Wednesday, December 29, 2021


We've been selling Gruet sparkling wines since they first became available here in the late 1980's.  Always exemplary in their elegance and practical in their pricing, Gruet, nonetheless suffered in the marketplace.  Even if it was qualitatively better than similar sparklers, being from New Mexico meant it wasn't California wine and it had to compete with the California stuff.

The Gruet Winery was founded by the Gilbert Gruet family of Champagne, France.  What they found in north-central New Mexico in 1983 were old vineyards planted in Mission variety grapes, holdovers from four hundred years of monastic caretaking.  If you missed it just now, the existence of those sacramental wine grapes point to an unexpected truth - These were some of the oldest vineyards in America. 

So what did the Gruets see in this place that prompted their investment?   They saw a plateau 4-5,000 feet above sea level with sandy, loamy soils and beneficial winds to combat pests and diseases.  They may have also noted the diurnal effect of hot days with cool nights, perfect for grape ripening during the day and preserving freshness and acidity at night.  

Much has changed in the forty+ years that have elapsed since their beginning.  The family now has four hundred acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay contracted to them (with a little Pinot Meunier) and they market ten different wines.  Their current winemaker, Cyril Tanazaco, not only hails from the Champagne district of France but spent the last fourteen years in Verzenay making Grand Cru Champagne.  Champagne vineyards are rated on a 100 percent quality scale with Grand Cru vineyards being the top one percent in quality!  So with the Gruets themselves having their own roots in Champagne, they now have a winemaker with the talent to make the very best.  All in New Mexico!

Stop in and pick up a bottle for New Years Eve!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Unlitro Ampeleia Toscana Rosso

Don't you love it when a wine knowledgeable friend recommends one to you?  I don't mean just one of the gang who all like the same kind of old standbys.  I mean someone with a real palate.  Someone who is blessed with an ability to taste what ninety percent of us can't and then has educated his palate to the point of expertise.  I'm not talking about snobbery.  Who needs that!  I'm just talking about intimately knowing what you're talking about.

So recently I got a recommendation from just that kind of expert.  He's a supplier in the trade but he is so much more.  On this occasion he was talking about a Tuscan red that he was quite taken with  - and here's the clincher - it was not his wine.  It was a competitor's wine he was crowing about.  Instantly my ears perk up.  This wine was so good he was vocalizing its attributes, probably not even thinking about it, and then ruing the fact that it's not in his portfolio.  What a guy!

So I went to the competitor and bought all they had, about eight bottles.  

Unlitro Ampeleia is a Tuscan red from the Ampeleia region of Maremma on the coast of Tuscany.  That region is about a hundred twenty hectares in size with only about forty set in vines.  Ampeleia is rugged territory with elevations varying from 200 to 600 meters.  Fifty-four vineyards are scattered there at different elevations, probably wherever the land is reasonably flat.  The other eighty+ hectares are left wild.

The typical blend from this region might be 40% Alicante Nero (Grenache), 25% Mourvedre, 15% each Sangiovese and Cargnano and 5% Alicante Bouchet.  This kind of blend displays a character most similar to Barbera, Pinot Noir, Gamay or Sangiovese.  But it looks like it might be a Rhone-style wine.  What gives?

The answer is in the winemaking.  Elisabetta Foradori is a white wine maker from Alto Adige.  She is known for her organic, biodynamic and low-sulfite winemaking.  In 2002 she teamed up with a couple others in Maremma to make this clean, fresh, elegant and silky red wine.  It has a dark ruby red color; aromas of black cherry, blueberry and fig; flavors to include bright red fruit, flowers, spices and minerality.  The finish is said to be memorable.

And just like the name implies, it comes in a liter bottle!

Monday, December 6, 2021


When a cheese is as memorable as this Gouda-style Dutch cheese, you can't pretend it doesn't matter when it's not available.  The stuff is t-o-o-o good.  Covid was certainly part of the problem but I'm not sure there wasn't more going on here.  Since it's made on a smallish farm maybe they just can't keep up with demand.  Anyway, it's back now and everyone needs to try it.  Like I said, it's really quite memorable.

The sheep farm responsible for Ewephoria is located in the Friesland region of north central Netherlands.  This region fronts the Wadden Sea and abuts a nature preserve and has pastures so rich the owners say the sheep eat better than their kids.  It all sounds so idyllic.

CheeseLand is the Seattle-based importer responsible for us having the cheese at all and that may be more true than just what seems apparent.  The name "Ewephoria" is an English language-only pun.  That and its indelibly American-style sweetness has lead some to think the creation of this one began in Seattle.    

Aged for twelve months before its release, Euphoria is a firm sheep cheese.  It has lengthy flavors of butterscotch, caramel and nuts and may be melted on suitable desserts.  It would also serve well with nuts, honey, jams or fresh fruit.

Beverage pairings might start with sherries or perhaps a rich porter...or for counterpoint, perhaps something like a Rhone-style white might be interesting.