With the 4th of July upon us, I went with one of the United States first 13 colonies for this tasting. Officially known as the Commonwealth of Virginia, it has a rich history in the founding of this country as well as its wine industry. As most of us learn in grade school, Jamestown, Virginia was the first permanent English settlement on The New World’s soil. It was here during the early 1600s that the settlers first attempted to make wine using native grapes, but found that it wasn’t pleasant enough compared to the wines they were familiar wines from back home. They then attempted to plant imported vines and even passed legislation called Acte 12 which required every male household to plant vines for the sole purpose of creating wine. Sadly, none of them were successful.
President Thomas Jefferson, who was known to be a passionate fan of wine, even attempted without success to start a large vineyard at his Monticello home. The hot and humid summers of Virginia were simply too much to make quality wines. Thankfully not everyone gave up. Dr. Daniel Norborne Norton of Richmond, Virginia is who we have to thank for one of the most successful hybrid grapes currently being grown in the US. In the early 1800s, he crossed a native plant with a European varietal, creating the grape we now know as Norton. It could handle the humid climate as well as hold its own against those pesky phylloxera. Norton quickly became a popular vine to plant and spread throughout the country.
Eventually winemakers were able to figure out how to successfully grow a number of the popular grapes in this state. But that’s for another tasting in another blog post. For my tasting, I chose two Norton wines from Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Virginia. Wikipedia states that they actually have the largest single planting of Norton in the world. My first wine, 2016 Norton Barrel Select, was a very solid wine. It was a deep purple and was a bit fruity on the nose with only hints of oak. There was a sizable blast of black cherries from this wine with a lasting finish afterwards.
While the Barrel Select is supposed to be their serious Norton, my second wine was their more light-hearted 2016 Norton Schitz & Giggels. They themselves actually state that the name may be for fun, but it is also a serious wine. I agree with this. It is definitely a lighter bodied wine and has a softer color. I smelled more black currant and oak on the nose, and actually preferred it over the Barrel Select.
Nowadays, the wine industry is bustling in Virginia and it has the 5th most wineries in the country. Virginia wine has also gone fully global as it is currently distributed all the way to Tianjin, China. As the birthplace of Norton, I can’t wait to see what other wines come out of The Old Dominion.
You can see a list of states I’ve reviewed on my main 50 Wines From 50 States page.