My Pinot Year WEEK 0: New Year’s Resolution, PT.2

Posted: January 6, 2010 in Pinot

Let the record show I enjoyed my last gin martini New Year’s Eve at 11:58 and 30 seconds p.m. Nothing showy, just some no-nonsense London dry goodness; extra cold and up with a twist. She went down easy…and I’ll let you make the dirty joke for me on that one.

I was doing what any sane writer in LA was doing at that time—just finishing my shift at a fine-dining establishment (which shall remain anonymous until my crack legal team gives the green light). I found my beautiful and supremely talented girlfriend holding court in the corner of the lounge as I swooped in and stole a kiss before saying farewell to my Beefeater’s.

With barely two minutes left in 2009 I pulled out a couple flutes and a bottle of something extra special for the two of us.

There is no mistaking the glee you feel when you twist a properly chilled bottle just so, and the cork pops out without taking anyone’s head off.

Because no New Year’s is complete without Champagne.

Or something like it.

For all you novices like me out there, it’s important to understand that Champagne—the wine—can only come from Champagne—the region. It’s in France. Anything else has to be called sparkling wine or else the French and a lot of sommeliers crap their pants in anger. That’s a lot funnier to write about than it is to witness.

And fair enough; give a region’s product its due. Champagne is fiercely loyal to its namesake because they have turned out and will continue to turn out mindblowingly delicious product. There’s a history of quality that’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work to cultivate in every bottle. They don’t want some idiot taking credit for their work AND sullying their good name with his plonk. We Americans have the same qualms about pride in local product—just ask a Maine lobster fisherman or California avocado grower—so we can’t really say this is just the French being, well, French.

THAT SAID, there are very few winemakers from Champagne that think there’s any decent sparkling available from anywhere else.

Now I said very few, not none.

Which brings me to the tale of Gilbert Gruet and the Gruet Winery, with its home about 170 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Yeah. That New Mexico.

See, this cat made Champagne in Champagne, then decided that was too easy so he told his wife to blindfold him and spin him around before he tossed a dart from between his legs at a map of the earth to find the most insane place for a future vineyard–or so I imagine.

Okay so maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but in 1984 Gruet settled on Truth Or Consequence which sits at an elevation of 4300 feet (for you Californians out there that’s 150 feet HIGHER than the Tejon Pass). For appeasing the wine gods, Gruet was then welcomed directly into heaven much like Elijah in the Old Testament.

So how does this fit into My Pinot Year?

Well, Champagne-and the sparkling wines that love them-are made up of three kinds of grape: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. You can get a Blanc de Blancs—that’s 100% Chard—or Blanc de Noirs—100% Pinot—but I’ve never heard of a Blanc de Meunier.  I’m sure it probably tastes as good as it sounds.

Champagne not only sets itself apart with its history and self-imposed quality, but also for its unique approach to fermentation. That’s where the booze and the bubbles come from. After it’s taken some time in barrels, winemakers do a little extra magic (rock sugar and yeast) so the Champagne goes through a second fermentation process in the bottle.

If you’re going for a sparkling wine you’ll want to find one that follows the same process or you might be drinking horse pee. So look for the phrase “Methode Champagnoise” or “Methode Traditionnelle” on the label, which I’m certain is French for “Doin’ it like they do in Champers.”

Today Gruet Winery makes a number of sparkling wines in the “Methode Champagnoise,” including a Blanc de Noirs, which I thought was perfect to start 2010 off right. The girlfriend was inclined to agree.

Now this is about where the food porn is supposed to start, where I tell you in the most gratuitous way possible how it looked and smelled and what it felt like in my mouth. Although I believe that the idea of food porn is a bit of a misnomer because you can’t spank your stomach. Even with all my literary brilliance, a written account of enjoying a bottle of Gruet Blanc de Noirs won’t get you off. It won’t satisfy you, even temporarily, leaving you a little empty inside. I’ll leave that to the pros (thank you Giada de Laurentiis).

I like to think I do something a little more valuable than that. All I think I owe you is the nod that this stuff is worth trying. Which it is. Then you can go on with your own bad self with your own food porn experience in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Or maybe your local fine-dining establishment.

I promise I won’t peek.

Gruet NV Blanc de Noirs; available in 750ml and magnum sizes
Great clean taste. Because the bottle says NM instead of Napa it’s a steal. You win!
Dig it:
Buy it where I did:

  1. The Bin End says:

    I have had the pleasure of tasting a couple different 100% Pinot Meunier Champagnes in my wine travels. They are rare on this side of the Atlantic. They are also an inferior product to the ones made with primarily Chard or Pinot Noir. Meunier adds a soft rich fruit to wines. The Berry is lower in acid which is the essential part to any fine sparkler. It is tasty, but that is as far as I would take it. Love me some Gruet. A bit too much sunshine in the bottle to compete with the real thing but when your paying a tiny fraction of the normal price you are blessed with the option of drinking in bulk. Its 9:30am. Am I allowed to drink some sparkling now even if I don't want to put OJ in it.

  2. tequilazo says:

    Fact check: No such thing as a blanc de meunier. Blanc de noirs can and often contain both NOIR (black) grapes… Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The only grapes allowed in Champagne are those derived from Pinot Noir. The complete list is Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, arbanne and petite meslier. With the first two being of a dark skin… or “noir” skin.

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