Happy New Year
Six or seven years ago, my wife and I toured parts of New Mexico on a business trip that morphed into a mini-vacation. I'm a big believer in trying the wines wherever we go. In New Mexico, that led to a few scary encounters -- anyone for chili cabernet? It tasted just like it sounds! But our pioneer spirit eventually yielded an incredible discovery. On the outskirts of Albuquerque is an absolutely outstanding maker of sparkling wines called Gruet.
You could almost call their product champagne because the family that runs the place has a lot of experience making the real deal in France. Still, wine this good in New Mexico? Gruet sparklers are so good because they use the time-honored methode champenoise, a hands-on, labor intensive production method that is the proven formula for success in making great champagnes/sparkling wines.
When we first tasted a range of Gruet sparklers I had to remind myself that we were in New Mexico. It really was like finding a taste of Europe in the desert. Our tasting portions were poured by the lovely Nathalie Gruet. OK, I'm a sucker for a feminine French accent. But that did not alter the fact that we were tasting well crafted wines showing wonderful toasty aromas. My favorite was the blanc de blanc, an all-chardonnay sparkler with a rich, creamy mouthfeel and aromas of pear and almonds.
I carried back a couple of bottles, but those have long since disappeared. Sadly, it was not something we could get back East. Imagine my euphoria, then, when I spotted a local wine store a year or so ago suddenly featuring Gruet sparklers...and singing their praises. I was delighted that Gruet had finally made its way to Connecticut, but I was also vainly satisfied that our judgment had been validated. I bought a bunch, and have one last '99 blanc de blanc left for tonight's celebration.
Of course, there's a multitude of great sparkling wines and champagnes available with which to ring in the new year in style. If you have $40 or so, the NV oldies-but-goodies are still reliable and delicious, such as Bollinger, Pol Roger, Deutz and Veuve Clicquot. And, if you want to enjoy a terrific sparkler cheaply, you can. Try Segura Viudas or Cristalino from Spain.
But if you want to add an extra dimension to your glass, pour something brimming with warm memories. It could be something you shared with a special someone on a previous special occasion. Or, it could be something you found for yourself on a great trip, without any help at all from Wine Spectator. Tonight we'll be celebrating the dawning of 2006 but also recalling a great time in New Mexico. Next time you travel, be on the lookout for local treasures. Trust your tastes to tell you what's good, and you'll never look back with regret, only extra pleasure.