New Mexican wine and grape growing started long before the first plantings were seen in California. Almost 400 years ago, circa 1629, the first grapevines planted were 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 on American viticulture with its profound influence on sparkling wine.
Gilbert Gruet established Gruet in 1984 when he decided to branch out from his successful Champagne house in Bethon, France, to the U.S. Knowing that Napa land values were expensive, he found the dry soils, high elevations, lack of humidity, and diurnal changes of weather between day and night of New Mexico an ideal place to locate the U.S. division of his winery. Gilbert sent his son Laurent and daughter Nathalie to run the U.S. operations.
Gruet’s first harvest was in 1987, followed by their first vintage in 1989. Gruet opened the winery and tasting room in Albuquerque in 1993. Their tasting room in Santa Fe opened in 2016. Today Laurent is the winemaker creating 18 different sparkling wines, and 13 still wines seen in the Gruet portfolio. Laurent is a self-taught winemaker.
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 sparkling wine base. 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 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 the wine.
The Sparkling Wine
There are many styles of sparkling wine, and with 18 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 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.
I sampled a vertical between 2014, 2012, 2007, and 2003 of the Gilbert Grand Reserve. Named after Gilbert, the founder of Gruet, the two most notable vintages, in my opinion, were 2012, my favorite with its 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 nectar and stone fruit flavors.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gruet makes still wine during my visit. The grapes for Gruet’s still wines are harvested in September.
2018 Chenin Blanc: I found a wine that tastes similar to Chardonnay but with less 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 the 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 of dark fruit, baking spices, and pepper on the finish.
If you are a sparkling wine lover and are visiting Albuquerque or Santa Fe, 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 of making this wine and how each one differs from another.
Albuquerque Tasting Room
8400 Pan American Fwy N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87113
Daily: 11am – 6pm
Santa Fe Tasting Room
210 Don Gaspar Ave
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Daily: 11 am to 7 pm
There are many other wineries worth visiting in New Mexico, especially around the Albuquerque area. Some of the other wineries I enjoyed and worth checking out include Casa Rondeña 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.