A local winery made good earlier this week when it was one of seven selected by Joe Bastianich, son of Italian-American superchef Lidia Bastianich and restaurant partner of Mario Batali, to appear in a Today show segment.
Joe knows more than a little about wine, and not just from drinking copious amounts with Mario. He's co-author of Vino Italiano and the Vino Italiano Buying Guide and has put in more than a decade as a wine producer, founding three wineries -- two in Italy and one in Argentina.
Bastianich picked Augusta Winery's 2007 Estate-Bottled Norton for co-hosts Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales to sample. When they got to Missouri's entrant, Morales said she'd been to Missouri wine country before and found it "excellent."
Unfortunately, apart from old Al Roker interjecting himself into the segment with a Honeymooners "Norton!" bit, little was said about either Missouri or the Augusta entry. Instead Bastianich went off on a tangent about how norton is a vitis vinifera grape -- i.e., descended from that species, which is native to parts of Europe and southwestern Asia.
And that's not so!
Norton's ancestry is a bit unclear, but it's mainly descended from vitis aestivalis. Why does that matter? Well, in a segment emphasizing drinking local wines, norton is unique in that it is an American varietal made from grapes native to these shores (plus a dash of immigrant vines from Europe), rather than crafted purely from imported varieties or intentional hybrids bred to eliminate undesirable traits in native grapes. (Anal retentives and insomniacs may want to download and peruse this pdf for more detail.)
Gut Check has tried to pick up a bottle of this multi-award-winning wine this week, but so far to no avail. The Schnucks at Ladue Crossing did have a spot for it on the shelf, but it was vacant. Whether that was due to the Today show cameo or the fact that it was on sale this week for $11.49 remains a mystery.
If we're able to track it down, we'll pop one and update this post.
Meantime here's a link to the Today clip. Click the pic; Augusta makes its appearance about 2:30 in:
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