Thursday, March 8, 2012

Virginia cabernet revisited

A reader asks:

Since Jefferson had imported Filippo Mazzei from Tuscany, his real problem was vinifera-vs-phylloxera, no? Or has Virginia undergone drastic changes in terroir since then? As for the Cab— are we short of cabs or something? What care I for yet another? And we’re fortunate to have two grapes that are American, that are ‘ours’ — Zin, and Norton. Norton’s Virginia-born and –bred, and mostly ignored there. And ignored by wine writers, too, even though they are usually desperate for something to write about. These days all they can think of is Robert Parker and James Suckling.
Bill Marsano

As I understand it Jefferson had several problems. As for phylloxera, everybody has had it at some point, and it has mostly been fixed with new rootstock, etc. Another problem was mildew, and poor drainage since piedmont Virginia sits on clay. As for Norton, it was a so-called French hybrid (the French call them American hybrids) and so not exactly American. My problem with it is the taste and complexity. These can be fine in a well-made, aged Norton, but the grape doesn’t compare well with cabernet to me. That said, a very good one is made by Horton Vineyards of Barboursville, Virginia (which also makes a first-rate viognier).

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