Izit Groo-et or Groo-ay?Regina the tasting room hostess gets this question all the time. Yet she remains warm, composed and friendly. The name is Gruet! But how are the wines?
The Grew-ae tasting room fronts the large winemaking and storage house right off the I25 north of ABQ. The Gruet family bought and planted 300 acres near Truth Or Consequences – TRC to locals – in 1988 which is 150 miles on a straight line south from I’ll Be Quirky.Regina is in charge and knows everything tBoW needs to know about Gruet wines. All grapes on estate are hand harvested. Drip irrigation from nearby lake which is unusual since New Mexico is incredibly-pick-your-nose-til-it-bleeds dry. Bug killing chemicals, a natural wine no-no, not necessary at New Mexico elevations 3,000 feet and higher. TRC is 4300. Here is what we knew and did not know before we arrived. Wines reviewed in order of tasting.
What we knew: Gruet makes really nice sparkling wine.
What we learned: There is a French line as well under the Paul Laurent and Gruet et fils labels.
What we knew: The sparklers are priced very reasonably and deliver exceptional value.
What we learned: There are many more sparklers beyond the windely known labels along with still wines, some of which can be found in stores.
What we knew: You can find the Blanc de Noirs and Blancs de Blancs in BevMo and Total Yawn which gives snobs like ourselves a reason to visit.
What we learned: Gruet makes vintage sparklers and vintage still wines! These are made in small production and are “estate” juice. There is no such designation in New Mexico apparently or at least not at Gruet. The NV sparklers “potentially use juice from other states that “could include” California and Washington. The exact proportions are not released.
Let’s talk about tasting the Gruet lineup. Wine prices are winery recommended. As with every winery pricing at any winery is always higher and in-store pricing is heavily discounted; e.g., Bev Mo offers the the Brut Rosé for $16. Many of the wines reviewed are only available at the winery or through the Gruet Wine Club (another avenue to discounted pricing). All wines are NV unless noted. All wines are low alcohol. This is good.
Gruet Blanc de Blanc Sauvage $30: Their priciest wine, available only in restaurants and premium wine stores. 100% Chardonnay. Apples. Good acid. Lush.
Gruet Brut Rosé $25: 100% Pinot Noir. Delicious wine. If you served this at a wedding everyone would be very happy. Balanced with some power but mostly seductive.
Gruet 25th Anniversary Blanc de Blanc $25: Yeasty nose, richer than preceding wines. Very rich. Full flavors. Wish we knew how much juice was coming from West Coast.
2007 Gruet Grand Rosé $33: 90% Chardonnay, balance Pinot Noir. Estate juice. Nose and flavors impart immediately different character than other wines which is confirmed for each estate wine, as we learned. Our first impression is minty.
2010 Blanc de Blanc $17: Aged three years. 100% Chardonnay. Flavors like hard candy. Again, the terroir distinction of TRC grapes puts us in the popcorn machine
2005 Gilbert Gruet Gran Reserve $43: Whoa. Old World nose that is markedly different, a step up, from preceding wines. As tBoW struggles to capture this savor Mrs. tBoW pipes in with figs, prunes… Regina turns over all the cards and chimes in: “Champagne drinkers like this Old World nose and style. For me there is caramel, honeysuckle but mostly this is the smell of the desert after rain, dusty, like a sweet bleu cheese.” tBoW does not recall being in the desert after rain unless it was on a golf course in Palm Springs. He comes up with Maytag Blue, the softer domestic bleu cheese. He resists the urge to ask Regina how many Hillerman books she has read because her prose is right there with the iconic New Mexico writer and how he describes the wonder of the New Mexico high desert winds, smells and sights.
Following the 6 sparkler lineup we moved onto the four still wines which are all estate. We were most impressed with the Pinot Noirs. All the estate wines are small production; a few hundred cases available to Club Members.
2009 Gruet Pinot Noir $24: There it is; the distinctive Gruet estate nose. “That is wet desert sage.” We get rhubarb, sweet. We really like the airy weight of the wine and the balance. How do these age? This one is 4.5 years old. It is soft, in harmony. Definitely New World without being jammy, a quality shown by many New World PNs.
2010 Gruet Pinot Noir $24: More ripe than the 2009 so we expect these will taste fine anytime within 6 years. Same character as 2009, just more ripe and showing more grip. We have tBoW tasting team members who search high and low for the ideal U20 Pinot Noir. Here it is… but you gotta come to ABQ.
Good job on the Pinot Noir wines! Gruet thinks the sparklers ARE the best price to quality ratio in any sparkler anywhere. Hard to argue.
“Rain hung over the northeast slopes of Black Mesa like a wall. The smell of it mixed with the smell of dust. It was heady perfume – the smell of good grazing, easy water, heavy crops of piñon nuts. The smell of good times, the smell of Sky Father blessing Mother Earth”. “Skinwalkers” by Tony Hillerman.
What’s it like to get caught in a rainstorm in the Four Corners? Look at the fury of the quick wash that made this road impassable. These folks are joking but their hearts are pounding.