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Copyright © 2016
by Fred McMillin
Norton's Number One
In 1830, Dr. Daniel N. Norton sends a hybrid seedling from Richmond, Virginia to the great Long Island nurseryman, William Prince.
About 1892, a thousand Italians left Genoa for America.
The 1994 Norton Private Reserve by the St. James Winery in Missouri wins nine gold medals and three double golds.
Let's connect the dots.
The Rest of the Story
It turned out that the Norton makes America's best red wine from a native grape. Judges in Paris thought so, too, giving it a silver and a gold before 1900.
In 1941, the pioneering wine writer Frank Schoonmaker pointed out that the Norton does very well in Missouri. Consequently, it's not suprising that in 1970, when Pat and James Hofherr took their life savings and started the St. James winery, they decided to grow plenty of Norton.
Now, what do the Italians have to do with this? How did they bring their winegrowing wisdom to Missouri?
The thousand came to Arkansas to work in the cotton fields. In one year 130 died from malaria. In panic, 30 families fled to Missouri, settling near St. James.
They began growing grapes. The effort was so successful that three generations later it provided the basis for creating modern wineries, such as the Hofherr's St. James. The winery recognizes the Italian contribution. In fact, next to one of their vineyards stands a charming little wooden school house built by those immigrants to educate their children. It is featured on the label of the St. James School House wines.
Speaking of labels, pictured is a reproduction of Thomas Hart Benton's Trail Riders, which adorns...
Our Wine of the Week
1997 Private Reserve Norton, Missouri
Twenty years ago, the federal government established the first official Approved Viticultural Area (AVA). Where was it in California?
Answer: Nowhere. It was in Missouri!
This page created August 2000