Norton: Renown since Colonial times, Norton stands alone among American grapes for producing a dry, barrel aged red wine in the finest European tradition. It is also America’s most unusual wine grape in that it is the only high-quality red wine grape grown in America that is a cross between a European wine grape and a native American grape. Norton (a.k.a. Virginia Seedling) is highly particular when it comes to soil and climate and grows well only in a narrow band stretching from Virginia through Illinois and Missouri (where it has been declared the official “State Grape”.) Mary Michelle’s planting of Norton, at the winery in Carrollton, defines the northernmost range of the grape which allows for an extended “hang time” during the cooler weeks of September and October.
Chardonel: All Chardonel vines in the world are descended from one
single Chardonnay seed planted in 1946 by Dr. John Einset in Geneva, New York. When well made, the wine from Chardonel is virtually identical to that of Chardonnay. The primary advantage of Chardonel is that it is more cold resistant than its parent and can suffer winter temperature that are ten to fifteen degrees lower. This is important because almost all grapes make their most expressive wines in the northernmost reaches of their growing zone. Carrollton is about as far north as Chardonel can ripen its crop and still not be killed back by subzero temperatures.
Vidal Blanc: Developed in the Cognac region of France, Vidal is a cross between Trebbiano and Rayon d’ Or. It ripens quite slowly and has a thick, tough skin which allows it to hang on the vine into early winter where it can be harvested to make “Ice Wine”. The first winemaker at Mary Michelle was the first person in America to make and sell an Icewine in 1976. Since then this style of wine has caught on, especially in Canada, and Icewines regularly win some of the highest awards in national and international contests. Mary Michelle sold its first Icewine in 2006.
St. Vincent: Named after the patron saint of Cote d'Or in the Burgundy region of France, St. Vincent can make a wine similar to an Italian Chianti with cherry and citrus flavors and a long and complex aftertaste. St. Vincent can also make an excellent sparkling rosé. The St Vincent plant was discovered as a chance seedling in Missouri in 1973 and is believed to be a cross between Pinot Noir and Chambourcin, an old French Hybrid from the late 1800s growing in a MO vineyard where both grapes were growing. This grape grows very well in the sandy soils of Central IL and the grapes look like the fruit of Pinot Noir. It makes and excellent light wine with flavors similar to Pinot Noir.