Hot Springs, VA (VR) – Two centuries ago, the Norton grape was first cultivated in Richmond, Virginia with native American vines. On November 11 and 12, The Omni Homestead Resort brought together 10 of Virginia’s Norton wines for the first-ever Norton Cup Challenge. A panel of five esteemed judges evaluated the wines in a multi-flight tasting. Ultimately, the 2017 DuCard Estate Norton was named the inaugural winner of The Homestead Norton Cup Challenge. The event was one of the highlights of the resort’s Epicurean Classic presented by Wine & Country Life, a weekend that also marked the first anniversary of The Homestead’s Virginia Wine Experience.
“When I have developed special events in the past like the Epicurean Classic, I’ve always tried to have a back story integrated into the entire event,” said Mark Spadoni, managing director for The Omni Homestead Resort. “As my knowledge of Virginia wines has grown, I realized that the Norton grape has played an integral role in American wine and has created some interesting, complex and high-quality wines. Developing this ‘challenge’ was a logical choice to honor the grape that has been so central to the Virginia wine industry.”
The Norton Cup Challenge was coordinated by Dr. Bruce Zoecklein, Emeritus Professor of Enology at Virginia Tech University and Fred Reno, founder of Thomas Jefferson Wine Company and host of the Fine Wine Confidential podcast. The blind tasting placed wines from Arterra, Casanel Vineyard, Chrysalis Vineyards, DuCard Vineyard, Effingham Manor, Fifty-third Winery, Horton Vineyard, Keswick Vineyard, Paradise Springs Winery, and The Williamsburg Winery in head-to-head flights.
In addition to Zoecklein, the judges were Jay Youmans, Master of Wine (MW), owner of the Capital Wine School and the long-time Competition Director of the Virginia Governor’s Cup; Frank Morgan, wine columnist and founder of DrinkWhatYouLike.com; Dr. Joy Ting, Exchange Director of the Virginia Winemakers Exchange and recent recipient of the Virginia Wine Person of the Year; and Paul Ting, WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 3 certified and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW).
“I’ve been a part of the wine industry for more than 40 years, but it wasn’t until I moved to Virginia in 2019 that I had my first glass of a Norton wine. Once I discovered the wines produced from this American Heritage grape though, I was hooked. It is my latest passion and when Mark suggested the idea of the Norton Cup Challenge, I was all in,” said Reno. “Working with Bruce was terrific. His expertise and support were indispensable to the success of the event and enabled us to showcase the Norton grape.
Known as Virginia’s grape, Norton is America’s oldest wine grape. Dr. Daniel Norborne Norton introduced the grape in the 1820s and in 1830, the grapes were commercially available and soon thereafter became the dominant wine production in the eastern and midwestern United States. Its popularity was ensured when it was awarded the “best red wine of all nations” at the Vienna World’s Fair of 1873. Norton wines are richly colored with fruity aromas and often paired with red meat, wild game or hearty cheeses.
More than 125 guests participated in the inaugural Epicurean Classic, a two-day experience which paid tribute to the Commonwealth’s award-winning wine industry. An exclusive tasting of the 2022 Governor’s Cup Case, Virginia Chef’s Dinner and Taste of Virginia were among the featured events.
|(L to R): Frank Morgan, Paul Ting, Joy Ting, Jay Youmans|