It is official! Our 2017 Norton has been named the Best Native Wine in the United States! We won ten awards at the most recent American Wine Society Competition, including the Best of Class Native Wine Award. The prestigious national competition is where many of the country’s top producers compete for the coveted title.
It’s an incredible honor to win the 2020 American Wine Society’s Best of Class Native Wine for our 2017 Norton. The Norton grape has always been an important part of Stone Hill Winery, and we are proud to continue its legacy as Missouri’s finest grape on a national stage. My goal has always been to produce the highest quality wines possible from our Missouri grown grapes. Our passionate vineyard and winemaking teams are the reason we can achieve that goal year after year, and this award is a testament to that,” said Jon Held, President and Owner of Stone Hill Winery.
The American Wine Society (AWS) Competition has been a premier competition for wineries across the entire nation to compete since 1986. Held in Virginia, judges include both AWS trained and certified judges as well as industry experts. Over the course of the competition, the judges tasted over 550 wines and ultimately awarded 9 Best of Class awards, including the Best Native Wine to the Stone Hill Winery 2017 Norton. We received awards for 9 other wines as well. The American Wine Society is the largest consumer-based wine organization in the United States and has been dedicated to exploring wines since 1967. The 2017 Norton previously won the C.V. Riley Award for Best Missouri Norton at the 2019 Missouri Wine Competition.
The Norton grape is Missouri’s official state grape, earning that spot in 2003 due to its importance to the modern wine industry as well as its famed history in the state prior to Prohibition. In 1873, a Norton wine produced by Stone Hill Winery won the highest honor at the Vienna World’s Fair, being crowned the “Best Red of All Nations,” defeating all red wines from across the world that were submitted. This skyrocketed the grape to prominence in the American wine world, until being almost entirely forgotten due to Prohibition. Fortunately, in 1965, when Jim and Betty Held were reestablishing Stone Hill Winery, they discovered a small plot of Norton vines dating to 1863 on a nearby homesteader’s farm (those vines still produce Norton grapes for us and go into our Old Vine Reserve Norton and are a truly unique tasting experience!).
Grapes native to America, often called American heritage grapes, were very prominent in winemaking throughout the 19th and early 20th century. Native grapes, like Norton, are a different species of grape than most well known wine grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay which are all varieties from the vitis vinifera species. Norton is a cultivar from the vitis aestivalis species, also known as the summer grape, which natively grows throughout the eastern United States.
I’ve been making wine in Missouri for almost 16 years and the 2017 vintage, to me, has been one of the best for reds. The 2017 Norton is a great example of that, and I am very pleased that it received the Best of Class Native Wine Award at the AWS Competition. It shows our hard work in the vineyard and cellar are paying dividends,” said Shaun Turnbull, Head Winemaker at Stone Hill Winery.
If you are an avid explorer of wines and are interested in experiencing native wines, our 2017 Norton is an excellent place to start! An American heritage grape with a storied history at our winery, it will make for a truly unforgettable and delicious tasting.