NV Gruet Brut and Blanc de Noir

Don't wait for a special occasion.

Rating: Easy drinking bubblies you'd be hard-pressed not to like.  A real surprise from a virtually unheard of region.  $14-ish.

The rest of the story:  Now, for something a little differentNever had a wine from New Mexico?

Yeah, we haven't either.

Before we get into the particulars of this, it's time to fess up.  This is one topic we don't know enough about.  Frankly, we're not qualified to judge the nuance that makes this storied and romantic beverage so special - and often expensive. 

But what we observed, we liked.  And we brought in some sparkling academic muscle - Julie Robbins, for whom we have to thank for these samples, and Molly Schaedler, who helped us deconstruct the characteristics in these wines.

This introduction to New Mexico wines came in the form of two wines from Gruet; a Brut (Gruet's flagship) and a Blanc de Noir. 

With its tasting room in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Gruet is a winery specializing in sparkling wines (though they do sell a small amount of still wine).  The winery is owned and operated by the Gruet family, which also operates the Champagne house Paul Laurent in Bethon, France.

According to Regina Wilson, Tasting Room Manager, their 122,000 case production is sourced from grapes grown 150 miles south of Albuquerque n the high desert outside to Engle, NM.  The elevation of 4300 ft makes for hot days, cold nights.  And - get this - New Mexico is the oldest wine-producing region in the country with vineyards dating back to 1652. 

No shit?

So, to the wines themselves...They are both categorically enjoyable.  The Brut has a steely color in the glass and a slightly acidic, but pleasing nose.  It's got good body and flavor, with a crisp mouthfeel.  While some bubblies can be heavy on the palate, this one has a balanced weight.  One of our tasters compared it to White Star - at a third of the price.  A crowd pleaser.

The Blanc de Noir is a bit classier, lighter, brighter, and drier than the Brut.  But otherwise an attractive sibling.  Again, really enjoyable.  These wines make drinking Champagne with a meal understandable.

Sparkling wine is interesting.  It's such a different animal from still wine.  Most of us tend to think of it as a beverage to accompany occasional celebrations.  But real Champagne drinkers know otherwise - and there's some evidence to suggest that they know better.

Distributed in 49 states, ask for it at your local retailer.  Chances are they can get it if they don't already stock some.