Cynthiana grapes (also called Norton)

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Senior Member
Nov 30, 2009
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I'm hoping to plant some grape vines next spring, and I did a lot of online research about my area and what grapes are suitable. One of the vines that is recommended for central KY is Cynthiana. Seems like it's also referred to as Norton, and wikipedia says they are genetically the same. But apparently they grow well here.

Here's the problem. The Cynthiana wines I've tried so far are lacking a bit compared to other wines. I've tried three different brands, all local. While they're not bad, I've always felt that they had a bit of a medicinal taste to them. I'd like to plant something that I like! Maybe I've just had bad ones so far.

So does anyone on here grow cynthiana vines? If so, are you happy with the wine that you end up making?

Or does anyone recommend a different vine? I go to all these wineries just 10 -30 minutes from my house that grow cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, riesling, etc. But my research says they must be a lot of work to grow, and since I have a day job I'd like something that doesn't require constant attention.
While I can't comment on the growing of Cynthiana, I can attest that I have found two local wineries using them. One was not so bad, but not what i expected. The other produced a very nice, dry red.

Hope this helps...
Thanks, that does help, I would also be looking to produce a nice dry red. The three local brands I've had were all dry, but the flavor was not what I would hope for. Maybe I need to try some non-local cynthianas and see what I can find. I've heard arkansas and missouri are using a lot of them right now. In fact, the place I found to buy vines is in arkansas.
I don't know if it's available around where your at but Horton winery in Va. makes a norton wine that has been reviewed and received very good results.

Your right about vitis vinifera grape vines (cab. sauv., cab. franc, chardonnay,etc.) they don't have any built in resistance to the disease pressures you have around were you live. It doesn't mean you can't grow them where your at but you would need to give them more attention then the native types like norton, or concords. It doesn't mean that there is a grapevine out there that doesn't need attention and help to give you a good harvest. But some built in resistance is definitely better then none.
Have you talked to the wineries you've tasted at if they are growing their own grapes or not? If so bend their ear about their experience in growing the different varieties around by you. Most wineries I've been to love to talk about their vineyards with a small time grower.
I did speak to someone at one winery where they are growing cabernet and riesling, and they said the amount of effort they put in to keep them healthy is very high, and even then sometimes they end up buying grapes to either supplement or replace their harvest. This year's riesling, for example, they replaced because we had a very wet summer and the harvest was large but not right for wine apparently.

This winery grows cynthiana as well, but they currently do not make any wine with it, I don't know if they are still experimenting or if they just planted. I need to ask next time I go back. If this particular winery made one, I imagine it would be as good as I could expect since I love most of their other wines.

I'll have to check out some non-local cynthianas, but I may have to order them online and have them shipped to family in ohio! (damn ky wine shipping laws).
It might be that they are just getting them established. You need to get vines growing well before pushing them into producing grapes for your own use. 3 years if they are good and vigorous vines, usually 4 years for most vine types though.

And yes you are right about this years growing season. Most places in the midwest out to the east coast had very wet and very cool conditons along with a shorter then normal growing season. Not good for quality wine making and increased disease pressures on the vines too.
I have heard a lot of people diss Norton/Cynthiana wines but I have had some very good wines. I bought some at a winery in the Gatlinburg TN area 3-4 years ago that was absolutely fantastic. One thing to remember though, just because you can grow the grape doesn't mean it will make a good wine. Numerous factors determine if a grape is top quality for wine. Weather, soil conditions etc factor the grapes Brix, acidity, etc. Remember, it is a combination of the quality of the fruit and the winemakers fermentation skills that make a good wine. Not just that you can grow the grape. You can be the best winemaker in the world but if you have sub par fruit it really don't make a difference.
That's true, and the main reason I'm doing the research first. My soil is pretty good I think, although I'm no expert. It's well drained anyways, but I don't know if it has all the required nutrients, etc for grapes. But in the end, it's all I have! I definitely do not want to grow bad cabernet sauvignon just to say I grow cabernet though.

These are my main sources for cynthiana:

and for those interested in growing grapes in ky:

The cynthiana stands out on this page, listed as very hardy, and "for wine production". I also think the Chancellor or De Chaunac looks interesting.

I could actually grow a couple of types, that would hedge my bets. I have 5 acres, although neighborhood restrictions would probably limit me to 10 or so vines (before the HOA sends their goons out).
i've had many nortons and cynthiana wines. it does seem the nortons could use more age and seem to be more full-bodied. IMO, the wineries near me charge too much for them though.

we have concords and possibly norton/cynthiana's growing wild on our property. i was told that the land used to be a grower for the wineries.