January 05 • Soil & Minerals
Grape growing in Albuquerque, New Mexico
By Cori Solomon
Grape growing in New Mexico started long before the first plantings were seen in California. Almost 400 years ago, circa 1629, the first grapevines were planted along the Rio Grande River by Monks, who brought vines from Spain. One might say the birth of American viticulture started in New Mexico. One long-standing winery in New Mexico is Gruet. Like their predecessors, this winery has imprinted itself on American viticulture with its profound influence on sparkling wine.
Gruet was established in 1984 when Gilbert Gruet decided to branch out from his successful Champagne house in Bethon, France, to the US. Knowing that Napa land values were expensive, he found the dry soils of New Mexico, high elevations, lack of humidity, and the diurnal changes of weather between day and night an ideal place to locate the US division of his winery. Gilbert sent his son Laurent and daughter Nathalie to run the US operations.
Gruet’s first harvest was in 1987, and the first vintage occurred in 1989. Today Laurent and Nathalie’s son Sofian Himeur are the winemakers that create the 19 different sparkling wines, and six still wines in the Gruet portfolio. Both Laurent and Sofian are self-taught winemakers.
Gruet utilizes grapes from three vineyards. All three have sandy loam soils. The three vineyards are Luna Rossa Vineyard, where 300 acres are planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Gruet Vineyard, which has 75 acres planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and The Pueblo of Santa Ana with 30 planted acres that include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
Gruet’s Sparkling Wine Process
Sparkling wine at Gruet is created using the Traditional Methode Champenoise. Harvesting of grapes for their sparkling wine occurs in July. For those unfamiliar, this entails the winemaker after harvesting the grapes to create a low alcohol still wine, which becomes the base of the sparkling wine. Once bottled, yeast and sugar are added to the wine, and the wine is capped. The wine then ages in the bottle on the lees, thus creating a second fermentation. This process usually takes about thirty days.
Next, Gruet riddles the wine, a turning process where they turn bottles while sitting at an angle with the top of the bottle set downward. This process brings the lees to the head of the bottle. The bottles are then disgorged to remove the lees. After, Gruet tops off the wine with a dosage if desired. The dosage can add some sweetness to the wine. Finally, the wine is resealed and stored until the winemaker determines the date to release of the wine.
The Sparkling Wine
There are many styles of sparkling wine, and with 19 sparklers in the Gruet portfolio, one can get a good sense of the difference. It is amazing to observe and taste differences in the sparkling wine, which ranges between Brut, dry, Rosé, semi-dry, and sweet.
Savage is Gruet’s line of sparkling wines that do not utilize dosage. In the Rosé, it is 100% Pinot Noir and the Blanc de Blanc is 100% Chardonnay.
Gruet Brut is composed of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir. This wine is Gruet’s number one seller.
Gruet Blanc de Noir was my favorite. It combines Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with 25% Chardonnay. For me, this wine had more balance and smoothness, making a more easy-drinking sparkler that lends itself to all sorts of food.
Vintage Sparkling Wine
Cuvee Danielle Grand Rosé 2014 consists of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir but what makes this sparkling wine different is the wine starts with just Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir is added as the dosage. Find a very creamy sparkling wine with flavors of cherry. I also sampled the 2003 vintage of this Rosé
With the Gilbert Grand Reserve, we sampled a vertical between the years 2014, 2012, and 2007 and 2003. Named after Gilbert, the founder of Gruet, the two most notable vintages, in my opinion, were 2012, my favorite with it smooth even balance of all things sparkling. Also, 2003, with its apricot flavors, reminded me of the Appassimento method used for drying harvested grapes in Italy.
Sweet Sparkling Wine
For those looking for a sweet sparkler as a dessert wine, the Doux is a sweet version of Gruet’s Sparkling wine with flavors of nectar and stone fruit.
I did not expect to find Gruet making still wine, and it discovered a pleasant surprise. The grapes for Gruet’s still wines are harvested in September.
2018 Chenin Blanc: I found a wine that almost tastes like Chardonnay but not as much fruit. This wine is very dry.
2017 Chardonnay: The wine ages eight months in new French oak. I would describe the wine as old world meets new world wine.
2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir: This is a very light Rosé with lots of acidity.
2018 Rosé of Pinot Meunier: This wine was my favorite of the still wines. I called it an off white wine. The wine is fruity with flavors of fresh fruit.
Pinot Noir: The style is light and more earth driven than fruity. The wine is another example of the new world meets old world.
2014 Red Blend: This wine is Gruet’s homage to Bordeaux. The wine combines Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. I found flavors dark fruit, baking spices, and pepper on the finish.
If you are a sparkling wine lover and are visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico, a stop at Gruet is a must because you will be able to sample so many styles of sparkling wine in one sitting. I learned so much about the process for making this wine and how each one differs from another.
There are many other wineries worth visiting in New Mexico, especially around the Albuquerque area. Some of the other wineries to check out include Casa Rondena and Sheehan.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted visit and wine tasting at Gruet.
While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure. Links: Gruet: https://gruetwinery.com
Visit Albuquerque: https://www.visitalbuquerque.org
Cori Solomon/ The Written Palette: https://writtenpalette.com
15 Feb 2020
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Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂
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