It had been far, far, far too long since we had seen our friends, Reynette and Ralph AhSam, or made our way from Omaha south to Vine Street Cellars in Glenwood, Iowa, but life had caught up with us, and a new house, new jobs, and the birth of our son had cut substantially into our free time. So last night, it was a special pleasure for us to visit our friends and their winery again, to share conversation and ideas, pizza and wine, and stories about life.
A lot had happened in the few years since we once frequented Vine Street Cellars and saw the AhSam family more often. The tasting room was much the same, still immaculately kept and elegant with the grand bar in the middle and the library shelves stacked with wine lining the walls. But much else was brewing. Apple trees, which were but saplings when we last viewed them, were now producing fruit equal to being juiced and turned into cider, and the county jail located next door to the winery had been shut down, only to be purchased by the AhSam’s and gutted in preparation for exciting things to come. We took a brief tour lead by Reynette, and were excited to share in the vision. For our part, we shared stories of our new work, the wine business we’re starting and, of course, our son Titus, who sat happily in a high chair and chewed on a rubber giraffe while we talked. In a similar vein yet a far different stage of life, the AhSam’s son Ramsay had graduated from college at Iowa State, and had returned to manage the family’s vineyards. We look forward to seeing him again soon as well.
Our conversation last night was paired with a bottle of Vine Street’s Norton, a long-time favorite of mine. The state grape of Missouri (where it is often referred to as “Cynthiana”) Norton grows well in the Loess Hills area, which we learned recently became the second AVA in Iowa. A deep purple hue, the nose of VSC Norton is laced in notes of cocoa and black fruits, then transitions to a palate of blueberry and blackberry, with subtle hints of raspberry and leather mingling in behind the more prominent flavors. Full bodied and bone dry from start to finish, it’s one of the best examples of the varietal I’ve ever had. So smooth and easy drinking, yet truly a full-bodied dry red in a region of the country that trends often toward the lighter, sweeter side of viticulture, it’s been one of my favorite midwestern red wines for quite some time now.
I’m fully aware that I have a bias here, given that the wine was made by friends of our family. That said, if you’ve never tried Norton, I insist you start here, and if you have then I think you’ll agree with me that this is an excellent example of what can be done with the varietal. It gets 91 points on my scale with full marks for value, and highly recommended.
Read our review of Vine Street Cellars for American Winery Guide here: https://itheewine.com/2014/06/16/vine-street-cellars-review/
For more insight on Vine Street Cellars, visit our “From Grape to Glass” series, that features VSC as we chronicle the winemaking process. Parts 1-3 available now, with parts 4 on coming this fall!