Wine: Norton and me
By The Food Section
"Whatever you do, don't get any of this on you," Jennifer McCloud said as she withdrew a turkey baster from the barrel. Most winery owners would have used a pipette, the slender glass tube used for extracting wine from a barrel. But her casual improvisation made the action more intimate and relaxed -- a gesture among friends rather than new acquaintances. She squeezed the bulb and squirted inky, purple liquid into my glass. The wine's color was incredibly dark, even for a young barrel sample. Clearly it would make a stain no amount of baking soda or salt could remove.
This was my first visit to Chrysalis Vineyards in Loudoun County, in the late summer of 2001, and McCloud was preaching the gospel of Norton. It was not my first taste of Virginia's own grape, and I admitted to her that I was skeptical. I didn't care for Norton's in-your-face attack or the strong flavor called foxiness that betrayed its native heritage, I said. She argued forcefully that Norton was best suited to establish Virginia's reputation as a wine region, because it was created here and built to thrive in Virginia's tricky humid climate.