Saturday night was the 24th annual Norton Vertical Tasting at Stone Hill Winery. It's always a fun night, full of people interested in wine and in having a good time.
This is a 10-year vertical tasting beginning with the most recent harvest, so it ran from 2002 through the new vintage of 2011. After considerable discussion and tasting, guests vote on their favorites, using the Chicago system: Vote early and vote often. So, given that people can vote for more than one wine and that this is, to use the technical phrase, a self-selected group, I thought it might be interesting to find out about some of the highest vote-getters.
In fourth place was the brand new vintage of 2011, what Jon Held called "a sort of nouveau Norton", soft and fruit-forward after the very dry summer last year. A small crop, but clearly one to keep an eye on. Usually these newcomers aren't nearly so interesting.
Third went to the 2002 Norton, which tied for first last year. A big guy at the peak of his power, it took a Double Gold at the International Eastern Wine Competition in New York. It cries out for a large slab of prime rib.
The 2003 was the other 2011 first-place winner, and it placed second this year. Smooth, and almost Pinot Noir-ish, this needs some fine veal to go with, or perhaps lamb.
First place this year, the 2005 is nicely complex with notes of spice and a faint aroma of tobacco. Again, I'm thinking beef with this, although there are some mushroom-y pasta dishes (I'm thinking with little or no tomato) that would also work well.
Interestingly, the year of the Easter freeze, 2007 produced very wine, of course, but what Norton there is, is choice. Complex and serious, it was one of my favorites.
The evening starts with bubbly and hors d'oeuvres in the cellar, goes upstairs to the tasting, and ends with dinner in the winery restaurant. And the dinner this year was perhaps the best I can recall. Next year's date has already been set, April 13.