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MAY 2005 NEWSLETTER

Dear Guests & Friends,

There's a lot to read about in this issue of our newsletter. We will introduce you to Norton and the award-winning wines that are being made from Missouri's official grape; tell you about Maifest, the festival that celebrates Hermann's German heritage; and let you in on Hermann Hill's newest venture--Hermann Village.

You will note an asterisk (*) throughout the newsletter. 
This indicates a reference to Hermann Hill's 3-Mile Walk.  Information on the walk is available on our website

Norton--Missouri's state grape
When lawmakers designated Norton as the official state grape of Missouri on July 11, 2003, it was just another milestone in the long history of this grape. Let's take a look at this purple jewel and its impact on winemaking in the Hermann area.

Where did Norton come from?
There are disagreements about the origin of the Norton grape. But, all agree that it is a true American grape native to this side of the Atlantic.

Norton Grapes
This cluster of Norton grapes
is ripe and ready for picking

The Norton grape is named for Dr. Daniel Norton of Richmond, Virginia, a plant hybridist who experimented with many grape varieties around 1820. But, there is no documented evidence that credits Dr. Norton with creating the grape. In fact, for more than 100 years, the origin question has plagued horticulturists, and numerous theories have been offered. U.P. Hedrick, a leading figure in American horticulture between 1920 and 1940, may have hit the nail on the head when in 1908 he wrote that "the true story of Norton will never be known."

Harvest

A foggy September 
morning grape harvest at
Hermann Hill.

The Norton grape comes to Hermann 
Norton as a named variety was available for sale commercially by 1830. It arrived in Hermann about 1840. One of the first plantings of the Norton grape in the Hermann area appears to have been done by viticulturist George Husmann. He was an authority on grape growing, and a book he wrote in the third quarter of the 19th century, American Grape Growing and Wine Making, was a standard textbook used by American grape growers well into the 20th century. He planted Norton on his farm just east of Hermann, currently the site of OakGlenn Winery.

This grape, whose botanical name is Vitis aestivalis and is nicknamed "summer grape", is resistant to summer diseases and can withstand the Midwest's cold winters. Because of these characteristics, when French viticulture was threatened by root louse in the 1860s, Husmann and other viticulturists supplied 

millions of rootstocks, that were both resistant to phylloxera and adaptable to French growing conditions, to France to help save the wine industry there.

The Norton grape is said to be the main variety responsible for the great success of Missouri's wine industry in the second half of the 19th century. Norton wine was world-renowned at the time, and in 1873 a Missouri Norton won a gold medal at the Vienna World Exhibition. But, Norton's glory came to an abrupt halt with the onset of the Volstead Act in 1919 and Prohibition.

Since the rebirth of Missouri's wine industry in 1965, when Jim and Betty Held reopened Stone Hill Winery, Norton has been gaining momentum and currently is the most widely planted grape in the state. It is no wonder why it was chosen to be Missouri's official grape.

Locally, Norton vineyards continue to increase because of the high demand for the wine. Some vineyards are located in remote areas within a 15-mile radius of Hermann. Most are not open to the public. However, visitors can see and walk among the vines along the driveway at the entrance to Stone Hill Winery*, on the three acres at Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery, and at Robller Winery. In July, Adam Puchta Winery will open the vineyards for viewing during its 150th anniversary celebration. We have a particular fondness for Norton grapes at Hermann Hill and our Norton vineyard can be viewed from each bedroom. Guests are welcome to walk through the vineyard and get a close-up look at the vines during their stay.

A dozen or so pre-Prohibition Norton grapes are on display at Deutschheim State Historic Site* in Hermann's historic district. These are considered to have been planted in the mid 1840s by Edward Muehl and Carl Strehly, with the help of George Husmann, in an experimental plot when Muehl and Strehly were establishing a winery. They ultimately planted several Norton vineyards where West Sixth and West Ninth streets are today. However, these vineyards were uprooted when Prohibition was enacted. The vines at Deutschheim were spared because they were used for personal consumption, which was permitted during Prohibition.

Other pre-Prohibition Norton vineyards survive in Hermann, one maintained by Stone Hill Winery and another at OakGlenn Vineyard and Winery, and the grapes continue to be used for their Norton production. According to winery owner Carol Warnebold, OakGlenn's pre-Prohibition vineyards, planted by George Husmann, have been nurtured back to their flourishing potential. The recovery process has taken about four years. The owner says that propagation of new vines from the old ones has been successful and they will be producing fruit in a few years. "It will be exciting to compare the wine from the youngsters to their elders," says Carol.

The great name debate
There has been much disagreement and discussion about whether the grape is Norton or Cynthiana. Some consider them to be two distinct grapes, with Cynthiana producing a lighter wine than Norton.

The dispute may have been settled in the early 1990s. In 1992, Bruce Reisch of Cornell University took samples of the two grapes from ten local vineyards. DNA analysis indicated that the specimens were genetically identical. A similar study was done at the State Fruit Experimentation Station of Southwest Missouri State University yielding the same results. Hermann area vintners call the grape Norton.

The benefits of Norton
Norton is thought to be a heart-healthy wine that helps lower cholesterol. A compound called resveratrol is found in red grapes, but in unusually high levels in Norton grapes. This is good news for Norton drinkers because the chemical is said to prevent deposits of plaque in the arteries, and may even flush out the deposits.

Hermann's award-winning Nortons
Six local wineries, all members of the recently formed Hermann Vintners' Association, are producing Norton wines. The following is a list of the Norton wines that are currently being sold in the Hermann area.

Adam Puchta Winery: Adam Puchta Winery is selling the 2002 Norton. Winery owner Tim Puchta says he looks for the fruit component in the wine. In his opinion, this relates to temperature control. He claims that fermenting the grapes at a cooler temperature allows for the fruit components of cherry and raspberry to come through, giving the wine a subtle character. Tim describes the 2002 vintage as spicy, not heavily oaked, fruity, jammy, with blackberry flavor and a touch of cedar. Perhaps even a little chocolate can be detected. He ranks the 2002 third among his all-time favorites.

The 2002 Norton won a silver medal at the 2004 Missouri Wine Competition, and was the featured wine served with the entree course at the Missouri Senate Wine Dinner in April of this year.

Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery: Nick Bommarito, owner of the winery, is selling the 2002 French Oak Norton, which was aged in the barrels for just under two years. He describes it as a dry, bold wine with fruity undertones and lots of mixed berry flavors. The color is deep, rich red, and the French oak barrels lend a vanilla flavor. The supply of 2002 French Oak Norton is limited, but the 2002 American Oak Norton will be released later this summer.

Since first entering Norton wines in the Missouri State competition in 2000, Bommarito's Norton wines have won medals annually.

Hermannhof Winery: Hermannhof Winery is currently selling the 2000 Estate Bottled Norton from their Little Mountain Vineyard. General Manager and winemaker Paul Leroy ferments the wine on the skin at temperatures that are cooler than typically used for red wines. By extending the time of skin contact to three to four weeks, instead of a few days, Paul feels the wine has more body

Wine

These bottles of Norton Wine are currently being sold by six local wineries.  The above was taken in the Norton guest room, which was named for the grapes.  The photo below was taken outside of the Seyval guest room with our Norton vines in the background.

Wine

and fruitiness. The wine is aged for 18-20 months, mostly in newer oak barrels from Missouri, France and Hungary. Paul recommends bottle aging should be no more than five years.

The 2002 Norton is described as full bodied, moderately oaked, with moderate acidity. It has concentrated full flavors of berries, brown spice, and black fruits. Notes of earth and smoky vanilla oak compliment the long, full finish. The wine won a gold medal at the Missouri State Fair Wine Competition.

The 2001 Norton will be released sometime this summer.

OakGlenn Vineyard & Winery: Two Norton wines are available at OakGlenn, the 2000 and 2001. These wines have won a total of eight medals at recent national wine competitions.
Carol Warnebold, owner of the winery, says that each vintage of their Norton wines is evaluated for optimum balance. She says, "We use discretion in oaking to enhance our wines depending on the characteristics and chemistry of each vintage and the style we are trying to achieve." She describes the wines as being rich, berry flavored, full-bodied red wines with a dry characteristic similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon, yet with a spiciness of a Zinfandel.

Robller Vineyard: Bob and Lois Mueller, owners of Robller Vineyard, introduced the 2002 Norton during the winery's 15th anniversary celebration the weekend of April 23-24. Because it was just recently bottled, Bob recommends letting the wine settle in the bottle for at least two months, and preferably six, before opening. Optimum bottle aging is suggested for six years, according to Bob.

This estate-bottled Norton is barrel-aged in Missouri oak barrels for 1-1/2 years. It is a rich, dark wine with hints of dark berry. The aroma suggests currants, figs, and dried fruit.

Although he enters few wine competitions, one of Bob's greatest achievements as a winemaker was winning the first-ever Governor's Cup at the 1993 Missouri Wine Competition for his 1991 Norton Reserve.

Stone Hill Winery: Stone Hill's 2002 Estate Bottled Norton is produced from 100 percent estate-grown Norton grapes from their Kemperberg and Cross J vineyards. Careful fermentation on the skins is followed by 12 months of aging in French, Hungarian and American oak barrels.

The winemakers compare this Norton to the great wines of southern Europe, and describe it as full-bodied and dry, with tremendous fruit and complexity. Characteristics include ripe supple tannins, intense blackberry flavors, and spicy aromas. It will develop complexity with aging.

To date, Stone Hill's 2002 Norton has won 16 medals in national and international competitions.

Maifest celebrates Hermann's heritage
Maifest dates to the 1870s when on the last day of school the children walked from the German School to the city park* waving flags and singing songs. Once at the park, they played games, ate knockwurst, and drank pink lemonade.

Maifest

Dr. George Workman plays the bass drum with the Hungry Five Band, a local musical group that performs at Maifest.

For more than 50 years, Hermann has celebrated its German heritage during Maifest, always on the third full weekend in May. The community comes alive with German food, music and dancing, just like in the old days. Weekend activities include an Entertainment/Food Strasse where visitors can enjoy continuous live entertainment and delight in German fare both Saturday and Sunday. The Volksplatz (open-air market), featuring the works of quality crafters and artisans, also is scheduled both days. There is a Heritage Tour, a reenactment of the Little Canon Fire, and other activities scheduled throughout the weekend. The grand finale is the Maifest parade* scheduled for Sunday afternoon. In essence, there is no shortage of events to delight young and old alike.

For more information and a schedule of activities, visit www.hermannmo.com.

*Click here to view information on the Hermann Hill 3-mile walk route.

The Hermann Village project
The rumors are true about the Hermann Village project. Hermann Hill is developing a 15-acre site just east of Kallmeyer's Bluff between Highway 100 and the Missouri River on the east edge of town. The infrastructure is nearly complete, the foundations for the first five cottages are dug, and we hope to begin pouring the foundations this month.

To see our progress, click on the Hermann Village page. We will try to keep our readers updated each month with a few pictures and some comments about the project. We hope to have a separate Hermann Village website by late summer.

June newsletter: Hermann's historic museums.


Hermann Hill Vineyard and Inn
711 Wein Street - P.O. Box 555 - Hermann, Missouri (MO) 65041
Phone: (573) 486-HILL (573-486-4455)  |  Fax: (573) 486-5373
Email: info@hermannhill.com  |   Website: www.hermannhill.com