I’m a huge fan of the classic TV show The Honeymooners, and especially of the character Ed Norton. So when a Grapevine reader suggested that I check out the wines of a producer called Norton, the recommendation stuck. And I’m grateful for the tip, because I’ve discovered that Norton wines are as tasty as they are economical.
Although these wines come from the Mendoza region of Argentina, the name Norton doesn’t sound Hispanic'even with the word “bodega” in front. Well, that’s because the gentleman who founded the very first winery in the area was of English ancestry, a fellow named Sir Edmund James Palmer Norton. Planting imported vines from France, Norton founded his Argentine winery in 1895 and passed away in 1944.
Bodega Norton is now owned by Australian entrepreneur Gernot Langes Swarovski and his stepson Michael Halstrick. They work closely with winemaker Jorge Riccitelli and CFO Eugenio Oliveri, and today, Bodega Norton is the No. 1 winery producing fine wines in Argentina.
Bodega Norton makes Euro-style wines like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, most of which are aged and matured in French oak barrels. In Utah, you can find Bodega Norton Malbec, Chardonnay and an interesting wine called Torrontes.
As you’d expect from an Argentinean winery, Bodega Norton makes and sells a lot of Malbec, the most famous grape in Mendoza. Unlike Malbec from Bordeaux, though, Argentinean Malbec has a certain density and richness rarely found in the French varietal. Its hefty structure means that Argentinean Malbec often isn’t blended like it is in France. It’s a terrific wine all on its own. That’s certainly true of Norton Malbec Reserve 2002 ($16.95), with its deep, dark red color and dark pepper, licorice and black fruit (especially plums) flavors to match. This is a well-rounded wine with firm tannins and adequate structure to put away for a while, although it’s perfectly drinkable right now. Norton’s Malbec 2003 has less overall appeal and complexity but for its $9.45 price is still a good bargain.
Norton Chardonnay 2004 ($8.95) is a quite fruity Chardonnay with lots of citrus flavor and typical hints of vanilla. It’s fermented in French oak barrels and spends six months “sur liesâ€'a very well-balanced and harmonious Chardonnay for the price.
But my favorite Bodega Norton wine is one that often gets labeled “weird” or “odd.” It’s a white wine called Torrontes, and I just love the stuff. I also love the price: $7.95. I don’t know much about the Torrontes grape except that it originated in Rioja, Spain, and eventually found its way to Chile and Argentina. As a lover of interesting aromas, I rate Bodega Norton Torrontes 2004 right up there with Chanel No. 5. It’s a stunningly aromatic wine with a virtual bouquet of floral scents and perfumes.
And the flavor of Norton Torrontes is no less appealing. This wine is bursting at the seams with tropical (guava, pineapple) and citrus (pink grapefruit, tangerine) flavors. There’s a hint of Muscat-like sweetness in the wine and you’d think there might even be a splash of GewÃ¼rztraminer involved. But it’s medium-dry with good acidity, which makes this an excellent food wine. As I said, this wine is considered by many lovers of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to be “weird.”
Well, it’s weird and wonderful. To me, it recalls the sweetish tropical flavors of Caymus Conundrum, and at about one-third the price I’ve indeed come to think of it as a poor man’s Conundrum. As with Conundrum, I think Norton Torrontes will pair nicely with seafood, sushi and sashimi. I’ll keep you posted.