The Best of New Mexico Wine!

stripers4WEB wine grapes value value value u20 sparkling pinot noir new mexico chardonnay 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 Gruet2WEB wine grapes value value value u20 sparkling pinot noir new mexico chardonnay

ace host

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. Gruet sparklersCROPWEB wine grapes value value value u20 sparkling pinot noir new mexico chardonnay 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

patriot city sign 50 offCROP wine grapes value value value u20 sparkling pinot noir new mexico chardonnay

most patriotic city in US

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? Gruet pinotsWEB wine grapes value value value u20 sparkling pinot noir new mexico chardonnay 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.

Kicking It with Kokopelli

IndianCountryroadWEB wine grapes u20 sparkling santa barbara county pinot noir piemonte northern italy nebbiolo chardonnay champagne Kokepelli plays flute in the windy rock washes near the Four Corners. Mr. and Mrs. tBoW wonder if the powerful Navajo deity can make it rain wine, or will they wait another week before tasting the sacrament of their ancestors. On a road trip in the Navajo Nation where the state lines that separate Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico have no meaning; where the Navajo Nation is the largest among all other Indian nations; and the Navajo Nation is dry. Not that we would expect to find wines similar to those reviewed below; at least not until we hit Santa Fe, the outpost of cultures rooted in art, native traditions and Southwestern themed interior decorators.

Tony Hillerman’s Navajo crime fictions are a terrific contrivance for sinking one’s mind into the mysterious cultures of North America’s aboriginal peoples. There are 140,000 Navajos living on reservations in their home country northwest of Albuquerque, all throughout and within the high desert expanse known as the Four Corners. chassey champWEB wine grapes u20 sparkling santa barbara county pinot noir piemonte northern italy nebbiolo chardonnay champagne Colossal landscapes dwarf everything human so it has to be magic. A drive through Monument Valley is medicine for eternity.

Wines reviewed somehow reminded us of the land and people of this region in which we have been auto-immersed.

NV Guy de Chassey Brut Carte Noire $50: Non-vintage blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay packs tight bubbles, high acid flavors without being astringent. The sparkler choice for greeting guests with bright eyes and a brisk airiness. We prefer Pinot-based champagne. Somewhat challenging like the first stretch of road that leads down into Monument Valley… but much friendlier! 12%

cowan roseWEB wine grapes u20 sparkling santa barbara county pinot noir piemonte northern italy nebbiolo chardonnay champagne 2012 Cowan Cellars North Coast Rosé $18: Cowan makes natural wines sourced throughout the state. This wine is saignée from several premium Pinot Noir producers. Clever fella. For a higher alcohol wine this does not give off any alcohol burn.MerckButte 2WEB wine grapes u20 sparkling santa barbara county pinot noir piemonte northern italy nebbiolo chardonnay champagne In fact, the wine also shows high acid and lean flavors, balanced and appealing. Pretty special like the Merrick Butte at sunset. U20 winner. 13.9%

garganelaWEB wine grapes u20 sparkling santa barbara county pinot noir piemonte northern italy nebbiolo chardonnay champagne 2012 Buglioni Il Disperato Bianco delle Venezie IGT $20: Italian natural wine made from a varietal – Garanega – that commonly goes into dessert style wines. From the Veneto, middle weight, recommended by

cubeWEB1 wine grapes u20 sparkling santa barbara county pinot noir piemonte northern italy nebbiolo chardonnay champagne

not any Neb

the somm at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica [ed. we would return] who sold it as a fleshier Vermentino. Worked! This is like seeing The Cube; each time you look, it is more distinctive [ed. it's sitting on some kind of stand?]. A surprise pleasure. 12.5%

RPPgrumelloo 06WEB wine grapes u20 sparkling santa barbara county pinot noir piemonte northern italy nebbiolo chardonnay champagne 2006 Valtellina Superioire Grumello Riserva ‘Rocca de Piro,’ Ar.Pe.Pe. $45: I guess every Piemonte Nebbiolo needs at least 30 minutes to open. This beautiful ruby red wine with the raspberry nose was so muted when the cork was pulled we thought it was too delicate for the steak strips. Rare and unusual to see this wine. Much like it is rare and unusual and special to hear Kokopelli the Watersprinkler’s flute. This rare Grumello delivers Nebbiolo of the most luscious order. The definition of elegant. Very satisfying. If you love Old World Nebbiolo this is worth the dough; like Monument Valley is worth the 6 hour ride from Albuquerque. 13%

“His humpbacked figure supported by stick legs. Stick arms hold a straight line to his tiny round head, making him seem to be playing a clarinet. The flute might be pointed down or ahead. “A Thief of Time” by Tony Hillerman.

Tasting the Unknown Known & the Serious Unserious

lakeville vydWEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux

in the Petaluma Wind Gap

Sometimes things look better from a distance; for example, “industry wine tastings.” We know wine biz doods who do these tastings all the time. Bloggers is different. We are wine industry detritus, effusion, effluence. We had to detail our credentials so we could attend this tasting held in the former Campanille now the newer Republiqué. No problem.

We have not been back to Campanile since we bumped into Liz Taylor and sat next to Hal Linden when this space was the über glam place to dine. liz movei starWEB1 wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux OK, Linden was a popular and funny TV star but Liz… Hollywood royalty.

Return To Terroir bills themselves as “wine importer and wine educators” committed to natural wines and showcasing new young winemakers. But wine is a business and the unwritten goal is to entice brokers and dining room buyers to grab a case or more at deeply discounted wholesale prices. Hot trend plus cheap buys will motivate plenty of biz pros. That gave the tBoW tasting team plenty ’nuff to chew on. Here is what we found and liked.

Prices are suggested/estimated retail.

tBoW crony Jim Ruxin was finishing his early round. He quickly steered us to the international sparklers and white wines where we found some delightful tastes. When the afternoon’s sloshing and spitting and chatting was over, Ruxin was right. The whites showed best.

bullechampnvWEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux NV Charles Dufour Bulle de Comptoir #2 Champagne Extra Brut $34: 55% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonay, 10% Pinot Blanc. This is the real stuff. No sulfur, native yeast only, organic cane sugar, 28 y.o. winemaker who looks like Jean Paul Belmondo and his wife is Brigitte Bardot’s granddaughter [ed. merde]. “Funky” say Kris B and Ruxin. Lean, bright acidity. As Sirene Virbila says “farmer fizz.” No. We did not see her although a couple non-survivors from the once star-studded LA Times food and wine critics pool were spotted. This wine was a great start that established the credibility of returntoterroir the wine business committed to sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines and the new wave of young natural winemakers.

riffaultquart09WEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux 2011 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blanc “Les Quarterons” $19: Yung Taster – “this wine has more energy.” tBoW “what is that?” Wine Pro – “a wine that has energy is a nervy wine.” And I cannot make it any more clear. Have you ever had a shiver run up your spine? Like reading these notes? 12%

riffaultakam09WEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux 2009 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blance “Akmenine” $24: YT says Alice Feiring describes the Riffault wines as becoming more like Sauvignon Blanc with age. He must have said something else as that does not make sense. The team liked both Sauvignon Blanc wines. Mr. Riffault is 26 y.o. He “refuses to sacrifice quality for principle.” [ed. the R2T notes actually wrote "principal" which tBoW readers will note in this case is not the correct form of the word . tBoW is available as final editor on tasting notes.] Yeh. I know. 12%

felinepicpoulWEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux 2012 Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet $unk: Ligurian white wines are usually harmless. This 100% Picpoul was acidic, fresh, bright. Served cold it showed all its charm. Price unknown but we will bet it goes well under $20. Ka-Ching. 12%

hauteselve12WEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux 2012 Chatueau Haut Selve Graves Blanc $17: Showing a light touch. White Bordeaux wines often get far less attention than the upper crust reds. Solid winemaking. Refreshing with some pedigree. 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Gris. Sauv Gris? The estate was wiped out by phylloxera in the 19th century, purchased and replanted in 1993. First new winery built in Graves in 20th century blah blah. We liked this wine and would probably buy it. 13%

ansonica12WEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux 2012 Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario $6: Steal of the tasting. This is beyond cheap. What a terrific wedding or graduation wine. 90% Ansonico and 10% Vermentino. We taste the Vermentino and like it. Top heavy. The flavors sit atop the fleshy body. High hat. More body than the Ligurian or a Verdejo. Appealing summer sipper [ed. more like slugger]

Tasting Interlude: YT (Yung Taster) and WP (Wine Pro) tried to force two Lambrusci on tBoW. Everyone has their own peccadillos. YT urged “This is seriously unserious wine.” [ed. doesn''t that make Lambrusco the Unknown Known of wine?]

One red impressed tBoW.

tire pe diemWEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux 2012 Chateau Tire Pe Diem $10: 100% Merlot certified 100% organic in 2011 after purchasing the run down winery in 1997. They are part of a winemaker group called “containssulfitesbutnottoomuch.” We would by this on the story alone BUT the wine is also lovely. Grown on limestone and clay with native yeasts in cement tanks. No oak. Yay. This wine has energy and is even nervy. U20 and easily my favorite red. Ka Ching. 13%

One new New World winery stood out for three reasons: limited selection, most interesting domestic white wine, and most unlikely wine site – Clear Lake (photo of Lakeville vineyard above).

weichi semillon frontWEB wine grapes vermentino value value value u20 sparkling semillon picpoul merlot la culture ligurian coast languedoc chardonnay bourdeaux 2012 Wei Chi Luchsinger Vineyard Semillon $21: I can explain the fuzzy label photo. Wei Chi refers to Before Completion in the I Ching. Winemaker Ross Hallett commented “no wine is ever completed, right?” This wine is made from 15 y.o. vines at 1300 foot elevation, near Clear Lake, California’s meth capitol. This will be his first release. It is strikingly fresh and impressive in that it is a 100% Semillon. Should have asked if he has tasted the Kalin oxidated version. I Ching? More like Ka Ching. 11.4%

A fun tasting that showed many very interesting wines which fulfilled the R2T advertising. Thank you Jean-B going to bat for a blogger.

Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Eva Marie Saint, Esalen, middle aged hippies… I’m alive!

Red Wine with Fish and Other Blasphemies

snapperWEB wine grapes syrah santa maria santa barbara county rhone pinot noir petit verdot grenache blanc cotes de beaune cabernet franc burgundy

fried for Burgundy

Wine like all institutions has plenty of shibboleths. Red wine with red meat and white wine with white fish. Pinot with salmon. Natural wine poses an entire new set of strictures that at least make more sense than simply red meat and blanche fish. Ask your doctor. Don’t look back something might be gaining on you. Buy low sell high. It is what it is. Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear. Once upon a time in France Jerry Lewis was a comic genius.

tBoW drank a 2005 red Burgundy with a whole fried red snapper at the Santa Monica restaurant Tar & Roses. And all three were very very good: restaurant, fish and wine. Lettuce cut to the chase. We have tasted some nice wines and learned a couple things about ourself.

tortochet05WEB wine grapes syrah santa maria santa barbara county rhone pinot noir petit verdot grenache blanc cotes de beaune cabernet franc burgundy 2005 Domaine Tortochet Gevrey Chambertins 1er Cru Les Champeaux $unk: Complemented the fried fish perfectly. The deep fry removed all the fishy flavors that we associate with snapper. The fish was prepared such that one could pick a biteful cube at a time followed by a tasty sip of French Pinot Noir. The wine was firm at 8 years with restrained – not muted – fruit. Just the way we like it. No tannins to speak of. From the French website we raided: “male, with power, firm tannins, length and lots of structure.” Mais oui! 13%

cornas07WEB wine grapes syrah santa maria santa barbara county rhone pinot noir petit verdot grenache blanc cotes de beaune cabernet franc burgundy 2007 Tardieu-Laurent Cornas Coteaux $42: Has the name, the vineyard, the vintage, all the pedigree. Well made wine with good flavors in harmony. Soft and seductive. But… we realized we are not fans of red Rhone grapes. There are exceptions such as the CORE wines from Orcutt which focus on Mourvedre. We have had most memorable Rhone reds but right now, in this long moment, we would not hurry to purchase any red Syrah wines from the Rhone. Blasphemous. 13%

anacapa04WEB wine grapes syrah santa maria santa barbara county rhone pinot noir petit verdot grenache blanc cotes de beaune cabernet franc burgundy 2004 Rusack Anacapa Santa Barbara County $TAFI: Rusack is an under-the-radar winery for dimwitted wine snobs like tBoW. We think of Rusack and we think of the Wrigleys of which Mrs. Rusack is a member. Hey. Of course we know there are plenty of scions and high-ons and silly wealthy folks in the wine industry. But Wrigley? As in the oldest baseball park in the USA, chewing gum, the Chicago Cubs, and “26 miles across the sea Santa Catalina is waiting for me.” So we are impressed with the name. Now we are unexpectedly impressed with this wine. You know the situation. Good friend pulls the cork on taboo wine – in this case a Cabernet blend. We pinch our mental nose and take a sip of the Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot meritage. We would guess this blend is Merlot dominant with the soft rich fruit, and the absence of Cabernet Sauvignon chocolate and tannins. “Please sir can we have some more” we asked in our best Oliver voice? Picked up by our host at the historic 2005 Santa Barbara Wine Festival held at Santa Barbara’s El Paseo right around this time nine years ago. More blasphemy! 14%

coreGB10WEB wine grapes syrah santa maria santa barbara county rhone pinot noir petit verdot grenache blanc cotes de beaune cabernet franc burgundy 2010 CORE Santa Ynez Valley Grenache Blanc $18: David Corey can’t get any respect. He has been turning top dog wines from well over a decade. He gets the high point reviews. He has a clique of devoted fans who consistently purchase his stuff. Some of the name reviewers visit his Orcutt tasting room and anoint his wines with 90+ points. Yet most wine people in the know [ed. you know who they are?] never heard of this label. This wine was pretty green at first. We applied immediate glass-to-glass aeration. About half a dozen sloshing pours later the fruit was able to collect itself and emerge in a full melon robe of moderate weight. This was lovely. We may have lost our taste for Syrah [ed. you could see it coming] but we remain loyal and hopeful whenever we see white Rhone varietals. If loving New World White Rhone wines is wrong… I don’t wanna be right. Picked up by Largenez at the CORE tasting room on our recent T-day trip. U20 winnah! 14.5%

Going to a hot shot tasting this week. Notes will be taken with the report to follow.

Cures for the Common Cab

medieval doc redCLR1 wine grapes

sick of BIG RED?

Hello. I’m Dr. tBoW. What makes you think you have Cabernetitis?

“My mouth gets puffy and my nose tightens like a crumply hose when I drink the Big Red Cabs. I won’t even consider buying a wine rated less than 90 points. I have Bowie’s Young Americans on my permanent playlist. It’s so rich and thick.”

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