Norton: The hidden treasure of Virginia wine country!
Have you ever tasted Norton? This classic varietal had such a rich history in the 1800’s yet took a rather long hiatus. That being said, Norton has been making quite the comeback in the Virginia winery scene over the last several decades. Wine makers are increasingly passionate about making sure Norton becomes “a thing” again, and I am 100% here for it.
In Middleburg, Virginia you will find Chrysalis Vineyards, a large two-story tasting room doing extensive experimentation with the Norton grape. According to my bottle of 2015 Estate bottled Norton, Chrysalis “[has] undertaken a serious commitment to restore Virginia native’s grape to its former glory – making wines worthy of international praise.”
The first thing you will notice about Norton is its deep color caused by its thick skins. When you pour a glass of this wine, it almost appears black and is nearly impossible to see through. This makes for a full-bodied and robust wine that gives off a fruit forward and jammy aftertaste. When I was deciding what to make that would perfectly pair the 2015 Norton, I wanted to try a few different things to make sure we were complementing all of its characteristics.
For starters, when I shut my eyes and thought of the word “robust”, I immediately imagine meatballs with a hearty, spicy marinara. We decided to go with that, but I needed something to cut the high acidity of the Norton grape. Adding cheese and bread to that equation was a no-brainer.
Although full-bodied, the Chrysalis 2015 vintage has a strong raspberry and cherry flavor to it that I thought should be accentuated with something light and fresh. For this aspect, we went with sliced Roma tomatoes on a bed of basil pesto topped with freshly ground sea salt.
We started with the lighter course, taking sips of wine between bites of the garlicky tomatoes. We noticed that the wine started to take on an almost floral flavor. Next, we took bites of basil pesto infused meatballs, soaked in spicy marinara and topped with Parmesan Romano. (Side note: who else is Team Pesto? This stuff makes EVERYTHING taste better!)
The nutty salty flavor of the cheese paired really nicely and was a good transition to our final course – where we took those same meatballs and combined them with mozzarella and garlic spread in a classic meatball sub. It almost felt ironic drinking a nice Virginia red with a comfort food classic like a meatball sub, but you know what? It totally worked. All said and done, we enjoyed the meal and polished off the bottle of wine with ease. Just for good measure, we made garlic bread with the leftover hoagie rolls.
Looking back on the experience, there are a few other suggestions I would make for pairings: Beef bourguignon or stroganoff, Swedish meatballs, or a charcuterie platter with fresh mozzarella, pistachios, and prosciutto. Now here’s a surprising pair – I would actually recommend this with Queso Fundido topped with browned chorizo. The saltiness of the Chihuahua cheese and the spiciness of the chorizo, paired with a crisp tortilla chip and a swig of the Norton, would be to die for.
Let me know if you tried a local Norton, and more importantly, what you paired it with! Remember – always pair wine or food with what YOU like. The point isn’t to follow rules in a textbook, but to make something that you personally enjoy. Wine is so much more than a beverage – it’s an experience, and that experience is unique to each and every one of us.
Maggie is a DC-area native, born and raised in Fairfax, VA. She currently resides in Arlington, VA with her fiancé. While she is a businesswoman and National Account Manager by day, Maggie considers herself a foodie and recipe developer by night. Aside from checking out new restaurants in the city, she has also spent many years exploring Virginia wine country. She is excited to continue discovering what this area has to offer, all while taking you along for the ride.
About The Lady Pearly:
We are an online fine wine merchant at www.theladypearly.wine serving the District of Columbia. We love the local East Coast wines and not only do we carry the finest wines in the DMV area, but we work to help promote all local wineries in Virginia and Maryland. Join us as Maggie blogs her way through all the amazing vineyards and wineries in the DMV area.
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