Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stone Hill Winery Norton - 2005 and 2002

Perched above the Missouri River, further west of St. Louis than Montelle (mentioned in the last post), Stone Hill Winery enjoys a long history and a successfully revitalized present.  Begun in 1847, Stone Hill suffered the fate of countless other wineries during the ill-fated experiment of Prohibition.  Before its untimely demise Stone Hill won gold medals at eight world's fairs and produced over one million gallons of wine per year (that's over half a million standard twelve bottle cases).
In 1965, the Held family bought the property and renovated.  Production remains about a quarter of what it once was but they now have three locations, including a very busy one in Branson.  I visited the original site, located in Hermann, MO, several years ago.

Impressed by their norton wine, I bought not only a current release, 2005, but an older option as well, the 2002.  It seemed time to explore these and see how they developed.  Having never seen an older offering of norton for sale, I knew the winery saw potential for aging.
Stone Hill (www.stonehillwinery.com) ages the norton "for one year in French, Hungarian & American oak barrels" and says it is "Comparable to a Shiraz."  They also encourage aging the wine, saying, "Enjoyable now, Norton should be at its best from five to ten years from vintage date."
Let's see...
The 2005 exhibited a meaty nose, but one that was a bit subdued, with deep fruit showing as well.  The palate was full and rich with good weight, more of the meaty accent and some inelegant tannin.  Deeply complex, the wine impressed but seemed a little muddied, or at least unfocused...tasty if a little clumsy.  It grew on me.  The tannins made the wine slightly chalky but not in a bad way, just nicely dry.  The wine was tactile and juicy with elegant structure. Overall a solid wine with good depth.
The nose on the 2002 showed more pronounced dirtiness.  It was not the complex earthy quality so often found in old world wines but it was also not unpleasant.  I found it remarkably similar to the 2005.  The palate had weight, the finish was rich and full with less obvious tannins and chalkiness.  This was a real treat though, the subtle fine tuning of the basics resulted in a much more enjoyable wine.  Smooth and delicious, I wonder if others would dismiss it against wines with better known pedigree.
Not being an expert in Missouri vintages, I have to assume them to be similar and, further, that a ten year aging process is preferable.  Perhaps an incorrect conclusion.
Current release is available for $19...$18.99 in retail-speak.  A reasonable price for a wine of this quality.  The expression on wine geek's faces when you tell them it's from Missouri makes this a steal!



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