After a few years out of the fray, I have jumped back in and I am waiting tables and up to my eyeballs in food and wine and the service industry. There are SO many changes  that I have seen in the recent months that I have shifted the emphasis on this blog away from just wine to wine, food, service and new restaurant info.

One of the most amazing things is, with the advent of the internet and more and more wine publications / blogs there are now much better-informed consumers. If they don’t know which wine makers they like, specifically, they can tell me what they are looking for generally in a wine so I can make suggestions. The other major change I have seen is that the guests are so kind and unpretentious. A much more relaxed vibe has taken root in the dining room. Perhaps this is a function of our country, as a whole, getting knocked on our collective asses by the financial meltdown. Or perhaps it is simply a trend towards civility.

Stay tuned for more.

For over seven years the Monastrell (Mourvedre) from Casa Castillo has been one of my go to red wines for around $10. It is the epitome of a great table wine that hits all the right notes. Monastrell, a.k.a. Mourvedre, is used extensively in southern Rhone Valley blended red wines, and it can attain great, big, honking earthy, spicy, and lush fruit tones. Mourvedre is also grown in California where it’s character, generally, is more fruit-driven. The great thing about Casa Castillo, or, rather, the thing I really like, is how, for a small cost, this wine delivers character that is in line with the Jumilla region in sortheastern Spain. This rugged region of Spain is known for long, hot summers and low precipitation. These conditions make the vines work for nutrients and fight for water and make wine with depth.

The Casa Castillo Monastrell is a wine Cabernet Sauvignon lovers will like for its rugged, full-bodied upfront character; Syrah lovers will get a kick from its earthy, slightly spicy aspect.  Generally, this wine has softer tannin on the finish compared to a hefty Northern Rhone or small production Napa Valley red wine, but it is remarkably enjoyable. It pairs well with grilled lamb or sirloin, or pasta and pizza with red sauce. If you have not tried this wine before, of haven’t had it for a long time pick it up and try it out. Let me know your thoughts.

Here is the write up for the winery on Wine.Com:

“Casa Castillo in the region of Jumilla is a property that has been producing wine since 1874. This tradition continued with a winery built by a French company in 1910 when phylloxera forced them out of their vineyards in France. Jumilla is one of the few places in Spain that has successfully resisted the infestation of phylloxera, hence making it an ideal place for this new winery. Like many Rhone wine merchants, they were interested in Monastrell (Mourvedre) based wine.The Roch family acquired the property in 1941. Julia Roch and her grandson, José Maria Vicente, have been recovering the artisanal origins of this estate, making significant strides in the integrity and quality of winemaking.”

And here is a review from The Wine Advocate for the 2001 Monastrell

“”This substantial blend of 85% Monastrell (Mourvedre) and 15% Syrah experienced malolactic fermentation in new French and American oak, followed by four months of cask aging. It boasts a dense ruby/purple color as well as sweet blackberry fruit, low acidity, and chewy ripeness. It will provide an attractive mouthful of red wine over the next 2-3 years.”

 

Instead of focusing on one particular winery, I wanted to put together a few gorgeous labels I have seen in the past twenty or so years of being in the wine trade. The impetus for this wasthis: earlier today I saw a bottle of Molleydooker Shiraz from Australia. The label was witty and eye-catching. Here it is.

Of course, there have been a number of wineries have taken label art of a whole new level. The label as art goes back to Chateau Mouton Rothschild’s new artist for each vintage beginning with the famous “V” for victory 1945 label. This idea was followed up in the 1975 with Kenwoood Winery in Sonoma.

Some of my more recent favorites are Owen Roe, Orin Swift, Sine Qua Non, and Bonny Doone. So here are some of the labels, in no particular order.

Sine Qua Non Syrah = Supernatural layers of fruit, complexity, spice, spirit world.

If there is a wine and / or wine label you are crazy about, leave a comment at the top. Hey, post a picture if you want.

Of course, what’s even more important is what’s inside. Share a great bottle of wine with friends this weekend. Cheers.

Happy Holidays.

James

daltrey

I was driving to work the other day, listening to “Baba O’Reilly” and I thought about the amazing depth of Roger Daltrey’s voice. I have always loved The Who. Quadrophenia and Who’s Next are two fantastic albums. Then, because I have wine on the mind, I thought about what his voice would be like in wine geek terms. Powerful, yet sensitive. Brash and brawling, yet downright poetic. In a word: classic. So, the natural choice for varietal would  be Pinot Noir. On a related note, if I decide to write about Lady Gaga, I would compare her to Beaujolais Nouveau. Fun in it’s own right, just not as versatile. Bright and cheery, upbeat. Not quite as deep as a great Burgundy.

So this begged the question: If Roger Daltrey = Chambolle Musigny, then there is a whole set of possibilities that I can’t answer here, but invite you to work out for yourself.

Johnny Cash = ?

Lil Wayne = ?

Willie Nelson = ? (stick with wine, people)

Beyonce = ?

Janis Joplin = ? (okay, this may be bourbon)

Freddie Mercury = ?

Paul McCartney = ?

U2 = ?

Kurt Cobain = ?

Taylor Swift = ?

Some wine thoughts, spun into pop culture. I have been listening to Neko Case, Beck and Peter Mulvey. Just enjoying them without equating them to wine. Some singers, though, are larger than life and … like wine … beg for comparison and being recognized as quite special.  Yeah, this is not a typical wine article, but I hope you enjoyed it. – James

thewho2

Okay. So this is a blatant attempt to appeal to your ego. Everyone, new wine lover to wine maker. Write down, if you will, one or two of your favorite wines that you have had in the past few weeks, or days. If you are a wine buyer, wine maker or sommelier write a few notes about the wine in your hand and why you love it. If you don’t love it … get another wine, what the hell’s the matter with you?

So, case in point, at Eastern Standard Restaurant in Boston they had a gorgeous Austrian Gruener Veltliner by the glass.

It was a 2008 Gobelsburger with citrus, apricot notes and bright acidity. Pretty sexy bottle, too. 1 litre format with a screw cap (aka stelvin closure). Went damn well with their delicious PEI mussels in a white wine fennel broth.

So? Let it rip, start typing those wines in here and let others check out the wines you love. Great wine really should be shared. Right?

wine2

I had a mad dash, get lots of paper work full tilt day today. Lunch: two peanut butter and honey sandwiches, one consumed at 11:32AM the other at 1:30PM. There were various thoughts interweaving the Excel Spreadsheets and Word docs. Peanut butter is the cornerstone of health. Whole grain bread is a form of enlightenment. Great wine with great friends makes time stand still. Then, I thought about Napa around 2PM. Specifically about dinner at Bouchon in March 2004.

I was with four friends, and it was one of the most memorable meals of my life. Not from an over the top, wildly expensive point of view. It wasn’t the whole thing was probably seventy bucks a head including tip. There was a remarkable foie gras butter (impossible to just have one taste) and lots of passed apps. We each had a different entree’ and each was shared.  We had a bottle of Robert Foley Charbono, then an Elyse Petit Sirah. The service was, in a word, perfect. Attentive but neither pushy or obtrusive. Five and a half years later, it still has stuck with me. Yeah, I can’t hang out at Bouchon every day(mostly because I live in Mass.) … but even if I lived in Napa, I wouldn’t go every night.

Maybe once in a while there will be a time and place that comes up that is amazing. There are a few places here in New England that really nail down the quality event without breaking the bank: Troquet and Pigalle in Boston; Bistro 5 in Medford;  The Pitcher Inn in Warren, VT; and in Andover Mass? … I’ll get back to you. Sakonnet Winery in Little Compton Rhode Island is great to visit, also.  I little quality goes a long way, whereas full-bore gonzo viking behavior (yeah, I have done that, too.) gets old wicked fast.

I don’t necessarily agree with Four Vines wine maker Christian Tietje when he says “Temperance, like chastity, is its own punishment” but I get what he’s saying: You gotta live a little. So. Today’s post was born of a sandwich.  I had a great meal locally, here at Burton’s North Andover recently. The place was slammed. It gave me hope that whatever economic free fall we experienced, that the worst is over and we can get back to work, to exhaustion, and to a few well-placed lunches and dinners with friends. I hope you have a few high quality moments of your own, ones that stay with you for years to come.

Here is the link to Bouchon’s web site:

http://www.bouchonbistro.com/

-James

Peasant

Someone told me that the soil profile in Long Island is similar to that of Pomerol, Bordeaux. There is an abundance of iron and other wine-friendly minerals. There still is no conclusive scientific study proving that if you have “X” amount of iron in the soil than you will have “Y” amount of complexity in the wine. It’s hard to quantify nature. It’s harder still to try and predict, year after year, what the harvest will bring and how much of the soil composition will shine through.

Wölffer Estate Vineyard

What struck me while tasting through their portfolio, from rose’ to Cabernet Sauvignon, was the depth and balance. There was good fruit,  acidity and minerality. Yeah, that part of America  (Sag Harbor, NY by the ocean) also happens to be beautiful. So, as Labor Day approaches, if you are in that area it’s worth the visit. Here is some information on Wolffer Estate:

European Tradition in the Heart of Long Island Wine Country

Founded in 1988 by Hamburg-born Christian Wölffer, Wölffer Estate Vineyard, a 55-acre winery located in Sagaponack, (Long Island), New York, in the heart of the Hamptons between Southampton and East Hampton is an American winery with a European character.  These former potato fields now produce 16,000-20,000 cases each year. The winery is located on the same property as Wölffer Estate Stables, a premier equestrian facility.

Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture – Vineyard & Winemaking

Under Winemaker/Technical Director Roman Roth’s care, Wölffer Estate Vineyard’s wines are made with a concentration of fruit and lively acidity.  The winery practices sustainable agriculture, and is committed to a non-interventionist approach that results in a full expression of the unique terroir of these Sagaponack vineyards.  Similar in many respects to conditions in Bordeaux, the local Bridgehampton loam soil is a by-product of the glacial moraine that formed Long Island.

German-born Roth and American vineyard manager, Richard Pisacano work to harness the full potential of the terroir and macroclimate, which is constantly bathed in cool breezes from the Atlantic, only 2.6 miles away. It is this combination of climate and soil that lends ripeness and acidity necessary for Wölffer’s signature style.

The entire vineyard staff regards itself as the custodian of the vines, with hands-on care, from the planting, to the growing, to the culmination of the process—the hand picking and hand sorting of the grapes.  This approach to viticulture means sacrificing as much as 40% of the grapes during the growing season in order to concentrate plant energy and nutrition for the most promising fruit.

Vines are pruned, the shoots thinned and certain leaves removed by hand for optimum exposure to the sun.  A drip irrigation system nourishes the vines during drought periods and extends the growing and ripening time.

Wölffer’s average yield of grapes per acre is between two and four tons, a quantity set by Roth and Pisacano to produce the most intensely flavored grapes. When the growing cycle is complete, every effort is made to find the perfect timing to pick the full, ripe grapes by hand, so that they can be gently pressed, vinified, aged, bottled, and corked.

Wölffer Estate Vineyard is well known for their vibrant and elegant Chardonnays and rich, intense Merlots. Their dry Rosé has become a favorite of New York City dwellers and summer Hamptonites, alike. Wölffer’s exceptional méthode traditionelle Sparkling Brut is ideal for celebrations.  Winemaker Roman Roth’s European roots shine in the classic Cabernet Franc. The popular Late Harvest Chardonnay ice wine, Wölffer’s dessert nectar is made from frozen grapes. These consistently well-balanced wines offer an elegant complement to a wide range of foods.

Destination Wölffer

Located two hours from Manhattan, Wölffer Estate Vineyard welcomes guests year-round and is open every day for tastings. No reservations are required for this incomparable wine experience which has introduced oenophiles from around the world to the outstanding quality of Long Island winemaking.

Visitors to the winery will discover a Tuscan-style villa set in the vines, far removed from the hectic pace of New York living. The gracious 12,000-square-foot winery houses a tasting room and boutique; a state-of-the-art winemaking facility equipped with computerized stainless-steel tanks, laboratory, riddling rooms, bottling line, and a cellar to hold the wines before distribution; and in keeping with the European tradition, barrel rooms constructed of high-vaulted caves and a wine library. Here wines are aged in imported French oak barrels.

The tasting room at Wölffer Estate Vineyard offers table service as well as more informal tastings “wine bar-style.” Guests may select from a range of wine flights and enjoy a cheese plate with a selection of artisanal cheeses. French doors open onto a stone terrace that is bordered with hydrangeas and overlooks the vineyard, offering one of the most picturesque views in Hamptons wine country.

Special Events

Wölffer’s beautiful and impressive winery has become a popular venue for weddings and special events. During the summer, Wölffer Estate offers a busy calendar of events including the James Beard Foundation’s annual Chefs and Champagne fundraiser.  Harvest is celebrated with a fun-filled party complete with grape picking and stomping, barrel rolling and a sumptuous country lunch. Throughout the year, Twilight Thursday offers live jazz, complimentary cheese, and wine sold-by-the glass to enjoy in the company of friends.  And Sunset Fridays at Wölffer are an opportunity to visit the newly refurbished Wölffer Wine Stand, located at 3312 Montauk Highway, the perfect spot to stock up for the weekend and enjoy complimentary cheese, wines and live jazz.

Sustainable Viticulture at Wölffer Estate Vineyard

WolfferTerrace

Rich Pisacano, Vineyard Manager (May 2009)

What We Believe – New York Sustainable Viticulture Program

Wölffer Estate Vineyard subscribes to a voluntary, ever-evolving sustainable viticultural program that helps us make common sense, cost-effective decisions that meet business objectives while protecting and conserving natural resources. The primary purpose of our efforts is to adopt best ways to minimize environmental impacts, reduce economic risks and most importantly, ensure the protection or our workers’ health and safety.

We are guided by a self-assessment workbook/guidebook of best practices that helps monitor our progress and enact measures to continually improve our commitment to sustainability.

The practices that we apply include:

  • Soil management to reduce erosion, run-off and leaching
  • Use of integrated pest management practices for insect, disease and weed control
  • Nutrient management with a particular focus on nitrogen
  • Pest and spray technology
  • Cultural practices – natural ways like hand leaf-removal

Wölffer Estate Vineyard has been at the forefront of sustainable viticultural practices, including:

  • We use (and were one of the first to use on Long Island) a recycling sprayer which not only reduces  pesticide use by more than 25%, but is also the best way to apply the materials to the target and eliminates drift (this machine has curtains that over-spray hits and repumps surplus back into the tank!).
  • When deciding on the materials to spray, we always choose either the organic forms or reduced-risk materials that are the safest (even though not always the most effective) choices. These materials are often more expensive.
  • We use low rates of pesticides – and those that we use are low-risk — and we spray as little as possible.
  • We have a high tolerance to pests and disease and only get concerned when the quality or quantity of our crop is at stake. We do not overreact to the presence of pests or fungus.
  • We have eliminated the use of pre-emergent herbicides designed to keep weeds from growing.
  • We use organic Stylet oil for European red mites and powdery mildew, organic phosphorus acid for downy mildew, and sulfur for powdery mildew.  These are the main materials we use season long.   We have eliminated the use of synthetic nitrogen.
  • We encourage wildflower and weed diversity in the vineyard.
  • We do not till or disturb the soil in any way.
  • We do not discourage the presence of wildlife in the vineyard. When birds are in the area we make an effort not to disturb them, and support their efforts to feed on insects undesirable to the vineyard.
  • We encourage and maintain the surrounding natural vegetation.
  • We only irrigate when absolutely necessary. Water that is pumped to the surface can have contaminants – the water table underground drifts, so that it might be contaminated with street run-off, etc., from other sources, which can resurface with harmful effects.
  • We are aggressive in implementing cultural practices that reduce the need to use pesticides. Our obsession with thorough leaf-removal by hand has allowed us to reduce the rates and intervals of spraying. We practice multiple hedging of the vineyard, which is aesthetically pleasing but driven by sustainability to promote airflow and reduce disease pressure.
  • We are in the process of developing a composting project where we will reuse manure, grass clipping, brush, winery pomace and other farm products.
  • We are in the process of researching the use of reusable energies and also converting our usage entirely to natural gas.

Wolffer Estate Vineyard . 139 Sagg Road, PO Box 9002 . Sagaponack, NY 11962 . Phone 631-537-5106 . Fax 631-537-5107

Wolffer Winery

Part of the fun about wine in the 21st century is that it is being made in many different parts of the globe. There really has never been a better time to be a wine consumer. There is so much wine, so many improvements in vineyard maintenence, working in accord to Mother Nature’s ebbs and flows,  and sterile bottling that the overall quality of wine is far better than it was a few decades ago. There are some areas in America that are naturally synonymous with great wine making; Napa, Sonoma, Santa Maria Valley, Paso Robles, Willamette Vally Oregon, Walla Walla, the Finger Lakes, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Long Island. One of the regions for quality wine in a beautiful setting may surprise you: Virginia.

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan and moved with my family to Virginia when I was eight. I went to James Madison University in 1984. Harrisonburg, Charlottesville and other small towns in Virginia offer a unique opportunity to enjoy conveniences of stores, restaurants and non-stressed out people. That this piece of the American landscape is growing as a wine region makes sense. Going back to Thomas Jefferson, people have grown grapes in Virginia, to varying degrees of success. Fortuneately for America, and, perhaps, the world, Jefferson was a much better statesman and writer than wine maker.

Kluge Estate Vineyard and Winery was founded in 1999.The 2,000 acres they source from are on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and near Jefferson’s Monticello. I have had their Estate Red, a Meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. I found it good, balanced, medium-bodied and Old World in style. It reminded me more of St. Julien than Virginia. Kluge  and Horton Vineyards in Orange County, Virginia get my vote for two of the best wineries on the east coast. Wolffer Estate and Bedell Cellars in Long Island, New York are up there as well. But that’s another article.

Some of the new releases for Kluge are a Sauvignon Blanc 2008, a Blanc de Blancs 2005 Sparkling Wine, and a Rose’ 2005. Their white wines I found refreshing, medium-bodied and crisp. There is complexity and soil influence going on and there is a hand-crafted edge that I found refreshing.

Here are some notes on the wines:

“ALBEMARLE” SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008

Varietals:100% Sauvignon Blanc


Source: Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia

Production: 284 cases

Suggested Retail Price $13

Winemaking Notes This is the first vintage of Albemarle Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes come from one our best terroirs, on hilltops flooded with sun.  The wine sees a  slow and cold fermentation in two thirds stainless steel and one third French Oak.

Tasting Notes: This classic Sauvignon Blanc is a fruit-forward wine with a nose of citrus, pear, melon and apricot.  Fermentation in stainless steel and French Oak bring out flavors of gooseberry, passion fruit, vanilla and licorice.

SB08

KLUGE SP BLANC DE BLANC 2005

A brut blanc de blanc sparkling wine made in the méthode Champenoise

Cuvée: 2005 Vintage Brut

Varietal: 100% Chardonnay

Appellation: 100% Monticello Appellation, Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia

Terroir: Chardonnay vineyards were planted on select sites for their exposure to the sun and their cooler temperatures on Carter’s Mountain. This helps to preserve the crisp acidity and minerality of the wine.

  • Between 600 and 850 feet in elevation
  • 15 foot deep rich clay strata on high volcanic subsoil, blended with schist, basalt, and slate

Production: 1,581 cases of 750ml

Suggested Retail Price: $27

Winemaking Notes: Wine consultant Laurent Champs (owner and Champagne Master at Vilmart et Cie in Champagne, France) made this méthode Champenoise sparkling wine from Kluge Estate’s best Chardonnay grapes.  The grapes were hand-picked in small baskets and pressed gently using a Champagne press.  Only the cuvée (first press) was fermented in stainless steel tanks.  After bottling, the wine was aged on its lees for over 22 months to gain more complexity.  A very low dosage (of sugar) was added at disgorging to complement the wine’s freshness.

Tasting Notes: Rich and creamy, Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc has a fruit-forward nose that suggests candied apples and lemon custard.  The finish delivers subtle hints of almond and toast.

SM_Blanc De Blanc_05

KLUGE SP ROSÉ 2005

A Brut sparkling wine made in the traditional méthode Champenoise

Varietals: 89% Chardonnay, 11% Pinot Noir

Appellation: 100% Monticello Appellation, Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia

Terroir: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards were planted on specific Kluge Estate sites on Carter’s Mountain. These locations help to preserve the crisp acidity and minerality of this sparkling wine.

  • Between 600 and 850 feet in elevation
  • 15 foot deep rich clay strata on high volcanic subsoil, blended with schist, basalt and slate

Production: 537 cases

Suggested Retail Price: $28

Winemaking Notes: Sparkling wine consultant Laurent Champs (owner and Champagne Master at Vilmart et Cie in Champagne, France) made this méthode Champenoise sparkling rosé from Kluge Estate’s finest grapes, hand-picked in small baskets and pressed gently using a Champagne press.  The wine gained complexity from aging on the lees for 21 months.  To complement the wine’s freshness, a very low dosage was added at disgorging.

Tasting notes: Kluge SP Rosé has a beautiful, vibrant salmon hue and it bursts with flavor.  There are notes of candied fruit, rose petal and strawberry.  The finish delivers a delicate creaminess that can only be described as mouthwatering.

SM_SP Rosé_05

Barn and Vineyard Kluge

CJ_Kluge

There are some amazing places to see in America. Virginia has a good amount of them. If you are in the area, Kluge Estate is worth exploring.

Here is a link to their website.

Have a great weekend!

- James

http://www.klugeestateonline.com/

The Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling was one of the more popular, non-Californian wines on the list at Smith & Wollensky, Boston. While I was Beverage Manager there, I would often describe Riesling as the “Rodney Dangerfield” of grapes: it didn’t get the respect it deserved, at least not from the majority of consumers. I try to cover a wide variety of places in this blog, so writing about the Finger Lakes region of New York makes sense. Taking the Rodney Dangerfield metaphor one step further, it is fair to say that many consumers don’t take wines form outside of France or Napa seriously. That’s a shame. They are missing out.

Dr. Konstantin Frank arrived in the United States in 1951 and, “after a few years washing dishes in New York City, he had saved enough bus fare for Geneva, where he eventually set up work at the agricultural experiment station.” (The Good Life, Central New York Aug. 2008). Dr. Frank was a professor of plant sciences and he held a Ph.D. in viticulture. In 1962 he founded Vinifera Wine Cellars, and worked there until 1985 when he died at the age of 86. He passed on the wine making  tradition to his son Willy, who in turn, passed on the tradition to his son Frederick. The winery is located in Hammondsport, by Keuka Lake. The steep sloping hills, and moderate temperature of the region ensures proper conditions for wine making. The lake is deep, which keeps it from freezing, and generally helps temper winter’s chill.

What does this mean for you? That if you are in the Finger Lakes area you should stop by Dr. Konstantin Frank winery and sample the vino for yourself. Robert Parker gave the 2005 Riesling Dry a glowing review, and the majority of people who have tried their wines at my suggestion have loved them. Parker’s tasting notes include sage, tangerine, apricot, floral, spice and soft tones. There are many wines made here, not enough space here to write about them.

I am grateful to Katie Cornelius who handles PR for Dr. Konstantin Frank. She sent a generous amount of information. In a month or so I will revisit this winery with more notes for you, the reader and consumer. Below are some pictures. One of them is of Dr. Frank with Andre Tchelistcheff, the “Maestro” who radically changed how vineyard maintenance and philosophy was put to use in Napa Valley. Andre Tchelistcheff worked at Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa and played a critical role in the evolution of wine making. As consumers, we reap the benefit of decades of sweat and experiment done in the past. Dr. Constantin Frank was one of the creators of the great, rich, varied culture of wine we enjoy today.

If you travel in the Finger Lakes Region of New York in the coming years, you owe it to yourself to explore what this historic, great winery has to offer.

Here is a link to their website:

http://www.drfrankwines.com/

Their address:

Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars

9749 Middle Road

Hammondsport, NY 14840

1.800.320.0735

Vineyard and Lake 4

Young Dr Frank in Vineyard

Dr Frank and Andre Tchelistcheff

Back in 1994, when I had a pony tail and worked at the three ringed circus that was Sonsie Restaurant, Newbury Street, Boston, things were never dull. Granted, today, things are never dull, but at least people aren’t bursting into flames, getting shut off, or getting naked at my place of employment. I don’t have to do wind (wine) sprints from the restaurant’s wine cellar or kitchen to a table for eight hours straight, either. Enter into this fray: Gruet Sparkling wines.

One of Sonsie’s managers derisively said it was from the “Champagne Belt” in New Mexico. Then he tried it. Then he had a glass or two at the end of the night while doing the paperwork. I met Farid Himeur, who helps run  Gruet, back in 1994 when he came in to Sonsie to do a staff training. Aside from a deep knowledge of billiards and fine tequila, Farid knows a tremendous amount about the technical and visceral aspects of sparkling and still wine. Wine is meant to be enjoyed. Period. If it happens to be enjoyable at a reasonable price, so much the better.  We had Gruet Blanc de Blancs by the glass at Sonsie and it was great success. We poured it for special events and every New Year’s Eve.

So, fast forward 15 years, Gruet is still making great wine. Their portfolio has expanded to include still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Here is a list of their wines and approximate costs per bottle:

Non Vintage Sparkling Wines

Gruet Brut: The Brut offers a crisp, and full-bodied sparkling wine, which has developed rich complexity and fine mousse. The allure of toasty finish from twenty-four months on tirage, is a complement to the sophisticated apple and citrus flavor. Winemaker’s Note: Brilliant with ultra fine bubbles. A wonderful fine bouquet dominated by green apple and grapefruit flavors. A truly classic house style!

Available Sizes: 750mL $13.75                      375mL $8.50          1.5L $35.00

Gruet Blanc de Noirs: The rich and toasty character of our Blanc de Noirs is balanced and superb. Aged for two-year minimum, the palate is developed and shows rich complex flavors. The amazing berries aromas and the creamy texture play a leading role and create a great finesse. Winemaker’s Note: A fine salmon color, aggressive mousse and a lovely fruity wine with plenty of immediate charm and toasty aromas. There is also an explosive juicy flavor of raspberry.

Available Sizes: 750mL $13.75                      375mL $8.50          1.5L $35.00

Gruet Demi Sec: The subtle fruity aromas and the freshness of the Demi-Sec drives the character of this light bodied, semi-dry sparkling wine. The palate carries through with a creamy sensation and vivid flavor of green apples, ripe pears, pineapple and a hint of mineral. It is delicate, lively and elegant! Winemaker’s Note: Toasty bouquet, light and elegant with good acidity, exotic fruit flavors. A dessert wine for those with a sweet taste!

Available Sizes: 750mL $13.75                      375mL $8.50

Gruet Rose‘: This nearly garnet Rose’, like all our non-vintage sparkling wines, is aged 24 months en tirage. It has a lovely, bright floral bouquet with hints of strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. On the palate, it is rich and fruity in a dry, Brut style. The flavor of berries continues on the palate, revealing more strawberry, raspberry, cherry. This sparkler is lots of fun and very festive, but production is limited to 5000 cases per year, so don’t miss out!

Available Sizes: 750mL $13.75                    

Reserves and Vintages

Gruet 2004 Blanc de Blancs: The Blanc de Blancs offers abundant aromas and flavors recalling sweet apples, pears and citrus. The four years of aging has contributed a pronounced classic toastiness with accents of roasted almonds and minerals. The palate is creamy and long, and the style is elegant, dry and crisp, with great complexity. Only 1,000 cases produced

Available Sizes: 750mL $25.00

Gruet 2002 Grand Rose’: A beautiful salmon pink, the Grand Rosé has a very fine mousse and a delicately floral aroma with lots of cherry, apple, and a hint of marzipan. The Pinot Noir dominates the flavor here, with rich cherry, apple, and almond notes, but the 90% Chardonnay gives the wine its amazing finesse and sophistication. Very limited production of 280 cases.

Available Sizes: 750mL $32.00

Gruet  2001 Grande Reserve: The Grande Reserve is a rarity of sparkling wines; it is made from still wines that are fermented and aged in French oak barrels (only a handful of tête de cuvee Champagnes are made this way). This elegant masterpiece reveals layers of aroma and flavor, with a pronounced toastiness and hints of apple, citrus, caramel, vanilla, and white chocolate. It is aged for six years en tirage, and the result is the exquisitely fine mousse that is the hallmark of truly great sparkling wine. On the palate, it is lemony crisp and very dry, but also rich, with a very long, refined finish. Dedicated to the memory of the late, great Gilbert Gruet. 600 cases produced.

Available Sizes: 750mL $46.00

Gruet 2006 Barrel Select Chardonnay: Bottled unfiltered, this wine has lovely pear, apple, citrus, and mineral aromas and flavors. It is accented with a moderate amount of oak, lending a perfect touch of vanilla, just enough to enhance the aroma and flavor, but not overpower them. Rich and full in texture, it finishes with very crisp acidity, making it totally dry. Winemaker’s note: Only seven barrels selected! It is the best Chardonnay made by Gruet. Amazing complexity and finesse with a nice note of oak and a long finish.

Available Sizes: 750mL $22.00

Gruet 2006 Barrel Select Pinot Noir: Each year, winemaker Laurent Gruet selects the very finest barrels of Pinot Noir to bottle unfiltered. The result is a wine of great depth and structure, with intense aromas and flavors of black cherry and compelling smoky, earthy notes, with a hint of vanilla and spice. This is big wine, a Pinot Noir made to cellar for several years, but production is tiny — less than 1000 bottles per year.

Available Sizes: 750mL $46.00

Here is a quick over view of other new things at Gruet:

- Gruet will be coming out with 375ML Pinot Noir and Rose NV.

- Gruet was written in up in New Zealand for the extraordinary value and quality of the wine

- Gruet entered 6 wines in a wine competition and all six won Gold or silver in the show

- The winery itself has grown a minimum of 10% in each of the last 10 years, bringing the sales to 103,000 cases sold last year and is anticipating producing 130,000 cases in 2009.

- Gruet winery holds a Golf tournament every year in September as part of the Santa Fe wine and Chile event.

- The new wine coming out sometime in the next year from Gruet is the Leger French word for light, containing less alcohol and calories.

wineryfront

Gruet Winery Front

B_Bruts

NV Blanc de Noir and NV Brut

Gruet Winery

This year represents 20 years since Gruet had its first release of wines
If you find these wines, you can purchase them with confidence.

Cheers,

James

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