Gruet Winery & Tasting Room
6th April 2023
I was eight years old traveling west on Route 66 with my parents on a summer road trip to the New Mexican Cimarron desert, exploring geologic formations that made this part of the United States. I’d sit in the rear seat thinking of observational games to keep my mind occupied, watching swift Roadrunner birds (made famous by the Looney Tunes animators) keeping pace with our four door sedan motoring at 100 kph. This tickled me pink, catching glimpses of that bird thinking it must be a tough catch, and if once caught, not a lot of meat reward on its bones. Seeing the flat arid desert climate around Santa Fe, I realized how beautiful, yet unforgiving the landscape would be for wildlife.
My mother had gone back to University to secure her Bachelor of Science degree. This was our impetus for the trip, and hopefully instilled in me an appreciation for earth sciences and the billions of years of soil erosion by the elements. I adored New Mexico state history and the local Indian tribes who had occupied the land for thousands of years prior.
Wickedly dry, and hot but with refreshing windy weather conditions, I never felt the humid oppression of my Northeast Oklahoma home. We stopped at Santa Fe museums dedicated to the artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
Her magical paintings captured the desert colors, and light reflections. Part of the desert erosion are these natural monolithic outcroppings (Mesa’s) soaring hundreds of meters out of the desert floor. On the New Mexican horizon afforded the higher cooler mountain elevations, ideal for vineyard development, until then not contemplated.
The Gruet family, led by Gilbert Gruet, has been growing grapes in the Champagne region since the early 1950s. An experimental vineyard planted in the ‘70s near Engel, New Mexico, brought a group of French vignerons in 1981 to tour the US Southwest. Mr. Gruet immediately recognized the banner potential for conventionally raised grapes, however, the dry climate, with uniquely low pests and diseases in the vineyards, and the soil impact affecting sparkling wine production all conspired for low chemical intervention winemaking. While not organic, it was far less intensive than vineyards in the Champagne region. His unique perspective developing the Bethon village’s wine co-op (a grape and winery co-operative), utilizing his vineyard and contract negotiation skills to build trusted collaborative business synergies with the N.M. locals.
The New Mexican soil is a compact sandy loam, with sweeping winds through the grapevines eliminating pests, and diseases, and sun drenched luminosity assuring completely ripe Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. This was the initial Gruet planning stage for land surveying and vineyard trellising delineation.
Sparkling wine’s best and worst flavor qualities are made in the vineyard. All sparkling wine viticulturists seek a high acid, low ph grape grown with neutral fruit flavor harmony. The captured wine, and secondary bottle ferments strive only to highlight the wine’s bubbles and round fruit flavors finesse.
The Gruet winery cellar team is sophisticated and modern, wedded to current technological advances to deliver a consistently superior wine. The wine press has universally acknowledged Gruet’s superior quality, having been awarded no fewer than fifty international and domestic commendations over the previous 30 vintages!
1989 was the first Gruet (vintage 1987) commercial release. The winery quickly established a distribution network on both coasts, and has become a winery destination renowned for International Balloon Fiestas, and more recently fine culinary traditions with Gruet American wine partnerships in Washington, Oregon, and California vineyards.
My personal experience is with the three Gruet core portfolio sparkling wines below:
Gruet NV Brut
Offers crisp green apple and citrus peel; an introduction to their traditional (Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir base), lighter yeasty, yet clean house style.
Gruet 2018 Blanc de Blancs
Fresh and complex aromas of toasted almonds, baked brioche with apple, and grapefruit ginger marmalade flavors. As with most Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay based) sparkling wine the finish is lean, zesty, and dramatically delicious.
Gruet 2016 Grand Rosé Cuvée Danielle
The 2016 Grand Rose “Cuveé Danielle” with aromas of mixed red berries, and the soupçon of signature yeasty bread complex finish.
The wine world owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Gruet for his vision of foreseeing the uniquely delicious sparkling New Mexican wines, and his savvy skills in building interstate relationships with the Pacific coast vineyards.
Restaurant General Manager, Corporate Beverage Director, & Hospitality Consultant, with these qualities he represents a Triple Threat: a culinary tableside historian, an accomplished wine taster with the casual ability to make flavor relationships and beverage quality value accessible.