, Vignoles, Traminette, Chambourcin and Riesling vines are only five years old, so realize these young wines are not indicative of what maybe available from their seasoned winemaker in the years to come. We tried their Dry Chardonel which was clear with clean straight forward taste. The Barrel Select Chardonel which had been aged with oak for 12 months seemed to be a bit more creamy and exhibiting riper fruit flavors. A nice first attempt. Having no other dry white wines, we shifted over to their dry reds. The VVW’s Chambourcin was mild and the tastes did not linger in the mouth. Their 2007 Norton was heavily oaked, but came across (in the hostess’ words) as “calm”. Strangely, this Norton had a very distinctive clove aroma that did not carry well over into the tasting. Remember, these were first attempts from very young vines. Not bad, but we felt they were produced to “not offend” and therefore these wines were not indicative of the grapes true characters. Maybe this was an intentional “best to be safe than sorry” approach to the first vintage productions. Offered was a Mollie wine (named after the owner’s dog) which was a Norton blend with a “secret” white wine that was not to be revealed to the public. Bottom line it was non-descript and sweet. We were glad we made the effort to find Vance Vineyards and Winery, but we were turned off a bit by the free tasting sips that were poured in such small dribbles that it was hard to really tell what we were experiencing.

Twin Oaks Vineyard (written Oct 14, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Twin Oaks Vineyards is a family operation with parent owners and sons working as vintner and manager. The tasting room sets over a gentle view of several acres of well labeled grape vines and pond. If coming in on a weekend, be prepared to enjoy the setting with a host of other visitors. Crowded, yes, but in an appreciative environment. A nice balance of dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, sweet and specialty wines are offered. If crowded, you will be limited in trying to ask tasting questions since only two friendly men will be holding down fort for tastings, sales, and managing the vineyard events (in our case live music and people getting ice buckets with wine for sitting on the patio). The dry whites were nice, but to us not their strength. Here, like in surrounding vineyards, we found tastes of near equally blended Chambourcin and Norton grapes. Twin Oaks’ Shady Oak blend did not bring out the unique characteristics of each grape. The ’07 Norton, from 10 year old vines, seemed typical for Norton wines from Southeast Missouri, showing faint aromas and not as bold taste as can be found in the Augusta-Defiance areas of Missouri just west of St. Louis. Though a bit green in taste, which I don’t think will be helped with extended aging, this Norton was delightful tonight with marinated Italian seasoned, over-the-fire Prime T-bone steaks. Be aware that not offered in their tasting is an available 2006 Hutson Reserve Norton wine. I will report later on this Norton when we find the right occasion to remember our nice Twin Oaks encounter. Likewise, TOV’s Chambourcin was clearly produced as a nice table wine which will have appeal to many, but again not bold or distinctive. Interestingly they not only present a dry Traminette, but have available a sweet Traminette which would have picnic appeal. When it came to TOV’s specialty wines they not only had a “Lite” Hutson Reserve port, but a Royal Ruby which my wife snatched up quickly. It was fun to see what could be again produced with a combination of Norton and Chambourcin grapes making an appealing port. This is a vineyard where we found a nice setting, interesting wines and great hospitality.

St. Francois Winery (written Oct 13, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: St. Francois Winery took a bit of out-of-the-way driving to find in Park Hills, MO, but was situated in a lovely, well manicured setting. This was a small operation with a pleasant winery tasting bar room and outdoor seating for limited size groups. Though there was a $4 per person tasting charge, my wife and I both paid only a total of $2 since we did not wish to keep the tasting glasses. The tart with little fruit flavors Chardonel came from vines planted in 1993. This was one of the first years that this vine was available from Cornell University. Here we learned the interesting story why the Traminette (Gewürztraminer x Riesling) grape could not be patented by Cornell as its hybridizing came via Illinois. This wine had a pleasant sweetness. St. Francois Winery had an exceptional dry treatment for their Chambourcin which I found interesting, but not typical to what I’ve gown accustom to enjoying. The “Cynthiana” Norton wine seemingly was a non-vintage year production which was enhanced with only a 5% blending of Chambourcin wine. To both of us this selection had a degree of musky aromas with earthy tastes. Also available were a few semi-dry and sweet wines which balanced out the offerings for visitors. If you plan on taking wine notes, be sure to bring your own pen and paper since such will not be offered to you or available upon asking.

Charleville Vineyards (written Oct 13, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: At Charleville Vineyard, be prepared to drive down a fairly long and narrow gravel road before arriving at this comfortable rustic setting which included a two room B&B. Though most vines are now fifteen years old, the tasting room did not open to the public until 2003. It was fun trying two 2008 Chardonels, same grape, same year, but one fermented in stainless and the other being barrel fermented. My wife preferred the stainless seemingly dryer Chauvin Chardonel and I the oaked version with ever so slightly softer fruity aromas. Offered was their Francois, a dry two year barrel aged 60% Chambourcin and 40% Norton red. A little sour for us, but with a bit of aging in the bottle a new taste may arrive in the near future. We did enjoy tasting Charleville’s Chambourcin since their grapes were grown in close proximity to the subtle Chambourcin of Chaumette Vineyards. My wife preferred the restrained Chaumette Chambourcin which could be enjoyed on its own, I the bolder Charleville Vineyard Chambourcin which could hold up well with a meal. Another nice comparison tasting was their 2006 and 2008 Norton. We purposely started with the younger 2008 Norton which had typical Norton aromas and light cherry tastes, but obviously needed to be softened with a bit of aging. Onto the 2006 Norton which most appreciably had mellowed, but lacked finesse. Glad we found 2005 Charleville Nortons in a St. Louis Liquor Store for yet another comparison down the road.

Chaumette Vineyards and Winery (written Oct 13, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: After wiggling through the crowd at the tasting bar, we arrived ready to do our thing. Oh, we didn’t realize we had to go back to the cash register at the door and get our $5 tasting tokens for a six wine limit (this fee did not include the glass or applied to wine purchases). My wife held my spot where tip jars were placed every few feet. We tried the award winning 2009 Dry Chardonel first which had nice fruity aromas, but an uncomfortable edge to the wine that neither of us appreciated. We enjoyed more the unrewarded 2009 Reserve Chardonel (naturally, it cost $2 more). Mellow fruit tastes which made for a smoother Chardonel to remember. There was yet another “Spontaneous” Chardonel which we both felt was just plain “wild”. On to Chaumette’s red Governor’s Cup Winner, their 2009 Chambourcin. No strong aromas, but an initial grapey taste which plays out quickly into a subtle, ever so slight peppery winner. Too subtle for me, but my wife who has a better feel for delicate wine tastes made sure that we came away with several of these bottles. Though the 2007 Norton was clearly listed on the tasting sheet, unsuspecting patrons would not have picked up readily that a non-vintage reserve was being poured. Seemingly the 2007 was in limited supply and only available for club members. Bummer. The Norton we tasted came from fairly mature vines being 15-to-18 years old with a nice hint of cherry, but sour on the back of the tongue with a quick decay. Upon recommendations, we had come for Chaumette's Norton wine and left disappointed. We did venture into Chaumette’s semi-dry offerings with their Traminette and Mosaic. The Traminette was a light yellow, drink alone delicate white wine. If you are a Pinot Grigio fan, you’ll enjoy what Chaumette has done with this contrasting wine. As for the four grape (of which my wife was sure included Norton) Mosaic, there was nothing “semi” about this wine since it was an ever so sweet punch. Chaumette Vineyards is located in beautiful rolling hills and offers over night stays in their nearby chalets. The vines along the entrance were clearly marked with the grown varietals names which added to the enjoyment of viewing the grape vineyard. Ambiance graded down because of difficulty trying to park between the crowd's cars, four large buses, and three stretch limousines.

Meramec Vineyards (written Oct 12, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: What a difference two years can make in a vineyard visitation. Let me admit that we were far from pleased with the offerings of Meramec Vineyards two years ago being served thimble sized tastings in paper sippy cups. We walked out because of the young teenage-like hostesss’ attitude and being unable to properly taste the wines in the tiny cups. Two years later we were greeted by a knowledgeable host who had a handle on what she was doing and what she was serving. Meramec Vineyards offer several interesting wines, but they freely admit that they only grow Norton, Seyval, Vignoles, Concord, Catawba, and unique to them, the Stark Star grape. Nice Seyval white wines, a flat Chambourcin wine and an interesting contrast tasting of not only their award winning ‘05 Norton and ’06 Norton, but also a tasting difference in INAO-like glasses and the new Riedel Norton wine stemware. Wow, the Riedel Norton goblet made for a change in Norton wine aromas and tastes. Though the 05 Meramec Norton was the award winner, I preferred the complex taste and tannin structure of the 06 Norton for a possible bottle opening in a couple years. Meramec got us with some unanticipated purchases with the use of this stemware. Marketing, isn’t it a strange science? I will note that out of the first 16 vineyards encountered on this trip, only Meramec had a tip jar prominently placed on the counter. Though sometimes found in Eastern vineyards, we’ve seldom encountered such in the mid-west. Hope this is not a trend to be endured in the near future. Over the years we have found special hosts pouring out winery samples that we have tipped with either money, a special bottle of wine we brought along, or even wine books, but we find it a bit crass to display such on serving counters unless the host is performing other duties at the same time; as, serving food or preparing picnic wine ice buckets.

Claverach Farm and Vineyards (written Oct 12, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Though Claverach Farm and Vineyard is listed on several web sites and one Missouri state wine publication, the vineyard is not open to the public. Claverach’s wines are only available at some local restaurants and liquor stores. I understand that Claverach did not produce a Norton wine this year, but did have a Chambourcin available. We were able to secure a CFV Chambourcin at a St. Louis liquor store and found it to have no aromas and only initial fruit flavors which quickly dissipated in the mouth. Brochures proclaim Claverach Farm and Vineyard as an agricultural green endeavor, but a little more to the story is needed to justify purchasing the wine if visitors are not allowed at their vineyard setting. [Ignore Winery and Ambiance ratings since no visits are allowed at this time]

Whispering Oaks Vineyard and Winery (written Oct 11, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: This winery has benefited from vines that are at least 13 years old and situated on the second highest ridge (1600’) in Missouri. The elevation presents a continuous flow of air that prevents freezes in early spring that can be found at lower vineyard elevations. Some bright floral Vidal Blancs and Vignoles can be found here. Though we were very disappointed with WOVW’s ’05 burnt caramel colored Norton, I was again taken back with what Missouri does with St. Vincent grapes. Both their ’05 St. Vincent and St. Vincent “Blush” (Whispering Oaks Rose) were distinctive and worthy of purchase consideration. Nice winery, but ambiance is relegated to viewing the traffic of a four lane highway. Now if we can only polish the hostess/owner’s manner. Obviously she has done this for so many years that she’s board out of her skull repeating the same lines and answering the same questions over and over, but hopefully someone will be able to bring out the humor that can be found in her job and what the state government is trying to do for her.

Mountain Grove Cellars (written Oct 11, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Mountain Grove Cellars was a first for us buying wines and fruits at a university experimental station. Since tastings are not the norm on campus, this means you buy everything in the blind, to include wines and fruits. Unfortunately they had experienced a Norton grape failure and this wine was not available, but we were able to pick up not only their recommended Chambourcin, but paw paws, Asiatic pears, and straight out of the field Chambourcin grapes to eat. My roommate described the Chambourcin as “hints of raspberry, little green on the front of the tongue, smooth finish, long linger with pepper.” You think she liked it?! Haven’t opened the Chambourcin port yet. Finally, the available soft custard like paw paws were fantastic! [Please disregard Winery and Ambiance ratings since this was only a campus agricultural store]

Traver Home Winery (written Oct 11, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Traver Home Winery was a fun, out of the way, small family vineyard which can be found down a long country road in the woods all to itself. An interesting combination of wines made from local and imported grapes/juices. The owner, Jim Traver, knows his patrons’ interests which generally trend to sweeter offerings, but he does dabble in a few drier, as he stated, “real wines”. We left with a NY state grape Riesling and a slightly different 4 blend Norton (2 vineyards / 2 separate grape years). Not a bold Norton example, but one reaching out for an identity. It will be fun coming back in a few years to taste the differences.

OOVVDA Winery (written Oct 10, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: OOVVDA Wines has now been open for five years, but Jim Overboe, the vintner, admits that this long time hobby is a venture gone wild. Here you will find only a few select grape wines accompanied by some remarkable fruit wines. What a collection of Apple, Raspberry, and Blackberry wines (Red Plum not available when we were there). Maybe the best dry Blackberry wine we have ever tasted. An interesting dry Reliance grape table wine and a long tasting, pretty light yellow Traminette was introduced to us. Under the heading of dry reds was a sampling of Chambourcin and three Norton wines, an un-oaked ’08, a light oaked ’09, and a heavy oaked Norton Reserve. I did not find OOVVDA’s Norton wines distinctive, but the ’09 did intrigue me with its passing clove taste (something no one else seemed to pick up on).

7C's Winery (written Oct 10, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: 7C’s Winery is taking on quite an undertaking in establishing a new rural presence, producing wines within the first couple years of operation, and now planting 3,400 vines on five nearby acres. In such a short time of opening, Dwight and Jean Crevelt are producing a remarkable collection of wines. They gladly admit that today they are bringing in grapes from the Columbia and Augusta, MO areas, but that will change in just a few years. Their Branding Iron White (Chardonel-Vidal blend) had unique fruity overtones and their Norton wine was worthy of picking up and packing away for a few more years to see what develops. And while you are here, try the best of what can be conjured up in Meads. You will be surprised with 7C’s Winery new offerings. We enjoyed their hospitality.

Keltoi Vineyard (written Oct 10, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Keltoi Vineyard is situated in SW Missouri near the Kansas border. It’s always fun to be greeted by a friendly dog that either wants to mark your tires or escort you to the winery. Lots of interesting named labels; as, Irish Raindrops, Moon Drops, Biddy Early, Autumn Memories, and Nine Ladies, but it will take Erv Langan, Keltoi’s owner and vintner, to explain the label’s names and give you hints of the wines’ makeup. Lots of serious experimentations here in a climate that pushes the limits of many of the estate grown Vidal, Seyval, Chardonnay, Chardonel, Norton, Baco Noir, Marechal Foch, Villard Noir and St. Vincent grapes. I found Keltoi’s Norton still a bit immature and lacking the character of Norton that I’m use to, but as the vines age I think we will be finding appealing Norton wines coming someday from this part of the state. Already Keltoi is serving up a most robust 100% St. Vincent wine. This wine is not for everyone (including my wife who preferred the Irish Raindrops Vidal-Chardonnay blend), but I found most fascinating and worthy of purchase.

Branson Ridge Winery (written Oct 09, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: Finding Branson Ridge Winery took a bit of planning to locate in downtown Branson, MO’s river front walking mall. It was quickly apparent that this boutique deli-winery was only a store front, make believe winery endeavor. The plastic sippy cups reflected what could be found here in wines. Though we thought we were getting hard sour tastes with no aromas, it was hard assessing a Norton wine under these circumstances. The young hosting waitresses were obviously not interested in their customers, so we left for a “Broadway” show, eating elsewhere and purchasing the next day a case of Missouri wines from the other two more reputable Branson, MO resources.

Mount Pleasant Winery - Branson (written Oct 09, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Two years ago we had a hard time rationalizing purchases at Mt. Pleasant Winery in Augusta, MO. Their Estate Norton was overpriced compared to quality Norton wines which could be found in nearby wineries. We settled on a case of “Ten Bucks” (bucks as in deer) sparkling wine as Christmas gifts and a couple expensive, yet good Tawny Ports. This year we were confronted in Branson, MO with Mt. Pleasant Winery’s 2006 Estate Norton wine, and in spite of the high end price, it was hard to turn down after tasting this complex wine which had been aged in Missouri white oak for two years. We will put these bottles away for a few more years. The Branson, MO store is a beautiful new facility with a strikingly high center ceiling. Close to the Stone Hill Winery store, but a bit of a trick to find across the street, down the hill and around a curve. The effort to find this store front is worth the effort. On a further Norton note, be aware that we found a grocery shelf Mt. Pleasant Winery Norton for only $9.00. We couldn’t turn this down, but please you don’t make the same mistake. How could Mt. Pleasant Winery put their name on something this bad? After only a small sample glass, we instinctively poured the remaining contents of the bottle down the drain.

Stone Hill Winery - Branson (written Oct 09, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: The Branson, MO Stone Hill Winery is an outlet store of sorts. Some wines that I asked for here were reportedly only available from the Hermann, MO winery. What a bummer. The Branson location is perfect for a store interested in selling wine related clothes, napkins, candles, placemats, coasters, glasses, cards, dishes, magnets, oven mitts, aprons, soaps, T-shirts, party foods, and yes, ~ most of Stone Hill Wines offerings. A nice touch was the closed door tasting room so that one would not be distracted with the dog and pony show on the main floor. I appreciated the well trained knowledgeable Vietnam Vet who served us. Nothing was rushed as he attended to several parties at one time. Available for tasting were 25 different wines. An especially nice Dry Vignoles was served, a reasonably priced solid Chambourcin, and a good, but unexciting Norton (Gold Medal, Pacific Rim International winner, - must reflect on how little I know about wines). Most disappointing was that the Governor’s Gold Medal ’07 and ‘08 Cross J Vineyard Nortons were not available at this store and only available in Hermann, MO. We were only able to buy the 2006 Cross J Vineyard Norton in the blind (no opportunity to taste). This was a sad situation for those who truly wish to follow the Norton wine trail. Most wines were reasonably priced mixed in with reserve type examples whose quality and aging deemed higher tags.

Mount Bethel Winery (written Oct 08, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Part of the fun of being at Mount Bethel Vineyards was learning the past storied family wine connections, meeting a few of the family members and tasting wines in the original, built into the earthen bank, stone walled wine room. Because of market demands, MBW is better known for their sweet wines, but they also incorporate some most unique dry wines under their Domaine Montel label. Their 1st crop Viognier was an example of one of several surprises here. Even their sweet pink Red Noble Muscadine was a fun wine. MBW’s ‘05 Zinfandel was exceptionally smooth and Cynthiana was most credible being the best Cynthiana (Norton) found in the state of Arkansas. While at MBW do not leave without trying their wonderful Elderberry wine and fortified, secret blend, Tawny Port.

Keels Creek Winery (written Oct 08, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Keels Creek Winery’s advertised proclamation of producing dry wines is a credible mission, if only one of their wines could have outlasted the FULL LECTURE series endured during their $5 tasting. The store noises made for almost an impossible wine tasting. Keels maintains 12 acres of vineyards producing an interesting cross section of grapes, including Vivant (a Canadian white grape that seemingly grows best in the South), Vignoles, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Cynthiana (Norton), Catawba and Cayuga. Though their wines were not to our tastes, I will say that this was the only Arkansas winery that had a handle on the Cynthiana-Norton grape background. Personally we found their Cynthiana soft and maintaining sour overtones which did not linger well on the palate. Their Chambourcin, held for two years in Missouri oak, was the most interesting of their wines. Located in touristy Eureka Springs, AR, one can experience the possibilities of dry Arkansas produced wines.

Post Familie Vineyards (written Oct 08, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Though 27ish wine variations were offered, only the grapes of Cynthiana, Delaware, Vignoles, Vidal Blanc, Prophecy, Ives Noir and different muscadine grapes came from this vineyard’s property. In our case, we were only interested in trying PFV’s drier wines produced from their own harvested properties. Their Vignoles produced in stainless steel tanks was bright, but quickly decayed on the back of the palate. The Prophecy wine had only been available for a few years and it was obvious that the vintners are still searching for the possibilities of this new grape. Their disappointing 100% Cynthiana [Norton] wine produced in stainless steel tanks using “a little oak chipping” turned out to be quite thin and lacking character. Under a different label (St. John Winery) they produced boxed wines and offered them on 50% off specials for only $7.50. At that price, their boxed Cabernet Sauvignon would have been the only wine that we would have considered purchasing.

Chateau Aux Arc Vineyards and Winery (written Oct 07, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Chateau Aux Arc Vineyards (pronounced Chateau “Ozark”) is advertised as “one of Arkansas’ principal wholesale growers of Cynthiana [Norton] grapevines”, but unfortunately not a single bottle of this grape’s wine was available when visiting. CAAV is more than just a winery in that they also support overnight accommodations and a full service RV park. We tried several varietals and blends, but one customer took the words right out of my mouth when she declared publicly ~ “cleaning fluid”. Out of the small offerings, we would have appreciated at least one good tasting experience. The extensive xeriscaped desert like winery landscaping in lush green Arkansas made for a hot, dry, and uninviting setting.

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars (written Oct 07, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: We stopped for a tasting, evening Swiss meal, and overnight parking at Wiederkehr Wine Cellars. In the tasting room we were a bit wowed by an enormous baroque, Italian black oak triptec (approx 24’w x 10’h) supposedly from the late 1700s/early 1800s. Gaudy, to say the least, but appropriate for the tasting bar setting. Though Wiederkehr sported abundant acres of grapes, we were taken back by how many of their dry wines utilized “imported” grapes/juices. For example, though they had planted Gewürztraminer vines, this current wine offering was made from Washington State grapes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a clear wine with absolutely no color. Offered were other wines; as, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc which were not taste typical. When offered their 2008 Cynthiana it was noted that “this was a wild Arkansas grape, not to be confused with the Norton grape which is a hybrid of Cynthiana.” Really? This was a non-offensive, but sweeter than usual Norton (oops, Cynthiana) wine. It would be a safe-to-serve wine in non-discriminating company. Over 30 reasonably priced wines, but none to be remembered in the days, weeks, or months to come

Cowie Wine Cellars (written Oct 07, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Cowie Wine Cellars has produced wines since 1955, using grapes from neighboring vineyards. For the most part, we found only sweet wines and a hostess who did not know anything about the grapes or wines. Bottom line, they had 19 wines and we tackled four. Allegedly they had a good Vidal Blanc, but it was not available the evening we arrived. An Elderberry wine was interesting, but too tartly sweet, a Vin Sec Rouge (Concord? ~ enough said), Robert’s Port (dark burnt brown), and an un-notably thin Arkansas Queen (Norton). At this winery our hostess only knew that “Cynthiana [Norton] was a wild Arkansas grape”.

Davis Valley Winery and Vineyard (written Aug 08, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Sometimes you just get lucky trying unsuccessfully to find one vineyard and stumbling onto another. This was the case in Rural Retreat, VA (yup, that’s the name of the town) as we approached a massive commercial building atop an outcropping of 45 acres of vines planted some ten years ago. Driving by rows of Chardonel and grapes Vitis unknownei, we entered a winery full of surprises. Karen, our hostess, was welcoming, country, full of quick smiles, and serious about making an honest pitch for Davis Valley Winery. The $4 tasting fee which did not apply to purchases didn’t bother us, but the plastic tasting cups just about did us in. We soon learned what was listed on brochures was not a complete inventory of their reasonably priced offerings. Visit DVW to compare a representative Chardonnay to a good Chardonel, evaluate Corot Noir prepared in stainless or oak (Autumn Red), or just see how someone else interprets Cabernet Franc. Personally we enjoyed their Chambourcin and even picked up their non-specified “White Wine”. Several of their wines had cute names, but no grape description(s). In 2011 they are going to introduce their first Norton wine, albeit, a sweeter version than usually encountered.

Stone Gate Vineyard (written Jul 26, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Can wines be produced,much less grown, in New Hampshire climates? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. What fun meeting Peter and Jane Ellis at their three year old Stone Gate Vineyards where they use only cold climate grapes, mostly from their 10 year old vines, but some of which is brought in as juice from New York state. Here is a winery which only produces 500 cases annually where you can find fun white wines. The Aurore (grape produced by Albert Seibel 1860) was dry with a delicate fruity flavor. The Cayuga wine was their driest tasting with wonderful aromas. What a nice surprise. The Vidal Blanc was clean and crisp. If this were not enough, they also sported interesting Steuben (from Cornell Univ’s Geneva, NY experiment station), Riesling, and a Winnapesaukee white Niagra which was sweet, yet not offensively so. Only two reds available at this time, but a Frontenac (1996 Univ. of Minnesota French-American hybrid) will join the offerings in a few weeks. The Leon Millot was a bit flat to my liking, but the Marechal Foch had strong aromas which I think is unusual for a cold climate grape. The Foch taste will not be for everyone, but it sure was for me. Man are we glad we went slightly out of our way to find this wonderful intimate tasting room. Absolutely fun wines carefully crafted by a New Hampshire couple wanting to carry their Yankee inventiveness to the next level for their community and state. With limited production, these fine reasonably priced wines are going to disappear quickly each season.

Flag Hill Winery (written Jul 26, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
(I wonder if the previous 'dragonfly' journal came from an employee) During our travels, we encountered a highway sign encouraging us to turn and visit Flag Hill Winery, New Hampshire’s largest winery started in 1990 and growing six varieties of grapes. Nice setting, but we drove in at a busy weekend time. We were fourteen at the tasting bar (a bit crowded to say the least) and other customers in the store being served by only two hostesses. Our hostess’ jokes made it hard to understand if there was a tasting fee and if you were going to taste either / or / both wines and spirits. Then there was the issue of no tasting sheets with descriptions, selections, or personal writing notes. It was interesting that they served only wines that they grew locally. Unfortunately, the Cayuga had no finish as could be found up the road at Stone Gate Winery. An anticipated Marechal Foch had a nice aroma, was inky black in color, but flat in taste. Strike one, strike two, and now for the final pitch of our tasting, - a De Chaunac (an 1860 French-American hybrid) wine had a long finish with hints of black cherry. A new taste for us.

Jewell Towne (written Jul 26, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Jewell Towne Vineyard is New Hampshire’s oldest winery. A comfortable setting with very personable staff, to include the owner/vintner Dr. Peter Oldak. Though eleven reasonably priced white wines were listed, only a few were “open” or available for tasting. An example would be their nice tasting Aurore wine which came from grapes of several locations. Their Private Reserve Aurore, which was 100% estate grown, was available for purchase (only $2 more), but no bottles were open for tasting. This was also true for other varietals. Enjoyable were their Aurore, Seyval, and off-dry Traminette wines. Disappointing were their limited available red varietals. Either they were flat, a bit too sweet, not “opened”, or simply not available. They did have an interesting Chancellor-Niagara grape blend (?) New Hampshire Port which did not incorporate brandy. Sometimes wines are not to your tastes at a specific vineyard, but you go out of the way to recommend the site because of the winery’s ‘attitude’, and this is the case for JTV.

Still River Winery (written Jul 21, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Here you get no choices, but for one Apfel Eis (Apple Ice wine). Finding Still River Winery is a fun drive through Harvard, MA's beautiful neighborhoods. The entire setting is a large home with an entrance through the doors of an antique furniture store restoration shop and into the basement where the winery’s glass jugs are lined between various walls of dripping cider, refrigerators, and filtration systems. Best of all, you’ll get to meet Wade Holtzman who admits having to tell the same stories of ice apple production hundreds of times per year. Still River Winery separates frozen water crystals from ice cold pressed cider and then slowly ferments the remaining cider at cold temperatures over a few months. The process entails over a bushel of apples in the making of a single 375 ml bottle. We left with a clutch of this deliciously sweet, hard to believe it is so good, Apfel Eis and as importantly, the fun in meeting such a welcoming vintner and host.

Nashoba Valley Winery (written Jul 21, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Being in New England, I only anticipated fruit wines and other related affronts from Nashoba Valley Winery. This venue turned out to be a winery, brewery, distillery, orchard plus a restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they grow their own Chardonnay, Vignoles, Lemberger and Cabernet Franc grapes plus of course a slew of different fruits. Their Chardonnay was very dry, nutty, and did not hold well on back of the palate. As for their Vignoles, it was a non-offensive fruity yet crisp wine worthy of purchase consideration. The Blueberry Merlot blend characteristics did not compliment each other and had a little unappreciated mustiness. The Dry Blueberry was indeed dry and a successful surprise for a fruit wine. As for their Renaissance red blend (Cab Franc, Lemberger, Merlot), we came away with a flat taste with almost no aromas. Quite disappointing. With twenty-nine different wine/fruit combinations, thirteen spirits and eleven beers, we left with a couple Elephant Hearts (Plum Brandy), a couple set-your-arse-down “Perfect 10” gins, and a genuine five year old Massachusetts Single Malt Whiskey appropriately named Stimulus. We left without NVW’s maple syrupy tasting Northern Comfort cognac and gooder-than-cider 100 percent Neutral Spirits apple vodka. There are tasting fees of $4 for five wines, but you get to keep their enormously tall souvenir glasses that I promise you will not fit in your dishwasher. For an additional $3 fee you get a generous pour of Nashoba’s 5 year-old Stimulus $$ Single Malt Whiskey. Crazy, but a fun place to experience a cross sections of brews, wines, and spirits.

Old Millington Vineyard and Winery (written Jul 19, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: The heck with the wine, lets talk about the ambiance of this winery. After a short wait at the diminutive serving bar, a young boy (man?) appeared who stated he worked at the winery doing about everything. I have never ever encountered such a flippant, obtuse winery host in my life. His demeanor and looks of “I don’t really care” was accentuated by the socially insensitive memorabilia posted next to the bar. Crappy divorce cartoon and a bare-breasted pencil drawn lady exclaiming “Recycle is Sexy”. This was my first ever honky-tonk winery visited. Another middle aged “dating” couple was there and after one taste the lady rolled her eyes at our host and excused herself to go outside. Obviously I must be too old to understand to whom such a storefront would have any appeal. And if this were not enough, the wines generally complimented the setting. ‘Crying Angel Red’ was their Chambourcin with a blend of Norton grapes. The host really had no clue about the wine. I left with a Carlos muscadine gift wine since it resembled an interesting attempt to make Vitas rotundifolia legitimate and a ‘Red Port’ which had “all sorts of stuff in it”, as noted by our host. Good grief . . . . . . . .

Persimmon Creek Vineyards (written Jul 19, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
An earnest effort being made to introduce wines in NE Georgia's beautiful hillsides. Good wines, especially the Seyval Blanc, but ill priced at this time for the quality produced. Is the soil (referred to as 'dirt' by the medical doctor's wife) too rich for these vines?

Crescent Mountain Vineyards (written Jul 18, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
This is NOT a winery, but home to La Bastide Country Inn and a "French" estate housing development. Vineyards planted only for ornamental horticulture appearance. Beautiful location for a high end retreat that few can afford.

Stone Mountain Wine Cellars (written Jul 18, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Stone Mountain Wine Cellars had to be revisted since we were passing by it on I-81. It’s address is Pine Grove, PA, but to be honest, it’s ten miles or so east of the town in “Hidden Valley". Three years ago we found this small venue named Jersey Farms & Winery and wanted to know could it have been as nice as remembered. Now understand, this is a farmer’s grocery stand/store with all the vegetables grown on site, but to add to all this is a wall of wine and a tiny little tasting bar. What an offering they make with their 12 reds, 9 whites, a 100% Norton grape port, and 11 fruit wines! Gone were the "folk" ’04 & ’05 Norton wines which we had enjoyed , but now replaced with a ’06, ’07, and ’08 Norton, plus a Rose of Aestiv Norton, a wine called Desire with 8% residual sugar (Norton and Vignoles blend), a Rumble Seat Red, again an 8% residual sugar blend (Cayuga and Norton grapes) and a Rico Suave port style Norton. The ’08 Norton had been prepared in oak, but did not display harsh aromas or tastes. I found this a little thin, but on the other hand it was my wife’s favorite. Go figure. The ’07 Norton had some oak presentation and was the driest of the lot. I think this one has some aging potential. The ’06 was dry, but had nice hints of fruit combined with 1% residual sugar making this the more robust of the three Nortons. We personally bought examples of their Rose’, Desire, and Rumble Seat Red as gifts for friends who would prefer a sweet example of Norton. If in the area, do yourself a favor and visit this most unique winery.

Daniel Vineyards (written Jul 14, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: First on this tasting was a 2008 Frontenac which my wife had no taste for, but I found portrayed a bold meaty bacon aroma which held well on the palate. Obviously I must like to chew my wines. After tasting other wines, it was time to tackle Daniel’s 2008 Norton. It lacked depth and substance normally associated with this varietal, but would be gladly appreciated by dinner guest as a “slow” dinner wine accompanying red meats or spicy dishes. It will be fun opening and reflecting a bit more on it at home. Have you come home to thoughts of “What were we tasting when we bought this?” or “Dern, why didn’t we buy more?” Funny how a home setting changes our wine tastes when relaxed and unencumbered by the winery’s ambience. Daniel Vineyards is a beautiful winery setting, complete with an extremely large open deck under some magnificent oak trees away from the tasting room. Perfect for some different wine tastes and your picnic. Hmmm, did I mention the 2007 Frontenac Port? Strange, my wife truly enjoyed this uniquely different Frontenac in this presentation. Though white wines are not our usual forte, we came away also with a very light and pleasant new grape taste for us in a 2008 Esprit. A semi-dry white which has clear melon flavors.

Glades Pike Winery (written Jul 13, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Glades Pike Winery freely admits that all its grapes making dry wines come from areas other than Pennsylvania. Also a bit unusual was their tasting fees, which was free for most of their wines, but a $1.00 charge for each generous tasting pour of dry red(s). At this location we found interesting Petit Verdots, Cabernet Francs, and a 12 month oaked ’08 Norton which was soft tasting with no harsh tannin flavors. With GPW and Stone Mountain Cellars in Pine Grove, PA producing nice Norton wines, knowledge is slowly spreading across the mid-Eastern states of this unique wine.

Forks of Cheat Winery (written Jul 13, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Wine-compass.com blogger suggested we try this winery near Morgantown, WV. Since we have never been disappointed with his off-the beaten-path suggestions, we climbed the seven miles of back roads off I-68 to find this neat setting vineyard planted in 1981 with wonderful rolling farmland views. Jerry and Susan Deal have put a lot of care into their site which offers dry red varietals that we have never tried before and a plethora of sweet fruit wines. Though they served wines made from “imported” grapes, we opted to try only those they personally grew in their vineyards. My, my, - another West Virginia great white find with unusually strong mystical aromas. We rarely buy even one white wine, but today we bought three FCW fruit forward Seyval Blanc wines (one for tonight’s grilled salmon meal, one for home and one as a special gift). We left also with a light Leon Millot grape Burgundy, a surprisingly good Van Buren grape sweet wine, and a “Black Jewel” Port made from the not often found Marechal Foch grape. A pleasant setting where you can buy chips, crackers and cheeses or bring in your own picnic meal to sit on the small deck and enjoy some most pleasant West Virginia wines.

Jones Cabin Run Vineyards (written Jul 13, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: This stop was a bit different in that we did not literally go to the vineyard, but rather to the extravagant West Virginia state Tamarac folk art’s exhibition center in Beckley, WV. Here we searched for the last publicly available Jones Cabin Run Norton wine. Though this vineyard was never truly open to the public, plus we understand that four wheel drive vehicles were required to visit, it is sad to report that this will be the last year that Alan & Elaine Wolfe’s wines will be forthcoming from their home high in the hills. Though described as having caramel overtones (also implying partial burned sugar aroma), I think this slightly sour 2008 Norton will mellow out in just a few years of patiently holding. It is fun seeing so many new vineyards coming online with Norton wines, but time also plays its part in observing provincial vineyards disappear for various reasons. If you are in the area, try this mountain grown Norton of historical significance before these unique tastes to West Virginia completely disappear.

Fox Vineyards & Winery (written Jun 27, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: How can a winery that opened its facilities just over a year ago (11/08) get it soooooo right? As you walk up to the winery you are greeted by a "bottle bush" created by the Mississippi artist, Stephanie Dwyer (http://www.missmetaldesign.com/bottletrees). For me that was an indicator of something unusual to come. Boutier processes a slew of good California grape wines (Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Grenach Rose, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a nice blend called Hot Flash which dumps together Petite Syrah, Malbec, and Shiraz). Boutier knows what to do with California grapes, unlike other unsuccessful east coast wineries attempting to do the same. But what they do with their own local grapes is even more fascinating. Unfortunately, because of PD vine problems, Boutier is ripping out lots of fifteen-year-old vines planted by the previous owners of the property and are limiting themselves now to experimenting with other varietals. What vines they did keep locally is outstanding; as, their Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot made from a nearby vineyard's grapes (did not taste), and a good young Cynthiana (aka Norton). This two year old Norton wine from five year old vines is produced by a Dutch vintner not formally trained, but who "cooks" up his concoctions by instinct as a master chef would follow his own inclinations. Their first two-year-old Norton released in March, 2010 and produced in stainless steel tanks laced with oak chips will amaze you for an initial production. None of the harsh tannins associated with even the best of Nortons to be found elsewhere. This is going to be a winery to return to with friends over the course of the next few years.

Fabbioli Cellars (written May 06, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Fabbioli Cellars is a small family winery, but one with a vintner with three decades of experience, mainly on the west coast. What Doug Fabbioli does with Virginia grapes boarders on the magical. Sure, we tasted a slew of good wines here, but let me just sing praises for two favorites, Fabbioli Cellars Chambourcin and Reserve Cabernet Franc. There are many times when you taste good high priced Virginia wines, but the cost does not necessarily justify a purchase. This is an exception with their Reserved Cabernet Franc. Though this $30 treat can be consumed today, it truly needs to rest a few more years to optimize its potential. As for the oaked bright Chambourcin, today is the day to open or in the next year or so since we found this grape tends to go flat in time. Lots to choose from here that are all good.

Misty Ray Winery (written May 06, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: After visiting Virginia vineyard farm settings that have been in the family for literally over 200 years, other winery acreage that have slowly developed over the last 15-to-20 years, and wine locations built recently with millions of speculative dollars it was fun finding a winery that measures how many pounds of grapes were accumulated from the number of vines rather than from how many acres (as little as one vine and as many as five) in his backyard. Welcome to Misty Ray Winery in Phillip Kreider’s Harrisonburg, VA suburban back yard. Here is a hobby gone wild from a man who grew up with grapes on his boyhood Ohio farm. Grapes have always been a part of his life, and though alcohol was not condoned in his youth, he learned to appreciate the production of quality wines during his life’s work and travels. At this home backyard setting, Phillip has been amazing to choose over twenty-five unique grape varietiess for his desired extremely limited creations; as, Chardonel, Arkansas Sunbelt hybrids, and of course Norton grapes. Each wine offered has a different shining quartz-soil story to tell. Few Virginia vintners can produce a tasty Cabernet Sauvignon, but yet Phillip can. Don’t pass up his light yet complex flavored Norton wine that truly can stand up to most Nortons produced in Virginia. Since he gets an amazing 10-to-15 pounds of Norton grapes per vine (75 lbs total last year), you still have to be quick in being able to purchase this limited production wine. You get to hear at all other vineyards how their wines are produced in stainless steel or oak barrels, but here you get to taste wines produced in genuine American glass. Do yourself a favor and call for an appointment to visit Misty Ray Vineyards and don’t forget to ask for tasting his rhubarb wine.

Paradise Springs Winery (written May 06, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Trying to catch Paradise Springs Winery open means making sure that you allocate time during your weekends for a visit. The ride through the elegant Clifton, VA home roadways will be rewarded by finding their small log cabin winery tasting room built in the early 1800s. Maybe as important as the wines you will encounter, is the story of bringing PSW to fruitation. A complex venture to offer the community that PSW serves wines of amazing substance within the first year of its public operation. Grapes are brought in from other Virginia vineyards at this time, but with the gracious help of nearby wineries, Jane Kincheloe Wiles is producing wines quite successfully. Not only does her 2008 Norton stand up well to established VA wineries, this wine took a 2010 Governor’s Cup Gold Medal. For me, I was equally impressed with their 2008 Cabernet Franc. Can you imagine Cab Franc as a soft tasting table wine with interesting character? Do yourself a favor and get out to Paradise Springs Winery and enjoy a wonderful glass of wine.

Veramar Vineyard (written May 06, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Veramar Vineyard is a beautiful 100 acre setting surrounded by the Shenandoah hills where 5,000 gallons of wine are produced annually. There are 12 acres of vines at this site with other winery vine locations scattered nearby. A $5 tasting fee is charged, but dropped with purchases. Though nine wine selections are listed, be aware that their $50 Estate Norton is not offered for tasting and only available to Veramar Estate Club members (can you believe there is a Virginia Norton deserving this price?). Another thing that irked me a bit was that Reserve wines can only be tasted and purchased on weekends. I found it amusing that half of the wines had descriptions of pineapple or grapefruit. Sounded like we were getting ourselves into a fruit bar. Interesting was VV’s production of a 100% Mourvedre. We enjoyed the opportunity to try this Virginia grown Spanish wine, but left with only their Riesling/Vidal white and for a friend a Rooster Red blend (Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot). We are still curious about the almost non-purchasable $50 Norton one is not able to taste. If it follows in taste as the other rather middle-of-the-road Veramar offerings, we know that there are other good Virginia Nortons to be had (thank you Cooper, Chrysalis, DuCard, Castle Gruen, Rappahannock, Paradise, etc.). Hmmm, I wonder if I know someone that can help me out on this tasting note at a later date? Has anyone else noticed at this location how many negative signs are posted around the grounds (Harley Parking Only, No Parking, Employees Only, Authorized Personnel Only, Private, Foods Only Purchased Here to be Consumed)? Just found a Veramar review from Brian at THE OTHER 46 blog about Veramar’s 2007 Norton: "Retailing for $50, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as this was easily the most expensive wine I’ve tried from Virginia. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. A solid wine with nice black fruit and oak, the wine is FAR, FAR from a $50 wine. But then again, everyone’s palate is different, and I’m sure they sell the heck out of it."

Corcoran Vineyards (written May 05, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
It seems if one is to find a good Virginia vineyard, part of the search entails traveling down long washboard gravel roads and this leads to finding such places as Corcoran Vineyards. The setting is idyllic among ponds and rolling high hills near Leesburg, VA. The grape vines get washed in sunlight and bathed in a continuous breath of moving air. Add to this family homes all working together to put together a father’s dream. If this were not enough, add a home constructed in the 1750’s now used as the tasting room. Yes, a bit tight for larger groups to use, but all this adds to the enjoyment of well crafted Rieslings, a soft in character Chardonnay, an example of what Virginia can do with Cabernet Franc, and a new found friend in an East coast Malbec. Additionally, you can treat yourself to a Meritage that sings to the hills and maybe even finer, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Tannat named Mary’s Cuvee. What an absolute treat visiting this site and as advertised on their web site, Wi-Fi was available for those that cannot separate themselves from technology and wines.

Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery (written May 04, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery is only a short drive from Casanel Vineyards. Basically the same location, but oh so different are the wines. You meet the proprietor, Dean Vanhuss, and you know that you are going to enjoy some of his wines. All wines purposely different with an appreciated attitude. Take his spicy (my wife said “salty”) flavored Traminette which contrast to what you have tasted before in this grape, but again different with a sound purpose. The same can be said for his light, yet tasty Chambourcin. This attitude carries well over into his Nortons which he has combined 10% Mourvedre for this softened blend. Though Dry Mill’s 2007 Norton can be easily consumed now, we are going to put it through its paces for a couple more years and enjoy at a later date. It is nice to be able at this site to compare Chardonnay wines which have been prepared in stainless steel and another one that has been oak barreled. What fun, it’s your choice.

Delaplane Cellars (written May 04, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Upon reading online the tantalizing recent opening of Delaplane Cellars, we made a special attempt to visit this new vineyard site. This is a picturesque setting with the presentation of long, solid black walnut tasting bars, oversized entrance doors made of the same wood harvested from the vineyards construction site, and wonderful views into the Shenandoah Mountains. Unfortunately that is where all the praises end. The wines were as pretentious as the inflated prices. Varietal tastes were camouflaged by the blends incorporated. Classic and Reserve tasting fees were not applicable to purchases. With Delaplane’s prices for non-descript wines, the owners had brought New York style attitudes South and I don’t think this is gonna work.

DuCard Vineyards (written May 02, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: I'm betting that DuCard Vineyards will become a Virginia Wines point-of-interest for many, many wine travelers in the years to come being tucked neatly in a scenic roads Shenandoah mountains valley 45 minutes off I-81. Though only a few offerings at this time which evidently sells out very quickly each year, we were so lucky to hook up with Scott Elliff in his busy schedule as he works to finish the new on-site tasting and sales facility scheduled to open in late May, 2010. How wonderful it was having him showing us variations of vine pruning in his vineyards. The ride alone into the beautiful Virginia’s Madison County area is simply one part of the journey followed by a superb 2007 Norton. DuCard’s description lists this wine as an ‘intense and inky-black wine with distinctive aromas’. This wording accurately describes a wonderful Norton which we discovered on this trip. Unique to this vineyard is Scott Elliff’s participation with a nearby technical college in which students “adopt” a row of grapes. What an experience he is presenting locally with his community viticulture teaching and work participation.

Casanel Vineyards (written May 02, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: In Casanel Vineyards we found a relative newcomer to the Norton world. What a nice setting using original structures dating back into the 1700s. The tasting room had been a small rock barn in which the proprietors had carefully recreated proudly the structure into an inviting venue for sharing wine with others. There is a sense of great pride with every project on the grounds. With the maturing of vineyard vines in the years to come, this location will become popular to visit and relaxing with Casanel’s wines. Though not to our taste, Casanel’s Rose Norton Batucada is a wine that I think would be perfect for preparing sangrias. You can already find here Chardonnay, Viognier, the mentioned Norton, Merlot, and a Cabernet. Good things will be coming from this family endeavor. There is a $5 tasting fee that does not apply to purchases.

Rappahannock Cellars (written May 02, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: A flier from Rappahannock Cellars states: “Recognizing the promise in Virginia wines, we moved our family’s winery from California to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of Virginia.” And with this move came the knowledge for preparing a wonderful assortment of wines produced from local Virginia grapes. Usually sticking mainly to Norton wines, we left Rappahannock with a case containing Claret, Meritage, Nortons, and a Port styled 100% Norton dessert wine. Some delightful white wines were available, but alas our case could only hold 12 bottles of reds and my wife had to lug the tote bag out with the four ports. The Norton was a 25% Cab Sauv blend which made this an easy to drink now Norton, but will be enhanced by putting away for a few years. Interestingly discounts applied only to Club Members, but a Spring Special applied to others in forms of free tasting fees / extra bottle (3 bottle purchase 1 free tasting; 4 bottle purchase 2 free tastings; & 12 bottle purchase 2 free wine tastings plus 1 extra bottle of your choice, ~ a Vintner’s Dozen). High praises go to Rappahannock Cellars for another reason, and that being their willingness to share facilities and insights with new and up and coming vintners. We visited several Virginia wineries that freely stated their appreciation for all the help given to them by this Front Royal, VA site.

New Kent Winery (written May 02, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: New Kent Winery is a new-fangled venture of homes, golf courses, soon-to-be built 5-star hotel and the like. Be aware that the $10 tasting fee does not apply to purchases. Hot looking facility using recycled woods from eras gone by, but unfortunately real cool taste reactions by us for all seven wines served. We found a brassy Chardonnay and reds that just missed the mark all together. The experience was as artificial as the Richmond, VA stamped heavy ceiling beams which had come from Connecticut. Had to buy their White Norton in the blind since they only had a few bottles left from an earlier vintage. Because of crop failure, another similar Norton will not be available until 2012. First of all, we tend to not find ourselves drinking Rose very often, but were willing to try the NKW White Norton. To make this more palatable, we decided to try to couple this with an appropriate occasion food pairing. Out came the freshly picked strawberries dipped in chocolate and smiles from dinner guest who finished the first bottle of White Norton in quick order. Good experience and glad we made the effort to pick up bottles of NKW White Norton for this once in a lifetime experience.

Wisteria Farm and Vineyard (written May 01, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: In the world of wines, California has in many ways been trying to recreate the European wine experience and in the town of Stanley, VA we found a lovely setting and lovely Lebanese host doing the unusual in creating not a copy of someone else’s wine, but his own unique style of wines, including our native Norton. Mousa has introduced to his small community a wealth of wines, to include Traminette, Seyval, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Norton, and in the future a Lebanese grape. This young Norton wine is not polished at this time, so we will hold our purchase for a few years to see what develops.

Belle Mount Vineyards (written Apr 30, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: We arrived at this winery and learned that the owner had literally run out of his Norton wine that past week, but knew of possibly one bottle left in town (which we picked up the next day). He so overwhelmed us with the politics of Virginia wine laws, we were not able to focus on his wine offerings. We were sorry that his over confidence in his wines punched out at us making it impossible to reflect on his products. // We are now home and have had time to let the Norton wine settle down from our travels. Uncorked the bottle and let it breathe for 40 minutes or so. During our pouring we noticed that the term “inky black” certainly applied to this Norton wine. The blackest wine I’ve ever encountered. This wine had a slight murky aroma and a taste that had minimal sour overtones with very little tannin interference. I had to close my eyes in tasting this wine because the color tainted my opinions. Not a bad extremely dark flavored Norton wine, but you will have to just take my word for this since he is completely sold out now of his Norton wines. He did not give me a date of when he expected to bottle his next Norton grape harvest.

Chrysalis Vineyards (written Apr 30, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Here you have a choice of a $5 Estate tasting or a $10 Reserve tasting. Let me implore you to treat yourself to the $10 Reserve tasting. As you ramble through the offerings, it will soon be apparent for the additional pricing. The beauty of Chrysalis Vineyards is that one can taste a nice $$ range of Norton wines. From their good value Patio Red rose to their Norton "barrel", "estate", and "reserve" wines ($13, $16, $19, $29, $35). Here you have a tasting that broaches all that can be found well in Virginia. You will be treated to an array of non-vinifera wines. With the Reserve tasting, if you buy them or not, you will have experienced some of the best Norton wines that can be found on the East coast. What you experience two years ago will change today and two years from now since Chrysalis dramatically changes their blends annually. If you want to really learn more about the American wine industry which includes a fabled history of the Norton grape, search out the new book by Todd Kliman, The Wild Vine. This is a documentary about characters who advanced Norton viticulture, dead or alive, and the development of the American wine world. Learn the importance of today's wineries; as Chrysalis Vineyards, in the development of a continuing story of American wines, - yesterday, today, and for sure, tomorrow.

Castle Gruen Vineyards and Winery (written Apr 30, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Sometimes you just get lucky when finding a small remote vineyard and this was the case at Castle Gruen Winery. Though only five offered wines from this small family vineyard, you are quickly introduced to a vintner who is truly in love with his grape works. You just cannot go wrong with any wines at Castle Gruen. From a truly well crafted “Southern” Gewurztraminer style Traminette fermented in stainless steel to a drinkable now Merlot (75% Merlot, 10% Alicante Bouschet, 10% Concord, 5% Viognier). *CGVW 2007 Norton is described as ‘Deep, Dark, Vanilla, and Cherry, with Balanced Tannins’. Good description except we did not find this Norton “dark” in color or taste. Stated was that “the issue is not always the flavors, but the aromas” in wines and this is so true to the aromas of his wine with its light bodied, yet complex California Pinot Noir style produced Norton. Drinkable now, but we are betting after holding for a few more years we might have one of the best Nortons to be found in Virginia. Don’t leave without considering also their King’s Red blend (Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon-Cabernet Franc). Again, we will hold this wine royalty for a few more years. . . . *Sixteen Norton vineyards later on this one trip, this was my wife’s favorite Norton wine.

Mountain Cove Vineyards & Wine Garden (written Apr 29, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: This is Virginia’s oldest continuously operating winery. Here we were greeted with not only a nice “folk” Norton blend (Norton/Chambourcin/Cabernet Franc), but wines made from fruit that was actually fun to taste. Find also a semi-dry blend of Vouvray's Villard Blanc and Vidal Blanc which is slightly effervescent. A place with charm that only a backwoods setting could conjure. Enjoy the wines, but more importantly, ~ enjoy the people you will meet here. Bring yourself a picnic lunch and find your own special spot to enjoy the day on the farm.

Lexington Valley Vineyard (written Apr 29, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: A real project is on tap working with grapes in the harsh environs of Lexington, VA. Not only will you find a delightful Chill Norton Rose, but a Southern treat white Traminette which had rhubarb overtones (yum). As for their Norton wines, they offered a 2006 'Black Tie' Norton which was blended with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Good, but I found this state silver award winner tainted with dark tar flavors which hasn’t matured into formal attire at this point.. Their younger 2007 Norton was a murky brown. We picked up a couple bottles of this for a later 2014 Virginia Norton wine comparison. . . . . . . . . . ~ it’s three days later now and time to do a bit of follow up. Driving along Virginia’s Northern Neck river coastal waterways, we found blue crab freshly steamed in heavily seasoned river brine. We instinctively went for our Lexington Winery young with sharp tannins Norton and were pleased with the pairing of this wine and the incredible treat of spicy crabs. Good for this meal, but unfortunately the 2007 Norton did not hold up the next day exhibiting cooked raisin flavors and unusually heavy sediments.

Veritas Winery (written Apr 29, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
We went to Veritas Wines on the recommendations of two Virginia bloggers. $5 tasting fee for either their white or red offerings with fee applicable to wine purchases. This more formal presentation site could easily accommodate weddings and other celebrations, but luckily for us this day it was a quiet setting in the beautiful hills of Virginia. Though we opted for the red tasting, our hostess did “slip” in her personal favorite estate bottled Chardonnay which we found as a back of the tongue drying venture. Their Rose made for a surprisingly nice Cabernet Franc and Merlot deep pink blend presentation (picked up a couple bottles for spring time garden settings). Though interesting, we did not opt for their Chambourcin blend, asparagus laced Cabernet Franc, musty Merlot, or Claret (Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot blend). Pleasant setting for a casual wine, but Virginia has many other nice vineyard options.

Lovingston Winery (written Apr 29, 2010)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Lovingston Winery was an early morning tour of a newly founded vineyard and winery. Some individuals have a personality that makes you want to listen to what they have to offer, and this was Ed Puckett. This vintner took his time with us during his busy schedule to accommodate every question we could throw at him. Obviously a working family’s vineyard and not a horse and pony show attraction. Gravity flow designed winery facilities nestled under the view of their 1906 home site. Though they would sell you wines from the vineyard, Lovingston is in the business of producing wines for local restaurants and vendors. How many wineries have you gone to that you truly enjoyed every offering? Well, this is the case here. No, not that you wanted to buy every bottle presented, but you enjoyed the opportunity to try the offerings that are not normally your preferences. Six wonderfully crafted “gentle” wines (Wahoo White, Petit Manseng, Cab Franc, two Merlots, and an unusual 80% Chambourcin / 20% Tannat blend ‘Rotunda Red’). We traveled home with Lovingston’s 2007 Cabernet Frank and the best East coast Merlot ever tasted in their Reserve 2006 Merlot.

Peaks of Otter Winery (written Apr 24, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: The first trick is to throw your GPS out the window while attempting to find this location and learn to rely on old fold up maps. $3.00 can provide you with a gaudy little tasting glass, or you can opt out for a free tasting using one of Peak’s little dental sippy spit cups. Makes no difference what your preference, the tasting pour will be so small that only the bottom of the glass/sippy cup will get coated with the pour. They present a menu consisting of a Mountain Sunrise Norton, a Sheep Creek Ruby Cab Franc and a plethora of Peach, Fig, Apple, Crabapple, Acia-apple, Tomato-apple, Blackberry, Pear, Plum, Mango, Blueberry, Strawberry, and Raspberry fruit bomb wines. If that is not enough to turn your stomach over, how about trying their Kiss the Devil chili pepper wine made from 30 varieties of peppers. There will be those who really like sweet fruit wines which come in wonderful variation of bottle designs and colors here, but as for their Norton my wife thought it potable without sourness, but I thought the overtones were those of an acid bomb. Trust my wife or just go with my negative flow. Let’s come away with a positive note. Their Apple wine reminded us of a sweet “Cloudberry” wine. What’s easier for you, traveling to Virginia’s POW for apple wine or Newfoundland for Cloudberry wine?

Blumenhof Vineyards and Winery (written Mar 07, 2010)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: Blumenhof Winery produces an award winning Norton wine they have cleverly named "Original CYN". Unfortunately they ship directly only to MO & CA, but I have found that the Missouri Mercantile wine distributor will secure this wine for shipment. Order quickly because they always sell out by early fall. This is a vineyard working hand-in-hand with nature, providing a vineyard tree edge which accepts a 10% loss of grapes to its finely fed feathered friends. After trying 66 different Norton wines from eleven states, this is one of our two favorite Norton wines. I can't possibly be more positive than this for their 2006 Norton. 2007 Original Cyn still boxed and waiting its turn.

Adam Puchta Winery (written Feb 02, 2010)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: One of Missouri's very best Norton wines. Out of 66 Norton wines tried so far from eleven states, Adam Puchta's Norton wine ranks in our top five choices. Need I say more? Drink today or put away for a few years. Remember to always let Norton wines breathe at least 30 minutes or so before drinking. While you are there, don't forget to try their exceptional Chardonel wine.

Tower Rock Vineyard & Winery (written Jan 31, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: Cases of improperly prepared, ill corked, and marked down wines lining the small 'Faßpfropfen' sales area floor being pushed on the public as "oh well, there are those who might still like this" (actual statement) as the wine continued fizzing. The nerve of a winery to take the namesake of a registered Mississippi River National Park Historic Place and to offer such poorly crafted & maintained Norton and other wines.

St. Clair Winery & Visitor Center (written Jan 31, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
On our travels west, we specifically drove to Deming, NM on recommendations to eat at the best Mexican restaurant in the U.S. (the recommendation was absolutely, positively correct). After eating we visited a nearby vineyard, Luna Rossa Winery, and headed out to a state camp ground for the night. Low and behold, along the way we passed unexpectedly St. Clair Winery. Quickly braking our RV, tossing everything around inside, we turned across traffic and made it luckily into the parking lot. And here begins a most pleasant visit. Relaxed location without the hustle of either eastern or western vineyards. Laid back tasting was served in an intentional low-keyed manner. With 180 acres cultivated and forty wines under four labels ranging from $8-to-$80, we noted it was going to take awhile to recover from this visit. If there was a tasting fee, we were not made aware of this since I think the host just looked at us as "these poor lost souls from SC, heaven help them" and just started to graciously pour . Some really interesting red wines were to be found here. We knew this place was going to be a winner when we met a 92 year old gentleman who has been coming here daily for the past 24 years for a complimentary Cabernet covering the glass with a napkin between each sip. Interesting Cabernets and Gewurtztraminer.

Barboursville Vineyards (written Jan 31, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Wonderful three ring circus. No relaxation here, just pure unadulterated sales push. Tasted quite a few wines and in a blind tasting with my wife, I chose the $32 Nebbiolo and my wife selected the $40 Octagon wine. Good enough to purchase? No. Left with a Sauvignon Blanc and a pot holder as a souvenir of getting out of this place alive and with our wallets still in tact. It was amazing how they pushed through so many people. $4.00 fee for tasting glass does not apply to wine purchase(s). We left our glasses there.

Crown Winery (written Jan 30, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: After a long day's travels, sometimes it’s best to save the best for last, and this was dead on today. A winery with seventeen acres used for serious wine production. No pretense here at Crown Winery with the vintners, Peter Howard and Jane Leatherland, very adamantly admitting that their most successful wines come only from the vines of Chardonel, Chambourcin, and Traminette. So where did that leave our search for a Norton wine? Well they admitted their successes and stated their attempts to provide an acceptable Norton, named Royal Red, was purely a “love-of-labor.” An approximate 50/50 combination of Norton and Noiret wine fermented from the onset together. Next year they will do the same, but rather blend these two wines in the final bottling preparations. These two English vintners know what they are attempting and we got to get highlights of what is coming down the road for next year by being treated with tastings straight out of the tanks. This year’s Chardonel is good, but wait till you taste next year’s bottle of the equivalent. Same goes for this year’s and next year’s Chambourcin. My guess is you best put in your reservations now for next year’s Crown Winery offerings. My friend from the area left CW with their clean, yet slightly tangy Traminette.

Century Farm Winery (written Jan 30, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Century Farms Winery is easy to find close to Interstate I-40 near Jackson, TN. Though this Norton wine had come from relatively young six year old vines, these tendrils were obviously planted in real soil, - unlike other vineyard examples all grown in a thin clay based soil in the eastern part of Tennessee. The husband and wife team that greeted us were true farmers turned true vintners. This was my first Tennessee encounter that had made the 671 miles of driving worth the effort. They shared graciously and unapologetically their current wine and wines to come. Though only one out of seventeen acres was planted in Norton grapes, they made a delightful easy to drink Norton. Along with a nicely crafted Chambourcin wine, this showed that someone in this state was making a concerted effort to produce a product worth advertising. My friend from a near by town enjoyed picking up a couple bottles of CFW’s Cayuga White. Ah, it seems wine can be made in Tennessee.

Old Medina Winery (written Jan 30, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Finding Old Medina Winery in Jackson, TN was a simple task being only a short spit off the Interstate. Oh horrors, the promised Cynthiana (Norton) was no longer available and the owners were no where to be found to taste the forthcoming bottling which was suppose to have occurred the past week. The hostess did offer OMW’s Red Cynthiana which was purportedly like their regular Cynthiana, but only slightly enhanced with a bit of sugar. With the taste of this slightly sweetened brew and a few other offerings, I figured that maybe I had not missed much and was content to state my reactions to queries about their wines as “interesting.”

Ocoee Winery (written Jan 30, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: A quick run in and run out at Ocoee Winery. Unlike Norton wines too commonly found in other states that usually have a dark cherry taste with a bubblegum aroma, this was the first Norton tasted that had a light strawberry hint in it’s presentation. Not for me, but I know people who possibly would like this accessibly priced Ocee Cynthiana (Norton).

Strikers' Premium Winery (written Jan 30, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Now it was time to try a winery hard as heck to find out about since they do not sport a web page. With a telephone call I was able to pry a suitable e-mail address contact for Striker’s Premium Winery. This small family winery went to great lengths to find local and specialty grapes. An example was their Marechal Foch grapes, which came from a physician who farms his grapes on the Tennessee-Georgia border. Except for the Foch Wine, all their other wines, which included their Cynthiana (Norton) had an “earthy” taste/aroma which I did not “cotton” to on this occasion. As a family operation, Striker’s is working hard and trying to offer something unique to local patrons.

Tennessee Valley Winery (written Jan 30, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Pretty “Great Smokies National Park” setting, but the poor struggling vineyard vines were the brunt of a hard life (birds, 70 inch rainfalls, yellow jackets galore, and terrible seasonal temperature extremes). According to this vineyard owner, strange Tennessee laws force wineries to buy local grapes which impacts their success/failure of wine production. Take TVW’s Appalachian Red which was comprised of Chambourcin, Norton, and the kitchen sink. Every grape imaginable was to be found in this wine to supposedly meet state wine production restriction. Poor vintners, it is obviously a hard, hard life in this state. TVW did try to produce something a bit unique with their ‘Late Harvest Cynthiana’. An unfortified 100% Norton Port which had been barreled oaked for five years and obtaining on its own almost 19% alcohol. An interesting variation for a port-of-sorts.

Mountain Valley Winery (written Jan 30, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Tasting was free with no sales push, friendly atmosphere, but no one had any knowledge of how the wines were made. The host was provided with a tip sheet of where some of the grapes came from since MVW only buys the grapes or juices and “processes” the wine at this touristy location. Their Cynthiana (Norton) had a light cough syrup taste which I presume would sell in this setting. Wonder if Dolly Parton has tried any of these wines? I also tried their Chambourcin and Gewürztraminer concoctions with little success.

Carmela Vineyards (written Jan 21, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
It's your wife's 60th birthday and you have been driving all day long headed back to the east coast, ~ obviously you better come up with something. Late in the evening as we approached Glenns Ferry, ID, I see a sign that states winery and restaurant and golf and RV park, and it looks like I might be saved. But in my head was the continuous wine thought, "remember, we are in Idaho". Well, my bride of 37 years could not have been more pleased with the wines, meal, peaceful RV park, and as a bonus, a double magnificent rainbow after the evening's dinner. We bought the last case of their Obama 'Yes We Can!'zen red wine (yes, you read that correctly, not zin), plus my wife's birthday selections: Pinot Noir, 2004 King Hill Vineyard Reserve Merlot ($$), Cabernet Franc, and a pretty good Meritage. Nice porch setting for a dinner with LARGE glasses of Cabernet Franc. Can't say we will ever have the opportunity to find this place again, but we left with fond Idaho winery birthday memories.

Ozan Vineyard and Winery (written Jan 15, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: This was an interesting stop because of their unorthodox approach to Norton wine production. First was a Vino Rose Norton which was appreciably not too sweet. We picked up a couple bottles as gifts for friends who would perhaps enjoy such. Next we sampled Ozan’s 2007 Norton wine. Let me be truthful in saying that we did not truly enjoy this Norton wine sample, but let me also state that there might be others who may find this an interesting Lite Norton. I’m not found of anything Lite, be it Lite beer or Lite DSL Internet speeds. Ozan’s Norton had a light uncharacteristic color and a taste I would not wish to cultivate in comparison to other Norton wines. Overall, chalk this as an one thumb down experience.

OakGlenn Vineyards and Winery (written Jan 09, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: We found Oak Glenn Winery while traveling the Hermann Wine trail. Though we haven’t settled on a family ranking of this Norton wine, it is strange that we keep going back to this case, and before long it will be all gone. While traveling the Hermann wine trail you will have listed six wineries. This is one of the four you should visit. The others would be Stone Hill, Adam Puchta, and Robller Winery.

White Oak Vineyards (written Jan 09, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: White Oak Vineyards, nestled in between native & hybrid deciduous azaleas and whose wines are labeled Southern Oak Wines, is one of those places where you quickly appreciate the efforts made by the owners. We usually can bop quickly in-and-out of wineries accomplishing our intended visit, but at this location we left two hours later with a mixed case in hand of their Burgundy Norton and other wines. The owner and vintner interestingly used an Australian “flex-tank” with added new medium toast French oak planks which properly added structure and brought texture to the tannins. This estate grown Burgundy Norton blend (85% Norton and 15% Cabernet) was an example of a good Norton wine made today that I’m willing to bet if put away for awhile will get better in the years to come. An interesting winery doing new things successfully with other grapes; as, Villard and their Chambourcin wine which is truly a Southern treat.

Luna Rossa Winery (written Jan 07, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Eating in the best Mexican restaurant in the US (I kid you not) in Deming, NM we met the owner of Luna Rossa Winery and were graciously invited to come by their winery. Seemingly the D'Andrea family had purchased and resurrected a former failed vineyard by cutting out former vines, keeping a few, and adding other Italian varietals in this venture. At this vineyard it seemed that they strived to produce Italian style, food friendly wines. We did not particularly like their reds (good, but not our preference) but opted to purchase a couple whites which we thought unique to the area. Though a nice winery facility, the ambiance was hampered by being along a long flat desert town highway. Would we return if in the area again, - yes.

Clover Hill Vineyards and Winery (written Jan 07, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Reasonably priced wines, but did not find anything that wowed us. Staff was patient and tried giving reasonable taste descriptions to our queries. Did leave with a dark Chambourcin that contrasted nicely from what we had found in Virginia.

Hermannhof Winery (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: How many ways can a winery get it so "bad"? Sure, the littered floors were wood, but how hard would it be to use a broom once in awhile? Tastings were poured into thimble sized plastic cups. We tried other Hermannhof wine offerings after knowing they had struck out big time with their Norton wine. Alas, our disappointment drove us to higher ground (Stone Hill Winery).

Chateau Morrisette Winery (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
The Blue Ridge Parkway, a beautiful woman (wife of 38 years) to travel with in a perfect mountain setting, and the addition of a legitimate winery along the route. Chateau Morrisette Winery not only provides a nice break along the way with their winery, but also provides a top rate restaurant. An amazing spread of wines to choose from and some which are very tasty. I don't know if it is from the soil composition or temperatures encountered at the vineyard's elevation, which is over 3000', along with the vintner's practices, but all wines form CMW have a distinct different taste from other nearby wineries in NC and VA. The best way to describe for purchase considerations is that wines from Chateau Morrisette are "fun". Add to this, they have wines providing funds to the maintenance of the incredible Blue Ridge Parkway. Not our favorite, but we always pick up a case of Our Dog Blue (semi-sweet Riesling-Traminette blend) for appreciative friends.

Victoria Valley Vineyards (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
What a charming surprise to find in SC! After trying several NC wineries with no success to date, I wasn't going to place any bets for this relatively new venture. Amazing, generously fair priced wines that actually had a resemblance to real wine (and this is in SC mind you). Though most of the wines are products of young vines, we were taken back by a libraried Chardonnay and a blend that they have named Pulse. Both quite nice. Add to this soup and sandwiches at a nice venue in the middle of the woods near scenic Hwy 11 and you have a quality attraction. Enticed by one of their evening meals ($$$), we were stunned again with the service and accompanying wines. Needless to say, we are tickled to have this in our backyard (we live 20 minutes away). It will be fun to see what the years will bring at Victory Valley Vineyards.

Keswick Vineyards (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Before glaring at my low starred review, please understand that this is a review for only Keswick's Norton wine. Offered were several acceptable wines, but we bought none other than their fair-at-best Norton wine. We had expected more of this Norton wine by descriptions/reviews we had read online. In fact we were so disappointed in what we tasted, (thinking maybe they had not let the wine breathe, or maybe this was just a fluke to what was being served) that we purchased a couple Norton bottles @$21 to try at home. To our amazement, our first impressions confirmed our later attempts in serving this wine. At home our guests graciously asked for an alternative to Keswick's Norton. I don't think putting this bottle down for a few years will really help as suggested by our salesperson/host.

Cave Vineyard (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: A good Norton wine, but average as compared to other Missouri Norton examples. Cave Vineyard wines are named for the owners and labeled as "Strussione Wines". Strangely, there were slight hints in this award winning Norton wine of "sour" overtones, as you would expect in some wines found in states located in more Southern latitudes. A great setting to leisurely drink a wine in a natural cave which you could walk 200 yards to or have someone take you in Cave Vineyards' shuttle. If you wished to talk to the owner and learn personally of his wine endeavors, you had to overcome a thick cloud of cigar smoke that surrounded him during our visit. But my wife reminds me to state that he did sit and talk when other wine proprietors did not. . . ., nice personal touch.

Stone Hill Winery and Restaurant - Hermann (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: Too many wines with too many choices of reds, whites, rose, port, sparkling, or dessert. Stone Hill Vineyards year in and year out provides true award winning wines. Most years they offer more than one Norton wine and label them accordingly to their vineyard location. We have preferred in the past their Cross J Vineyard Norton wines, but all are consistently at the top of the Missouri Norton offerings. Though they have a prominent gift store you have to pass through to get to the tasting room, you never feel like you are being pushed through a bad tourist trap. Beautiful location with limited parking atop a knoll in the town of Hermann. For those traveling by RV, there is a city park with hookups at the foot of this hill which makes traveling through this section of Missouri very manageable. If you want to know what Norton wines are all about, visit Stone Hill Winery. My only complaint is that they are not able to ship to my state. Nuts.

River Valley Winery (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: After a careful search we found ourselves atop a hilly bald and River Valley Winery’s farm setting surrounded by vineyards, llamas, sheep, duck, and three Great Pyrenees dogs. This was a fun setting for tasting a Kentucky Norton wine, or as they called it - Cynthiana. Though the Norton grapes did not come from their farm’s vines, they did come from a nearby Kentucky vineyard and the wine was produced here on site in only stainless tanks. An interesting ruby-colored Norton which does not over power you as so many other Nortons do by being over oaked. This is a casual Norton that does not have to apologize for being different from other dark cherried tasting examples. And while you are here, don’t leave without a clutch of their Medovina (honey mead) wine.

Yellow Farmhouse Vineyard and Winery (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: New facility and vineyards smack dab in the middle of a sharp curve in a small town (don't blink, or you will miss Defiance, MO entirely). We did get to try this very, very young wine from vines still acclimating to the surrounding soils at the 2008 Norton Wine festival in St. Louis. Too young to make any serious comments on this wine at this time. Farmhouse is not set up yet for daily tours or tastings. Give them a few years and cross your fingers for another fine winery near this town. Meanwhile, search out Chandler Hill and Montelle Winery which are very close by.

Bluemont Winery (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: Though Bluemont Winery is relatively new, we were taken back how quickly the vintner had already gotten a handle on what he wanted from his Norton grape wine. Each wine produced is associated with a farm animal; as, Viognier "The Goat", Vidal Blanc "The Cow", Rose Wine "The Donkey", Merlot "The Ram", and wouldn't you know it, - Norton "The Pig". A little pricey for the quality of the wines at this point, but at least the tasting fee is dropped upon purchase(s). I have a feeling this place will grow with popularity (if vehicles will continue to have the horsepower needed to climb the hill to the winery).

Chandler Hill Vineyards (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: Chandler Hill Vineyards may be the new kid on the block, but what a taste explosion they laid introducing their Norton "Savage" wine. After participating in a dinner tasting of six notable Missouri Nortons at St. Louis' 2008 Norton Wine Festival, this came out an overall first at our table from publicly available selections. This is an interesting winery that is proud of its historic surroundings. An easy place to relax with good wines and a restaurant that can provide soup, salads, & sandwiches.

Green Creek Winery (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Very easy to find on the NC/SC border along Interstate I-26, but you might want to save time on your next trip by just going to any grocery store in Asheville or Spartanburg and pick up good wines from California, Argentina, Spain, Australia, etc. The wines at Green Creek Winery surely do taste "green" and the green you will need to pay for their wines is exorbitant.

Rockhouse Vineyards (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
A nice hidden setting where attempts are being made to actually produce a NC wine. Though these wines lived up to our same low expectations for any NC wine, we did rumble home with a couple bottles of their Meritage wine which strangely had a nice body, fruit forward, and no residual sour overtones found in so many Southern wines. This made for an interesting ramble through the NC back country very close and convenient to I-26 along the SC/NC border.

Villa Antonio Winery (written Jan 06, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Nice family farm area trying to produce an Italian style Norton wine. Unfortunately, this thin tasting attempt was not appealing to us since it did not have the bold flavors we normally associate with this wine produced by the small berried Norton grape.

Sugar Creek Winery and Vineyards (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: "Becky" got her stars correct according to my wife. A much publicized location, conveniently located by a short drive out of St. Charles (St. Louis), that is more hype than winery. With only the first tasting pour at SCW we wanted to get the heck out of Defiance since it was obvious what trap we had driven into. If one wants to dash out of town after work for an evening "quickie" drink before the sun goes down, this is your place, but if you wish to sit down and enjoy the setting with a five star wine, drive another 3.6 miles to Chandler Hill's Winery or three more minutes from SCW for a wonderful setting with a fine Norton at Montelle's Vineyard.

St. James Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: St. James Winery has a similar mission as Virginia’s Horton Winery in that they want to educate and introduce to its public good, affordable wines. Don't let these affordable $6 prices dissuade you into thinking that these are only "cheaper" wines. On the contrary, their $10 middle priced Norton and sometimes available $15ish “Reserve” Norton wines are bargain value wines and stand up well to the best-that-Missouri has to offer. It's amazing the friendliness of these people in such a large wine production facility. While here, try any and everything they offer, - you will be most surprised with the endeavors they make to pleasantly please you.

Sainte Genevieve Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: Strangely, Sainte Genevieve Norton wines received rave reviews a decade ago, but as time passed, less and less was heard from this winery as newer surrounding wineries made their presence with an assortment of newly introduced varietal wines. As a curiosity, we visited this site to see what had happened and what we learned was that time had passed them over in production of newer more sophisticated wines. We could find no wines here to rationalize purchase as even a "souvenir" to a charming little town along a busy Interstate highway.

Robller Vineyard Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Röbller Vineyard & Winery makes a Norton that sits right in the middle offering a great value wine that successfully caters to tastes that go the gamete north-to-south / east-to-west. Need a picnic or dinner wine? This one can go either place. We started our Norton wine tasting experience with a Röbller Norton at a Christmas dinner in South Carolina in the early 90's and will continue to return to this winery for many years to come. A robust Norton wine and as importantly, nice people.

River Ridge Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: River Ridge Winery is a friendly out-from-the-beaten path winery with a Norton offering that is unique in that you get to contrast two barreled Norton wines. The same grapes from the same location, but one called Norton (aged in American Oak) and the other named Cynthiana (aged in French Oak). We were more impressed with the Norton grape aged in French oak which was able to "talk" in softer tones as we enjoyed late summer at this setting. The owner went out of his way to take us up to the high bluff area in his personal car where the Norton grapes were peacefully growing in an undisturbed location away from traffic. What a nice experience. Yes, we will return to taste how these Norton wines mature in the years to come.

Mount Pleasant Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Mount Pleasant Winery, stately prominent on a hill in Augusta, MO provided ample parking access and accessibility for an elderly handicapped friend that joined us this day. Immediately a chair was offered to our friend at the tasting bar. They must have liked her smile since we were not asked for the imposed fee associated with this tasting. After being treated to Montelle & Augusta Norton wines a few hours earlier, the MPW Norton did not impress us with any uniqueness. If we had come here first, we might have gobbled up a couple bottles, but as it turned out, we preferred for sheer fun their sparkling "ten bucks" wine (picked up a case to be divided among friends) and their absolute stunning $$ Tawny Port. We enjoyed our introduction to this location by our friend.

Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: We were most fortunate to get the last of the 2005 Norton American Oak Norton. But if that were not good enough, we also picked up Bommarito's grand Norton port. How much did I like this, - well, I didn't share it with friends or relatives. The Bommarito Norton wine is a good Missouri standard, but I have to admit that we were turned off by the attempts of the father/owner/vintner who tried to over educate us on his wines and his superior vintner techniques not utilized by neighboring vineyards. Once I got over that, we could get back to the reason we visited, - a good Missouri Norton wine.

Montelle Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: How many ways can one describe a great winery, - location, facilities, wines, hosts, food, wines (oh, I've already stated that) . . . . . . . What a fun place with nice wines at fair prices and generous case discounts with shipping available. Many award winning wine examples in this one location; as, Montelle's Chambourcin, Chardonel, Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, plus their Cynthiana (Norton) and Cynthiana port. Montelle's "Cynthiana" has remained one of our favorite Nortons for several years.

Louis P. Balducci Vineyards (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Disappointing Norton wine in an area surrounded by superior examples. Day was not wasted since we had their Aria wine (have no idea what that was composed from) with a great pizza for lunch at Louis P. Balducci Vineyards.

Les Bourgeois Vineyards (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars
Norton Wine Review: I'm going to be kind and give this Norton wine a "2" (Fair) on a scale of 1-to-5 only because we enjoyed the setting and really nice meal. For some reason our host liked us and though there was a fee for tasting, we never saw it even though we decided not to buy a single bottle of the eight wines (out of ten available) we tasted. It's not that we are cheap (we had 9 cases of wine already in our camper and had room for more), but our tasting tongues must have been hanging incorrectly out sideways that day. Even though this winery is situated on 15 acres on a blufftop over looking the Missouri River, Les Bourgeois Norton wine just missed the boat compared to other fine Missouri Norton wines.

Bias Vineyards and Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: Nothing to comment on since what was served to us did not have any character to what we expected in a Missouri Norton wine. Hard to find and once there a total disappointment in appearance, taste(s), personnel, and displayed product enthusiasm. It was embarrassing trying to find a kind way of departure. Thank goodness for the motorcycle gang that roared in and gave us a reason for leaving. Hope they enjoyed the beer.

Heinrichshaus Vineyard and Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Heinrichshaus' small winery proprietor insists that Cynthiana grapes were a sport of Norton grapes and his wines are "true" Cynthiana. He'll even show you the pictured differences between the growing habits of the grape clusters. Supposedly there is not any controversy about the Cynthiana/Norton grape any more, . . . . . . . . . . or is it? In any case, this one man (and a good woman behind him) operation clicks and provides a superior Missouri Norton and other red and white wines at incredible prices. You may get lost trying to find the little sign to this location, but you will be glad you made the effort. Out of 66 visited Norton vineyards, this stands as one of the top five in our list of Norton successes.

Crown Valley Winery (written Jan 05, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: An incredible wine industry investment in SE Missouri with land and facilities by Crown Valley Winery. Though one of the newer Missouri wine producers, Crown is also one of the leaders in pushing for Missouri wines recognition. We were lucky in missing the reported throngs that get bussed into this setting. Tastings are based on a basic or premier schedule. Since we were not interested in wines using "imported" California grapes, we still got the handsome glass with our basic fee. Our host had such a clever demeanor, I'm sure we bought more wine than we had originally bargained for. Great shipping price for case purchases (1 cent ain't bad) and that's after the applied case sales discount. Back to the Norton wine. Very middle-of-the-road for a Missouri Norton, be it their Norton-Chambourcin blend (Crown Red) or their 44 months in French and American oak barreled Norton. A new Australian vintner is now on the Crown Valley Winery scene since we were there last and it will be interesting to watch and taste differences in their Norton wines in the years to come.

Augusta Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Augusta's Norton "Cynthiana" is a good standard by which to judge other Missouri Norton wines. It is a very good Norton wine which tends to be a bit "cherried" intense in flavors, yet dry in taste. Like all Augusta's wines, this Norton is a bit more reasonable in cost compared to other vineyards.

Rockbridge Vineyard (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: This is a very easy to access winery along I-81. We were pleased with the offerings both red and white and obvious care that went into the productions. The Norton wine we purchased here in 2008 was nice when we picked it up and in two years has appreciably improved in bottle. This Norton was one of the better finds in 2008 and it will be fun to see how this and other Virginia Norton wine producers have improved with the advent of our next trip north.

Horton Cellars Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: This is a winery that successfully attempts to offer an extensive selection of locally grown grapes and produced wines. As for their Norton wine, I would say that Horton's mission is to introduce to the general public a good Norton blended wine (75% Norton, 13% Mourvedre, 6% Syrah, 4% Tannat, 3% Grenache) at a fair price and to this they unquestionably succeed. Norton wine is not a wine that most people automatically love to drink, but generally learn to enjoy after comparing with other local wines or other Norton wines. This Norton is a good starter (only $12) and then refine your taste to other available selections. Norton wines tend to be a developed taste which takes a bit of getting use to in enjoying. The first small sip taste generally is tart or sour, followed by a more acceptable palate, etc. When visiting the Horton Vineyards, give yourself ample time to taste and relax. It will be crowded, but the servers are very patient and pick up quickly on your likes and dislikes.

Burnley Vineyards & Daniel Cellars (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Enjoyable informal setting, but the offered Norton wine is currently not keeping pace with what Virginia has been able to do with Norton grapes in other local settings. Burnley's Norton wine tends to bark rather than quietly talk to you.

Barrel Oak Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 1 stars
Norton Wine Review: What a delightful 2008 Norton wine "case" gift from my daughters traveling from MA to SC. Seemingly this is an award winning Norton wine from a rather new setting. From BOW comes this note - "This is the first wine to take best red in an international competition since the 1800s." Upon opening my first bottle, this was a good Norton wine which currently displays high tannins and a lack of maturity. I will get back to you in four years when I open the second bottle . . . . . . . . [Winery & Ambiance ratings comes from daughters' observations of a beautiful facility which unfortunately was very crowded and loud. They stated it took them over 20 minutes to get service on a pre-ordered case of wine.]

Pheasant Ridge Vineyards (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: I am just as surprised as you may be to find that a Norton grape (Vitis aestivalis) is being grown in the far north extremes of NY state. But in this case we found Pheasant Ridge producing a delightful Norton Port. All I can say to you is start your engines and race to their winery to get this limited produced specialty. What a delightful sweet after dinner drink or apertif. [Ignore winery & ambiance rating since we did not visit the vineyards]

Valenzano Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: After 66 Norton wines tasted so far, this was my first Norton from New Jersey. Having had a good Chambourcin experience before from another NJ vineyard, I thought I would give this a try. On a scale of one-to-five, this got an upper 2 (fair) rating from my wife and I gave it a lower 3 (good) rating. Will hold its own during the course of a lamb, pork or pizza meal. [IGNORE winery & ambiance rating since this was an ordered wine]

Corey Ippolito Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: As we traveled down I-81 passing through the eastern tip of Tennessee, we encountered Corey Ippolito Winery in Blountville, TN. Obviously their “Cynthiana” (Norton) vines were too young and there was a rush to produce an Italian styled, food friendly, Norton wine. The best I can say for this tasting is to turn north traveling 25 miles and see what a Norton table wine can taste like at Abingdon Winery in Abingdon, VA.

Hinnant Family Vineyards (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: Though Hinnant Family Vineyards “specializes” in muscadine type wines, they did offer a Chardonnay and an $11 Norton which we ordered. Now we have the dilemma of what to say about this Norton wine without being caustic. As a former military pilot, I did like the label portraying a Wright Flyer making its way somewhere over the Outer Banks. The nose bouquet highlighted complex barnyard flavors. It is truly amazing the efforts North Carolina is making with their wine industry (replacing tobacco), but we have been dreadfully disappointed with all their vineyard grown grape wines encountered so far. [IGNORE winery & ambiance review since we did not visit the site]

Smith-Berry Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Visited Smith-Berry Winery where the Norton wine is made, but the grapes come from Arkansas. Here we found a slightly lighter ruby colored Norton and a tasting rejection from my wife and a curiosity tasting note from me. To me, this was light on the nose and harnessed to a subtle tartness. On most tasting occasions my wife and I agree on wine tastes, but on this one you will have to tell us who is “right”. Our host did mention that there actually were two more Nortons, but were not available for tasting (????). So the trick here was that you had to buy their other [2003?] Norton or a 30 month oaked Norton on a blind purchase. On the recommendations of our host, we opted for the extended oaked aged selection. Oh, we will let you know about the results of this when we get home . . . . . . . . . . . . [We are home now and the wines have rested in a cool dark place for three weeks from its travels. A day has been set aside to taste this 2005 30 month oak aged S-BW Vintner’s Reserve Norton on our son’s 30th birthday. Bottle decanted in a large broad based vessel, resting for 40 minutes, and served at slightly less than room temperature. With eyes all looking anxiously, ears listening to the pour, noses putting to the test of bouquet promised, and my son’s voice exclaiming upon tasting – “vinegar”. Four people quickly agreed to the term of “cottony mouth” as palates endured the effects of green persimmons. Will there be future blind winery purchases for us? Lesson learned.]

Wight-Meyer Vineyard and Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: We found Wight-Meyer Vineyard with their “green” young Norton. This was a winery with displayed awards for fourteen of their wines, but not for their Norton. Our time was not lost since we at least left with two bottles of their Kentucky Vingoles and a local habanera-apricot jam.

Lovers Leap Vineyards and Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: We literally “rolled” through the countryside to Lover’s Leap Vineyard. With a name sake like that, we braced ourselves for the encounter. Well, here came the surprise of the day, a host that not only knew something about grapes and wine production, but honestly was in love with and proud of their products. The family had just bought one year ago the entire vineyard wine production facility and already wanted to make a distinction between wines past and wines current. Kentucky will have a bright wine future with such efforts as being put forth by Lover’s Leap Vineyards. Not only did we slip effortlessly into their Vidal Blanc, but found their current Norton wine, a product of only one year’s work with grapes collected two years ago, a pleasant surprise which will hopefully mature nicely in the bottle over the next couple years. A soft, easy to taste Norton wine which made us smile with the realization that there is someone serious about wine production in Kentucky. We are glad we made the effort to wander the back roads of Kentucky to find this picturesque setting.

Wildside Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars
Norton Wine Review: Wildside Vineyards offers a full slate of wines from locally grown and “imported” California grapes. Unfortunately the Norton wine had a wild foxy grape taste reminiscent of other unfavorable American varietals. In our opinion, this winery was more into the business of wine rather than the art of wine production.

Chrisman Mill Vineyards and Winery (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
Norton Wine Review: The Norton wine, produced from 10 year old on-site vines controlled in American oak barrels for 18 months, punched out to us with a lack of expected maturity. Being rather “mild” with no unusual character, we picked up only a couple bottles which will make for a comfortable informal conversational dinner table wine with friends. Chrisman is working on a Norton Reserve wine which was shared with us, but not ready for public release. High in sharp tannin tastes at this point, but with time maybe an interesting Norton to consider.

Sugar Clay Winery and Vineyards (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars
After tasting 66 other Norton grape wines from ten states, I decided to order a Norton wine from Iowa. On a scale of one-to-five, I would rate Sugar Clay's Cynthiana (Norton) a 2+ with their Cedar Ridge Red Blend (Norton-St.Croix blend) a solid 3. Either would go well with a meal of smoked turkey, beef, lamb, or pork. Not bad, considering our Norton ratings to date stand at: 22 Poor/ 18 Fair / 19 Good / 5 Excellent / 2 Exceptional. [IGNORE Winery & Ambiance ratings since we did not visit the winery]

Three Sisters Vineyards (written Jan 04, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars
Norton Wine Review: We went to this winery with a certain recommended anticipation. We were not disappointed at all with our pleasant visit. This husband and wife team were most gracious upon our arrival in answering any and all queries and even gladly sharing with us a barrel tasting of a Norton to come in a year or so (really nice). Their sincere enthusiasm was shared with all customers who made the effort to find their beautiful vineyard setting near Dahlonega, GA. I think with a bit of time in the bottle, this will stand up to Virginia’s better Norton examples and will be an interesting contrast to some of the finer Missouri Norton wines.

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