Some couples are so in sync, it’s obvious they were made for each other. In Missouri wine country, a match between the Show-Me State’s two most popular red wines has many vintners singing odes to their coupling with a collection of creative blends.
The blending of Norton and Chambourcin brings out the best in these two varietals, producing an everyday table wine with a touch of elegance. The earthy, dark fruit qualities of Norton (aka Cynthiana, in some vineyards) complements the plummy smooth Chambourcin, and neither is burdened with harsh tannins to get in the way of the silky finish. For those who have never acquired a taste for Norton’s unique flavor profile, the blend offers a way to enjoy the finest in Missouri dry red wines. Here’s a sampling of some of the best Norton-Chambourcin blends available to Columbians.
This Cynthiana/Chambourcin blend includes a bonus with a small addition of St. Vincent grapes. Reminiscent of Beaujolais, the crisp, fruity aroma leads to a cherry/plum flavor with hints of cranberry and a smooth finish. Serve with roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken.
Baltimore Bend C2
Another Cynthiana/Chambourcin blend, this wine features black cherry, vanilla and earthy flavors. It won the 2013 Jefferson Cup for best red nonvenifera wine.
Durso Hills Vineyards Durso Red
A blend of 70 percent Norton and 30 percent Chambourcin, Durso Red is sweeter than other offerings. It goes well with Thai food.
Peaceful Bend Vineyard Meramec
Meramec is a 50/50 blend of Chambourcin and Norton, oak-aged in Missouri white oak barrels for 18 months. A dry wine with no residual sugar, it boasts a medium to light tannin level and medium acidity. An aroma of pepper and dried fruit wafts to the nose, followed by cherry/plum flavors and earthy spice.
St. Francois Winery “Cynthiana” Norton
St. Francois Winery enhances its dry Norton wine with a 5 percent blending of Chambourcin, enough to round out the flavors in this classic Norton. Cherry/plum accents balance the earthy taste.
Sugar Creek Michael’s Signature Red
A full-bodied blend of 70 percent Cynthiana and 30 percent Chambourcin, this dry red boasts chocolate and cherry tones. A great table wine, it is similar to Italian super Tuscans.
Sugar Creek Sunset Red
Sugar Creek produces two Chambourcin blends. Its semidry Sunset Red combines Chambourcin, Cynthiana and Noiret, fermented in stainless steel with a sometime addition of oak chips. The taste is smooth plum with spicy berry and bright cherry. Serve with spicy foods, barbecued pork and marinara.
Twin Oaks Winery Shady Oak
An equal blend of Norton and Chambourcin blend, this wine offers delicate aromas and flavors. Though not as bold as some other blends, it pairs amicably with grilled T-bones or Italian food.
Norton, sometimes called Cynthiana, is the state grape of Missouri. A native North American grape, it was developed in Virginia in the late 1820s by Daniel Norborne Norton. The grape thrives in Missouri’s climate, where the wine has achieved cult status with its fans.
Norton wine is a dark dry red with flavors of ripe cherries, chocolate and currants. An earthy undercurrent hearkens back to its wild roots, offering a flavor complement to wild game and mushrooms; it’s also good with barbecue, steak, lamb and most grilled fare. Norton has one of the highest anthocyanin levels of any red wine — beneficial elements in the pigment credited with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic properties.
Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid grape. Originating in France’s Loire Valley, it has found a home in America; in Missouri, it is the second most-planted red grape after Norton. Often compared to Pinot Noir, Chambourcin is a medium-bodied dry red with an exceptionally smooth flavor of plums and a trace of spice. This food-friendly varietal pairs well with grilled and smoked meats or seafood, barbecue, ham, pizza and pasta.