MOUNTAIN GROVE, MO – News flash from the Missouri Department of Agriculture – the Missouri Wine and Grape Board has declared Norton the wine varietal of the month for January 2013. This rich, full-bodied dry red wine is the king of the all-American wines. Powerful and bold, with dark berry flavors, spicy overtones and oak influence.

Norton is food friendly, best paired with foods of the Midwest: smoked meat, wild game, barbecue and lamb. It also complements dark chocolates, strong cheeses - such as blue and cheddar and spicy seafood like blackened fish. This wine is the perfect accompaniment to a steak dinner or an evening by the fireplace.

The Norton grape, also known as Cynthiana, is the quintessential winter wine. Rich, bold flavors will warm you as you welcome in the New Year. This wine becomes more complex and interesting with time, but don't hesitate to open a bottle right after you buy it. The spicy aromas of the wine are especially inviting on a dark, chilly winter evening. Enjoy Norton over laughs with friends or with a warm blanket and a good book.

In 2003, Norton was declared Missouri's official state grape. It originated around 1830 near Richmond, Va. and made its way to Missouri by way of German immigrants who settled in Hermann, Mo. It is believed to be the oldest grape variety still commercially grown in the U.S. Norton continues to be praised for being a hardy, disease resistant and vigorous vine that can withstand the extreme temperatures of Missouri.

The disease resistance of Norton has made it the core variety in the grape biotechnology program at Missouri State University. Dr. Wenping Qiu and Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang are interested in combining the disease resistance of Norton with popular European/California wine varietals like cabernet sauvignon to produce new wine varieties adapted to our Midwestern climate. Qiu also directs one of the five Grape Clean Plant Centers in the United States, part of the National Clean Plant Network, located at Mountain Grove. "I see the new Norton-based grape varietals that we are working on as a central component in the bright future of our Midwestern grape and wine industry," Qiu said.

Missouri wineries across the state plan to join in on the promotion of this great Missouri wine to boost awareness of the delicious fruit and wines the state has to offer. In fact, the 2011 Norton varietal wine produced by Mountain Grove Cellars at Missouri State University won a Double Gold Medal at the Indy International Wine Competition in 2012. Try a Norton next time you are enjoying Missouri wine country, or pick up a bottle to sip and share during the chilly months of winter.