A Varietal Spotlight: Norton Wine

Virginia wine is quite popular, not just here in our great Commonwealth, but around the country and the world. Did you know one of the great grapes that came out of this region was not cultivated by a mere winery; it was introduced by a Doctor? Let’s take a look at the history of the Norton grape.

Norton grapes are truly that of Virginia origin. Actually, it’s the oldest native North American varietal; cultivated and made into wine well before the Civil War! Introduced by Dr. Daniel Norton of Richmond, the grape variety became available for commercial use in 1830 and soon dominated wine production in the United States. So popular, his wine was named the ‘best red wine of all nations’ at the Vienna World’s Fair of 1873.

The deeply colored, age-worthy Norton grape was almost history when prohibition took place. Vineyards and wine casks were destroyed; replaced by the Concord grape in order to make jellies and jams. All was not completely lost however.  The grape found its way back in to vineyards, and after many years, has grown to become one of the most pivotal (and oldest known) grape varieties of this state (and country).  Today, Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, grows more Norton than any single site in the  world!


Known as a summer grape, the Norton produces a robust red wine with strong fruit flavors in the front, typical of a Bordeaux wine. It lacks the grass, herb or muskiness typically found in Muscat varieties. The wine ages very well, and goes down smooth (the low level of tannin and hard acids contribute to this). The Winery at Bull Run makes a delicious Norton. They describe “the nose of ripe plum and smoke is supported by dark cherry flavors and is encased by a bit of vanilla and spice”.


The Norton’s rich fruit and low tannin makes it a natural pairing with poultry, pork, game birds, and hearty beef dishes like sausage and steak. Venison also pairs well with a Norton wine.If small

Vino Virginia  Wine Tour 2014 - 16plates are more your taste, pair this rich wine with strong cheeses, savory flatbreads, and hearty meatballs.


Take a tour with us into Virginia Wine Country to taste for yourself the robust Norton on our Civil War experience at Bull Run, and learn more about its place in our history. Contact us to plan a trip you won’t soon forget!

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