Showing posts with label Missouri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Missouri. Show all posts

Monday, March 9, 2020

Now And Zin Wine Country Series Stands At 45 States

What started as an idle thought - "can I taste wines from all 50 U.S. states?" - has become a personal mission.  Now And Zin's Wine Country series debuted nearly a decade ago, and we have now tasted wine from 45 states.  Just five to go - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Now And Zin's Wine Country started with a series about wines made from America's Norton grape, in which I sampled wine from Missouri, Virginia and Georgia for the first time.  I was surprised by the quality and fascinated by the notion of wine tasting across America.

If you can make good wine in California, that's expected - not that it's easy, but it seems that's what you're supposed to do with great soil and perfect weather.  Making good wine in areas of the country where nature isn't quite as accommodating is a real achievement.

I've heard from American winemakers about Indiana limestone, Cornell grape creations and moderating winds from - of all places - Lake Erie.  I've heard winemakers cry in anguish, "I want to make dry wines, but all my customers want is sweet!"

I've sampled mead from Montana and Maine, Muscadine from Alabama and Kentucky Cabernet Franc.  I've had a Super Tuscan-style blend from Arizona, mile-high wine from Colorado, amazing bubbles from Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, Zinfandel from Nevada and New Mexico, New York Riesling, New Jersey Merlot and North Carolina Chardonnay.

I've tried wine made from Vermont apples, Florida blueberries, North Dakota rhubarb, West Virginia blackberries and Hawaiian Maui pineapples.

There have been plenty of unexpected grapes, like Petit Manseng from Georgia, Carménère from Idaho, Traminette from Indiana, Eidelweiss from Iowa, Marquette from Minnesota and Catawba from Pennsylvania.

Two Nebraska wines are named after pelicans; a South Dakota winemaker uses Petite Sirah to take the acidic edge off the Frontenac.  There's Touriga Nacional growing in Tennessee.

Most of the wines for this series have been supplied by the winemakers for the purpose of the article, while some have been sent by friends of mine who had travel plans to a state I had yet to taste.  To all who have sent wine for this project, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

It has taken nine years to sample wine from 45 states, so the end is in sight.  Shipping wine in the United States has proven to be a stumbling block on more than one occasion.

Contacts made in Utah and Oklahoma have dropped out of sight, while responses are hard to come by at all from Alaska, Wyoming and Mississippi.  I am sure for some of these states, I'll probably have to find someone who makes wine in their garage.  Any Mississippi garagistes out there?

While we are on the subject, if you know a winemaker in the states which haven't been covered in Wine Country yet - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - please pass this article along to them.  Even if they can't ship to me, I'd love to hear from them.

Also, one state which has been left blank is California.  Of course, I sample a lot of California wine, so finding it isn't the problem.  I want to determine one wine or winery which is representative of California for this series.  If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.  Comment here, email or contact me on Twitter.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Missouri Wine From Stone Hill Winery

My recent visit to Texas afforded me an unexpected meeting with a wine from Missouri.  Stone Hill Winery's Hermannsberg Brand is labeled as a Missouri Dry Red Wine.

On my brother and sister-in-law's porch with uncharacteristically great weather in southeast Texas that day - dry and sunny with a cool breeze blowing - I took a bit of relaxation.  Their insanely quiet neighborhood provided a welcome respite from life in Los Angeles.

This blend of Norton, Vincent and Chambourcin grapes hits 13% abv and shows a lovely medium-ruby color.  On the nose, black cherry and roses move aside for a savory note.  A little chocolate mocha comes through after it opened up a bit.  The palate is fruity, with dusty cherries and a cranberry edge.  It hit me rather like a Gamay, but with a little more muscle.  Good tannins make for easy food pairing: bring on the brisket.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Norton Wine from Stone Hill Winery, MO

It’s fitting to begin this short series of tasting notes for wine made from the Norton grape with a few wines from a Missouri winery.  Norton is the state grape of Missouri, and it was a Missouri Norton which found international acclaim at a wine show in Vienna, Austria in 1873.  At that event it was named “the best red wine of all nations.”  Read more about the Norton grape in my earlier post on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.

The main location for Stone Hill Winery is in Hermann, Missouri, while two other locations operate in New Florence and Branson.  Stone Hill was founded in 1847 and is listed on the National Historic Register.  The main building for the Hermann winery - built in 1869 - was restored to its original stature by Jim and Betty Held in 1965.  Since then, they have been joined by three of their children.  The kids each have degrees in the sciences of winemaking and grape growing.

In addition to Norton wines, Stone Hill also has a raft of wines made from heritage grapes like Vidal Blanc, Chardonel, Vignoles, Chambourcin, and Traminette.  The winemaking team - David Johnson, Shaun Turnbull and Tavis Harris - produce award-winning wines.  The fruit of their labor has garnered over 3,500 awards in the past 20 years.

These wines were provided as samples by Stone Hill Winery for the purpose of this article.

Stone Hill Winery NortonStone Hill Winery Norton 2006
This estate-bottled Hermann wine is 100% Norton made from grapes grown in the Cross J and Kemperberg Vineyards.  The wine has an alcohol level of only 13.8% and is aged twelve months in French, Hungarian and American oak barrels.

This is the first of the three Stone Hill wines I sampled.  The nose is very dark and earthy.  Denise smelled it and said, “it smells like history.”  I love that comment, but I’ll just say it smells “old world.”  Dense blackberry aromas are blanketed with a layering of clove and maybe some nutmeg.  It’s a very interesting nose, and a very different one for anyone who drinks mostly California wine.  A huge herbal quality is present and becomes stronger as the wine opens.  The taste has some grapiness to it, but the blackberry comes through very strongly.  A cola angle surfaces at the finish - which seems to last forever, by the way.  There is a tartness to the wine that makes me think of plums skins, but in a good way.  A great acidity is present in the Stone Hill Norton.

On the second night the bottle was open, the tannins were much softer and the tartness was not as pronounced.  However, on the third night, the tartness seemed to return.

Stone Hill Winery Cross J Vineyard NortonCross J Vineyard Norton 2006
The grapes for this estate wine are harvested from the vineyard which overlooks Jim and Betty Held’s home, up on a hilltop overlooking the Missouri River.  This 100% single-vineyard varietal sees twelve months aging in French and European oak.  The alcohol level is very moderate at 13.3%, and the wine retails for $25.

This is the second of the Stone Hill trio I tasted.  Again, the old-world aromas of blackberry and spice leap up past the heat, which is considerable upon opening.   The wine is once more very dark, inky and black in appearance.  It has a fine tannic structure with a cherry-meets-raspberry flavor profile, along with that tartness, too.  After time to breathe, the wine opens up and its flavors become darker and more brambly on the second and third nights the bottle is open.  This single vineyard effort had an aroma and taste reminiscent of Syrah - a little fruitier than the first wine.  The acidity is fantastic.

Stone Hill Winery Norton PortStone Hill Winery Missouri Port 2007
The winery says "short fermentation, brandy fortification and barrel aging" are the high points of this one.  Stone Hill produced their first vintage of Port-style wine in 1990, and the line has garnered high ratings and rave reviews from national publications.  The alcohol level is jacked up to a port-like 18.4% and it retails for $22 in a 500 ml bottle.

This finale of the three samples from Stone Hill looks very dark at the core with purple edges.  Once again, aromas of spices, remind me of Syrah, with that big blackberry nose muscling in.  It’s rich and dark on the palate with a very strong sensibility of Portuguese grapes.  This time around, the spiciness is tasted as well as smelled.  The wine’s sweetness is counterbalanced by its acidity, which seems to be the calling card of the Norton grape.  This Port-style wine is great for dessert, but I could also wash down a steak or pork chop with it.

Soon I’ll relate my experiences with some Virginia Norton wines on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.

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Monday, January 3, 2011



In the land of grapes, Norton is not exactly a household name.  Not in the American wine mecca of California for sure, and not even in places like Missouri and Virginia, where the Norton vine has its roots.

Those roots go back to 18th century America.  Paul Roberts of Deep Creek Cellars in Friendsville, Maryland has much to say about Norton - or Cynthiana, as it is also known - and he is reprinted at length on the website for Virginia's Chrysalis Vineyards.  He also has a book on the subject: From This Hill, My Hand, Cynthiana's Wine.

The grape known scientifically as vitis aestivalis is believed to have been produced by a Dr D.N. Norton of Virginia, who - probably by accident - crossed two other still unknown grape varieties.  Many grape varieties native to North America have aromas and flavors too sweet and "grapey" from which to make good dry wine.  Norton does not generally exhibit those properties, and makes some very fine wines that are legendary to folks in the midwest and eastern U.S.

In 1873, a Missouri Norton wine was proclaimed "the best red wine of all nations" at a competition in Vienna.  Roberts says, "Zinfandel is often described as America's first and most original gift to the world of wine.  Actually, it's Norton."

Todd Kliman’s book, The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine, deals with the origin of the Norton Grape, its heyday and its status as an outsider in the wine industry.

The book was reviewed on Palate Press, and in the interview with Kliman following the article the author talks about the Norton grape.
“I still don’t think Norton will ever be a dominant wine," he says.  "That’s just not its place. America’s palate, since Norton’s heyday, has changed too much.  But it could be much more than it is.

"You either love Norton or hate Norton," Kliman continues.  "It is a wine of extremes. Someone new to the grape and the wine must understand that.  If you are used to the wines that currently represent what America is, according to the West Coast definition, Norton is going to be very different from that.  Norton is not the kind of wine that you drink while curled up with a book by the fire.

"Norton should be kept in context with the sort of expression of American culture that it could have represented.  I think of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain and even jazz music, and how they have come to define American culture.  Norton was born of the same soil, and yet it is almost unheard of.  It should be understood as a similar expression of that American experience."

Still today, wineries in states from Virginia to Georgia to Texas to Missouri produce Norton wines that are well worth seeking out and trying.  However, Norton wines are not so easy to find in much of the western part of the country.  I was fortunate enough to receive some samples of various Norton wines from Missouri, Virginia and Georgia.  In the coming few days - beginning Thursday - my impressions and tasting notes for those wines will be published here on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.   I hope you’ll look for them.  And for some Norton wine.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Wine Report

Do you have wineries in your area?  If you live in the United States, the answer is probably “yes,” because there are now wineries in all 50 states.  These wineries and the associated businesses that serve them are making a huge contribution to their states’ economies, and to the nation’s economic health.

The annual Vintage Virginia Festival is a good example of how tourism affects the wine industry.  The Virginia Wineries Association depends in great part on this festival for revenue.  The only other revenue stream the VWA has is dues from members, and they only have 54 members, according to Wine Business Monthly.  This wine festival is marketed heavily all along the East Coast and its success in large part determines how much good the organization can do for its member wineries.

The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association says that the wine and grape industry now has a 1.35 billion dollar impact on the Lone Star State.

Missouri shows that Missouri’s economy sees a boost of some $700 million dollars annually from wine. - and those are 2007 figures.

The king of wine states in the U.S., California, receives an economic infusion of around 52 billion dollars a year from the wine industry, according to the Wine Institute, and the nation as a whole gets a 162 billion dollar shot in the arm from wine. reports that wine is responible for three billion dollars a year to the state of Washington’s economy.  

A recent study, cited by Wines & Vines, showed how even local economies benefit from wine.  The study claims that hotels in Walla Walla, Washington have experienced a 25% growth in room occupancy since wines from their area have been receiving high scores in Wine Spectator magazine.