Sunday, January 16, 2011

NORTON WINE COUNTRY: GEORGIA


Norton Wine From Georgia

When Georgia is mentioned in wine circles these days, it is more than likely a reference to the Eastern European country, not the state in the southeastern U.S.  The seat of the Old South, though, does produce wine.  The home of Savannah and Hot ‘Lanta has a small town by the name of Tiger, Georgia, where you’ll find Tiger Mountain Vineyards.

Tiger Mountain Vineyards NortonThis is the final article in my brief study of wine made from the all-American Norton grape, so it’s no surprise to find that variety growing at Tiger Mountain.  They also have Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tannat. Viognier and Touriga Nacional planted.  You have to love these guys for their brazen devotion to heritage grapes alone!

Dr. John Ezzard and his wife Martha planted grapes in 1995 on the farm where he was born.  The good doctor says 2,000 feet of altitude, mineral rich soil and well drained slopes make for great terroir.  With all that as a starting point, the step to good wine is a short one.

The Ezzards watched and learned about grape-growing from Virginia's Horton Vineyards.  Tiger Mountain’s winery manager Jabe Hilson assists in the winemaking process.  The Tiger Mountain Norton varietal wine sells for $17.  A sample was sent to me for the purpose of this article.

Tiger Mountain Norton 2005

Subtitled “Georgia Red Wine,” Tiger Mountain Vineyards’ Norton registers the lowest alcohol content of the Nortons in this series - only 11.5% abv.

It is very dark in the glass, almost black, and difficult to see through at the edges.  The core allows no light through.  A cassis aroma dominates the nose, abetted by a fair whiff of licorice.  The jamminess is undeniable, but a faint scent of tar comes through on its coattails.

The palate is surprising, given the fruity nature of the nose.  There’s a big bell pepper play made by this wine, with a white pepper spiciness underlying.  The fruit seems constricted in comparison, but a mix of blackberry and cranberry come through on the substantial finish.  That fruit is somewhat tart - not something I am accustomed to tasting in wine, but something I got used to quickly.  People who love to drink fruit bombs might turn their noses up at this wine, at least at first.  A trace of baker’s chocolate strains to come through late in the game.

The tannins are soft but the wine is nice and dry.  The acidity level is good in this well-balanced effort, and it paired very well with a sweet, maple-glazed ham.  It would probably be a good choice with sweet barbecue sauce, too.  The sweetness of the glaze helped offset the tartness in the wine and balance out the meal.  Semi-sweet chocolate is a nice match, too.