10 October 2011

I get by with a little wine from my friends...

I am richly blessed in that I have the opportunity to try wines from around the world at no cost to me. It is often an embarrassment of riches, and I feel a bit of nagging Presbyterian guilt every time I pour excess wine down the drain.

Despite the fact that I am the last man on earth who needs a bottle of wine as a gift, I always welcome said bottles with grace and keen interest, and set them aside so that I may enjoy them properly on my own time rather than just popping another cork at a big dinner with friends or during a marathon solo tasting session.

Alas, both contributors must remain anonymous per their wishes, but I cherish their friendship and very much appreciate the gifts.

First up is a Norton wine from Stone Hill Winery. I've had a few Nortons and Cynthianas over the years, and while I'm not an expert on this particular French-American hybrid, I do believe that if any such grape is going to break out as a star on the national stage, it's going to be Norton rather than Seyval Blanc or Baco Noir or hundreds of others.

2008 Stone Hill Norton
$19, 13.5% abv.
100% Norton
Hermann, Missouri

Hermann sits west of St. Louis in what's called the Missouri Rhineland on the south bank of the Missouri river. German immigrants planted the first vineyards, and native American, European, and hybrid grapes were planted in such volume to make Missouri the #2 wine producing state before Prohibition. So how does it fare in the glass? There is a light nose of blueberries and leather, with just a touch of cinnamon. No foxiness or harsh aromas that you might have encountered from other hybrids, but there is a slight hint of smoke and oak. On the palate it is light and smooth, with a slight tannic tang on the finish. Bit of bright cherry acidity, and flavors that stay on the high side of overripe raspberries and plum. Really quite refined and a great example of how wine can achieve greatness in The Other 46.

Moving along, we have a delightful wine from the south of France. And it's appropriate here, because Missouri was settled by French Canadians from the north and French Louisianans from the south. Where did you think the Show Me State got names like Saint Louis and Sainte Genevieve?

2006 Mas Cal Demoura L'Infidèle
$25, 13.5% abv.
Blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault.
Terasses du Larzac
Coteaux du Languedoc

Here we've got a classic wine from the South of France. A blend of luscious Rhône grapes with Old World style. The winery name Cal Demoura means "one must remain" in Occitan (one of the dozens of Romance languages in the NW Mediterrean region), and the rest says "The Infidel" in French.

The nose is initially full of black cherry and pepper from the Syrah. But then you get a smooth and perfectly balanced mix of red grapes that is truly wonderful. The tannins are almost gone at this point with five years of aging, and the bottle exhibits exquisite aromas of violets and lavender. Mellow, relaxing, and perfectly balanced in terms of acidity, tannins, and fruit. Truly one of the best wines from the South of France that I've had in some time, with the exception of that amazing rosé from Xavier Flouret.

Note: These wines were received as gifts.


Michelle said...

I will have to try the Missouri wine. I also have a bottle of the Mas Cal Demoura L'Infidèle and am looking forward to drinking it. I'd like to have it with dinner, so can you make any meal suggestions?

fredric koeppel said...

nice friends. the Mas Cal Demoura sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Hello Benito,

I will try to find the Stone Hill Norton and taste it here. I will keep you posted.

' Le ' friend

Benito said...


I'd suggest lamb or duck--nice and rare.


It's available locally. I believe Great Wines has it. My friend from Lyon is a big fan of the Rhone region.

Le friend,

I don't believe you'll be able to find that in France or anywhere outside of Missouri, but I'll see if I can find a Norton in time for your next visit.


TNWT said...

Though Stone Hill's black label Norton wine is a good representative of this grape, there flagship is Stone Hill's Cross J Norton. It's like comparing a Toyota Corolla and a Toyota Lexus, ~ both good, but one better. Bottle aging and letting the Norton breathe for a long time before tasting makes for more favorable comments. For those interested in trying a Norton wine, they may also be enamored with Todd Kliman's Norton book account, ~ The Wild Vine.

Benito said...


I believe I've heard from you before, and I hope you're enjoying your Norton adventure across America!

I will certainly try the upper tier Stone Hill the next time I'm in Missouri.