Meet The Family
Three generations of Méthode Champenoise winemaking
Son of Gilbert Gruet
At age seven, Laurent Gruet’s earliest memories of wine were of being alongside his father, Gilbert Gruet, at Gruet et Fils winery in Bethon, France. He could be found cleaning tanks, pumping wines and helping on the bottling line. Age seven was also the first year he recalls his family letting him taste wine.
Years of harvest work continued. Laurent made his first champagne in 1981, a Blanc de Blancs at Gruet et Fils. Mentored primarily by his father, with supplemental studies at Lycee Viticole de la Champagne in Avize, France, Laurent was also impressed by winemaker Clement Novack, who worked with the family.
Following his father to the US in pursuit of expansion and affordable vineyards, Laurent and his sister Nathalie moved to New Mexico in 1984. The two (of four) siblings would take the lead of what soon became the American endeavor, Gruet Winery. The first official wine release from the Albuquerque-based winery was in 1989.
Like his father, quality is Laurent’s top priority and it underscores his winemaking passion today. In 2011 Wine Spectator named his Gruet NV Blanc de Noirs a Top 100 wine of the world, a crowning jewel of acclaim for any winemaker and nearly unprecedented for a sparkling wine under $20.
His favorite sparkling wine to make is the Gruet Grande Reserve, a Blanc de Blancs that is as true to Old World champagne as possible in America: rich, complex and long-finishing. It is barrel-fermented like the old style, and some of the best champagne houses still use this method today. The style reminds Laurent of his childhood.
Bubbles aren’t Laurent’s only specialty; his favorite still wine to make is Pinot Noir. “I have always called this variety the king of the grapes,” he says. “Still Pinot Noir is the most sophisticated wine and very versatile with food. It is my favorite wine to drink, with a very feminine and delicate character.”
With more than 30 years as a resident of New Mexico, Laurent tirelessly supports local and regional events through the winery, such as Vintage Albuquerque and Santa Fe Wine and Chile, benefiting the New Mexico Youth Symphony Orchestra. When he’s not making wine, you’ll find him playing tennis, skiing and cooking.
Daughter of Gilbert Gruet
Knowing only a handful of words in English, having a toddler on her hip and a sense of adventure instilled by her winemaking parents, Nathalie and her then-husband Farid Himeur, along with her brother Laurent, seized the opportunity to expand the Gruet winemaking empire from France to the United States.
With plenty of folly (learning the soil was not like her native Champange), studying English by watching “Little House on the Prairie” in addition to taking classes, and the energy and optimism that comes with youth, Nathalie Gruet quickly found her niche on the business end of the Gruet US operation.
From 1984 to present, Nathalie helped catapult Gruet into its present position as one of the best-rated American sparkling wines in its price category. By first partnering with visionary, boutique distributors on East and West Coasts, she and her brother marketed the wine as a luxury product made in the true Methode Champenoise that any American could afford to enjoy. Word-of-mouth and her marketing focus on chefs and sommeliers put the Gruet brand in high esteem, and the novelty of its New Mexico origin made the brand memorable. Her and Laurent’s uncompromising stance on winemaking quality galvanized Gruet’s presence, and more than 25 vintages later, the wines continue to gain top acclaim.
An artist in her own right, Nathalie is a gifted painter and enjoys creating still life and landscapes inspired by her natural surroundings. Today she serves as a brand ambassador and when she’s not promoting the winery you’ll find her spending time with her extended family, traveling, hiking, and enjoying winter sports.
Grandson of Gilbert Gruet (Son of Nathalie)
Sofian Himeur embodies the sense of family and spirit of Gruet Winery; he’s also the grandson of its late founder, patriarch Gilbert Gruet. With a lifetime spent performing nearly every task in and outside of the winery, there are few people more poised than Sofian to speak to Gruet’s past, present and enduring, bright future.
He was just a tot when he arrived in New Mexico with his parents and uncle from his native France, and the winery was just getting underway. Today Sofian, along with his uncle, winemaker Laurent Gruet, and his mother are the torch-bearers for a winemaking legacy that started back in Bethon (Champagne), France in the 1950s.
Sofian has worked through Gruet’s evolution, from its New Mexico niche to its worldwide status, most notably gaining recognition in the 2011 Wine Spectator as a Top 100 wine (Gruet NV Blanc de Noirs), nearly unprecedented for a sparkling wine under $20. He advocates Gruet’s impeccable standards from which the winery has never deviated, from its French winemaking equipment to hand-crafting sparklers in the true methode champenoise, to make the American wines taste as close as possible to Champagne.
In February of 2015 Sofian was promoted to assistant winemaker to learn and perfect the family trade under his uncle, Laurent Gruet.
A lifelong resident of New Mexico, Sofian supports local and regional events through the winery, such as Vintage Albuquerque and Santa Fe Wine and Chile, benefiting the New Mexico Youth Symphony Orchestra. When he’s not working with retailers, on events, or translating French to English or vice versa, you’ll find him serving as a crew chief on the Hellion, an NMRA drag race team.