Hermann, Missouri, is home to Stone Hill Winery, once the second-largest winery in the country. It’s also home to Dennis Horton. He was born there in 1945 and grew up hearing about the official grape of the State of Missouri, the Norton. As an adult, Horton developed a passion for winemaking and kept vines in his backyard. In 1977 he and his wife, Sharon, found themselves in Virginia, where the Norton grape was first cultivated. Twelve years later, they decided to take their hobby to the next level: they started a vineyard. The Hortons devoted the bulk of their acreage to Norton vines, with cuttings purchased from Dennis’s hometown winery, Stone Hill. Today, Horton Vineyards is credited with the resurgence of the Norton grape in Virginia. From our 2008 oral history interview with Horton:
There’s not many states that have a native winemaking grape [like the Norton grape]. And I thought it would behoove the marketing end of the stick to be able to deal with a grape that came from Virginia, made in Virginia, and produces a nice bottle of red wine. And it proved to be successful.The Hortons also pioneered the plantation of Viognier in the region. But Dennis Horton is one part visionary, one part businessman. In addition to his celebration of native, as well as European varietals, Horton produces nine different fruit wines to cater to sweeter Southern palates.
Visit our Wine in the South oral history project to learn more about the Norton grape, hear stories about the South's native Muscadine, and even hear tell of blueberry wine made by the nephew of Davie County, North Carolina's biggest bootlegger.