Thousands of grapes are used to make wine. Some are megafamous, but most are obscure and many are endangered. It takes a passionate vintner to shepherd these varieties into the limelight. And that is the mission of the Virginia vintner who relates the story of one of these grapes in "Norton, the Most American Grape that You've Almost Never Heard Of," which has won the 2014 Wine Spectator Video Contest.
The story starts in mid-April, when Marina Cracchiolo missed her bus. Late for a meeting, she ended up sharing a cab with a Frenchman named Pierre Marcelin, who had recently moved to D.C. and had missed the same bus. They exchanged phone numbers and, two days later, shared a bottle of wine on their first date. Wine quickly became a theme for the new couple; they enjoy it and Marcelin is a brand ambassador for Maison Riviere, a wine company in Bordeaux's St.-Emilion.
In August, Marcelin came across the Norton grape while researching Virginia’s wine industry and Cracchiolo, inspired to learn more about wine, was thumbing through Wine Spectator and saw a notice about the annual video contest. Cracchiolo said, “At that point, we had already decided to collaborate on a video and do a local shoot. Originally, the video was intended to be for fun to keep my video skills fresh.” (A recent graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she is now a CNN news assistant).
Marcelin knew about French varieties, but Norton? Not so much. Cracchiolo knew a fair amount about hard news journalism and a little about video, but little about wine. But, obviously, it’s a good match.
Within a week or so, they found themselves in Middleburg, Va., interviewing Jenny McCloud, a tech millionaire turned vintner and owner of Chrysalis Vineyards, which includes the largest Norton vineyard in the world. McCloud’s interview is informative, engaging and persuasive. Cracchiolo and Marcelin have produced a video that blends journalism, storytelling and wine education. By the end, the viewer is longing for a taste of Norton wine.
As the winners of the video contest, Cracchiolo and Marcelin have earned a pair of tickets to the 2014 Wine Spectator Wine Experience in New York, where their video will be screened for the event’s thousand attendees.
Videos for this year’s contest came from across the United States, from Napa Valley to Long Island, and from around the world, including established wine areas as Tuscany, Bordeaux and Chile. "I'm a Winery Dog," which was "shot, edited and howled" by John Beck in California, came in a very close second. Tied at third place are "Tips to Save Water," by Marc Mondavi, and "The Wine Dude," by Joel Peterson (winner of the contest in 2010 with “Wine Is…”). Rounding out the finalists, who have each won a pair of tickets to a Wine Spectator Grand Tasting or Grand Tour, are "I am a Vineyard Pest," by three-time finalist Conner Taylor; "Chilean Paìs, a Way of Life," from Concha y Toro; "Vintage," by Colin West; "Romance and the Wine Novice," by three-time finalist Trev Howard; and, last but not least, "College Wine and Food Challenge," by Jim Morrison and Matt Deurr.
Watch "Norton," "I'm a Winery Dog," and all the Finalists as well as the Honorable Mentions at WineSpectator.com/videocontest2014. And start thinking about your entry to Wine Spectator’s 2015 Video Contest (submissions will be due in early September 2015).