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Gruet Winery – A Regional Wine Rockstar!

By most accounts, Champagne is the center of the bubbly world.  However, I’m not sure the US has a ‘clear’ (if there is such a thing) nucleus for sparkling wine.  Though I am very fond of the Schramsberg sparkling wines from California, and the bubbly from Claude Thibault in Virginia (see previous VA sparkling wine post here), I recently had the chance to visit a state that could make a run for top US sparkling wine production – New Mexico.  Yes, that Southeastern state bordered by Arizona on the west, Colorado on the north, Texas on the east, and Mexico to the south.

More specifically, Gruet Winery based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

During a recent visit to Albuquerque, I had the opportunity to visit this gem of the Southwest.  Gruet was founded in the early 1980’s, with their first harvest in 1987 and subsequent inaugural release in 1989.  Today Gruet has 700 acres under vine located about 150 miles south of Albuquerque near Truth or Consequences at an elevation of about 4,000 foot.  Gruet currently produces about 130,000 cases annually all from New Mexico fruit.

Riddling machine holding 500 bottles of Gruet Brut

Riddling machines as far as the eye can see... (or, a lot of them!)

Gruet’s current sparkling lineup includes nine different wines – six non-vintages (Sauvage, Brut, Blanc de Noirs, Rose, Extra Dry and Demi-Sec) and three vintage wines (2006 Blancs de Blanc, 2003 Grand Rose, and 2001 Grande Reserve).  During the visit, our host for the afternoon, Shannyn, graciously opened a couple of sparklers and still wines not normally on the tasting menu.  A few of the most notable include:

Sauvage, $17 – This is Gruet’s newest release.  With no dosage, this is the driest of Gruet’s sparkling wines.   Although I like very dry sparkling wine, I wasn’t too fond of this one.  Although I didn’t include a bottle of Sauvage in my order, I wish now that I had so I could have tried this one again.  Tasting notes – basic, green apple, with hints of lemon. $17

Brut, $13.75 – Chardonnay 75%, Pinot Noir 25%. Gruet’s flagship sparkling wine. Lively nose, green apple, nice yeast components, lemon/lime candy, refreshing. Excellent QPR!

Blanc de Noirs, $13.75 – Pinot Noir 75%, Chardonnay 25%.   Great mousse, rose petal and berries throughout.  Wish there were more sparkling wines like this at this price point.  Made in the Methode Champenoise style.

Sparkling Rose, $13.99 – A nice summer sipper.  Strawberry, watermelon. Refreshing.

2007 Blanc de Blanc, $25 – 100% Chardonnay.  Wow!  Pear, pear, pear with yeast, mineral, and green apple components. Bright, refreshing.  Excellent.  Would love to put this in a blind tasting with other US sparkling wines.

2003 Grand Rose, $30 – Sexy. The Natalie Portman of sparkling wine.  Bright salmon color. Cherry Garcia ice cream complemented by fresh strawberry and watermelon candy.  At the high end of my price scale, but worth it.  Would be perfect on a hot summer evening on the deck with friends.

2001 Grande Reserve, $42 – Only 600 cases produced.  Gruet’s premier offering. Holy US sparkling wine Batman – damn good. Made from still wines that are fermented and aged in French oak barrels for one year, followed by seven years in bottle.  Green apples and lemon cream pie meets toasted almonds.

Not only is Gruet making serious sparkling wine, they are also producing still wines from New Mexico grapes – including a Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir.

When I first heard the words Pinot Noir and New Mexico used in the same sentence, I was skeptical.  Shannyn setup a vertical of the 2006, 2007, 2008 and Barrel Select Pinots for me to taste, and was pleasantly surprised by each of them.  Although I am a huge advocate of the wines of my home state of Virginia, I must concede that I prefer the Pinots from Gruet more than the Pinots I’ve had from Virginia. In my personal opinion, Willamette Valley and Anderson Valley are still ‘the’ places for US Pinot, but I was impressed (surprised) by the purity, freshness, and varietal correctness of Gruet’s pinots.

If you are ever in the Albuquerque area, I highly recommend a visit to the Gruet tasting room.  If you can’t make it to Albuquerque, look for one of Gruet’s sparkling wines in your local wine shop.  Gruet is yet another testament to the growing quality of the regional wine movement in the US!

Thanks to the Tyler for the initial contact and Shannyn for sharing her time and Gruet knowledge with me!

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