The Fascinating History Behind America’s Oldest Native Grape: Norton


One of the reasons we love to study the story behind the wine in our glass is because it typically brings together an incredible cast of characters, political agendas, environmental circumstances, and historically significant moments. When aged together, we find the perfect balance of intriguing history and desire to drink a glass of wine. And the story behind America’s oldest native grape, Norton, is no exception.

Norton’s origins go back to one of America’s founding fathers and his attempt to find a grape that could produce a wine similar to the libations produced in the Old World. As you probably know by now, Thomas Jefferson put a lot of effort behind cultivating a wine culture in the new land, but Jefferson was not alone in his pursuits. While Jefferson was never able to fully see the fruits of his efforts, and the emergence of a booming Virginia wine industry that included the cultivation of native US grapes, in the final years of Jefferson’s life a man by the name of Dr. Daniel Norton was experimenting with crossbreeding in his Richmond, VA lab and while working with the Norton vine discovered that it was well suited for growth in Virginia soil. A US wine grape had been discovered!