ALBA ESTATE VINEYARD
Founded in 1982, Alba Estate Vineyard is nestled in the beautiful New Jersey upland valleys. Located in the heart of the scenic Musconetcong River Valley and centered in the Warren Hills viticulture region. The hillside estate is primarily focused on Pinot Noir, Dijon Clone Chardonnay, and Riesling, with minor planting of Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Chambourcin and Traminette. The site’s diversity of soils and slopes translates directly into the layers of complex flavors in our fruit. We craft our wines from the ground up; they are truly a unique expression of the land and the people who care for it.
We believe in the value of vineyard ownership as a means of producing wines of exceptional quality, distinctive character, and consistency year after year. The ability to make autonomous decisions about the vineyard provides the winemaking team with a great amount of control and flexibility while ensuring the high quality care of the vines.
Our vineyard philosophy is one of simple sustainable agriculture; the vineyards are carefully managed to preserve the good earth that nourishes them. The vineyard and gardens have been sustainably farmed since 1997 when they came under new ownership and direction. The goal of sustainability is to avoid depleting the long-term health of the land and environment for short-term gain. We believe this is the only environmentally responsible choice. It requires ingenuity, dedication and the curiosity to find alternate solutions to the ongoing issues of farming a challenged and diverse wine estate like Alba Vineyard. We have learned that is it indeed possible, as well as economically feasible. Simply put, sustainable wine growing is a quality conscious, socially responsible, and environmentally sound approach to farming. In practice, sustainable wine growing focuses on encouraging natural processes that promote soil health, such as erosion control, native cover crops, composting and intense canopy management. In addition, it promotes positive plant-soil interactions and emphasizes a concerted reduction in the use of chemicals and pesticides.
Our labor-intensive system of canopy management includes leaf, shoot and cluster removal as well as shoot positioning. The main reason for canopy management is to regulate fruit exposure to obtain optimal flavors and color and, therefore, better wine. Smart canopy management also helps us limit the use of fungicides through better light penetration and air movement in the canopy.
Alba creates its own compost from byproducts of the winemaking process. Pumice seeds, skins, and stems left over after crush are composted over the winter and eventually returned to the vineyard soil as viable fertilizer and organic matter.
With over a decade of growth, the vines have lost their youthful exuberance and have developed into a balanced vineyard that needs little manipulation to produce low yields and concentrated flavors. The hillside rock-choked limestone soil often goes no deeper than 18 inches. The quick runoff and lack of plant nutrients, the struggling vines produce clusters with small intensely flavored berries that translate into aromatic and complex wines.
We are not concerned about getting higher tonnage but rather about having the optimum amount of fruit per vine to yield consistently high quality grapes. Yields from our high density narrow row vineyards are targeted at two to three tons per acre. We adjust our viticultural practices to reflect the vintage through bud and shoot removal, cluster thinning and leaf removal in heavy crop years. We keep the grapes on the vines for as long as possible to capture the fullest range of fruit flavors. We sample the fruit numerous times before harvest, relying not only on numerical analysis but also on our own sensory evaluation. With our estate vineyards, we can also harvest the grapes at natural maturity, even going through some vineyard sites several times to pick only the ripe fruit with each pass.
A mix of rootstocks and clones were chosen to give the wine great complexity and structure and express the uniqueness of this site. Planted in 1998, our middle bench is Cabernet Franc clone 332 on 101-14 and 3309 rootstock. Moving up the hill is our oldest planting of Pinot Noir lower hillside block consisting of clone 777, 667, Pommard, and 115 all on S04 rootstock. Next to the Pinot block on the same lower hillside is our largest block of Riesling consisting of the Geisenheim clones 239, 198, and 90 on S04 rootstock. Wrapping around that hillside is our newest block of Gewurztraminer. Moving up the hill to our upper bench are two blocks of Chardonnay on Dijon clones 96 and 95, both on S04 rootstock. Next to the Chardonnay is Block 2 of Pinot Noir clones 667, 777, and Pommard. Next over on the same bench is Block 2 of Riesling, Geisenheim clones 239 and 298 on S04 rootstock. Moving up the hill to our highest hillside vineyard is Block 3 of Pinot Noir clone 667 and 777. Right next to this is Block 3 of Dijon clone 95 and 96 Chardonnay.
Alba Estate Vineyard is comprised of a shallow Washington Silt Loam with a high percentage of rock and gravel above a Limestone base. These soils are classic well drained, which makes the vines work hard for moisture and nutrients. These soils, coupled with a North South vineyard orientation and design, lend themselves to an exceptionally long hang time, leaving the winemaking team many options during harvest.
The vineyard is located among the pastoral, rolling hills of the Warren Hills viticultural area; nestled on the hillside of a sheltered valley where the Musconetcong and Delaware Rivers meet. Our 93-acre property sits on a sunny, broad south facing slope that enjoys a regular breeze up the valley. Facing southward along the lower elevation of the Musconetcong hillside, Alba Vineyard is ideally situated to capture early morning sunlight. Late in the day, when sunlight is more intense, the upper elevations of the hillside provides shade for the vineyard, allowing the grapes a late afternoon respite resulting in a growing season where the grapes reach optimal ripeness. The orientation of the land, rolling gently along the Musconetcong River valley before rising sharply against the southern sloping hillsides allows textbook drainage, creating the perfect amount of vine stress to yield highly concentrated fruit.
Finesville experiences a very warm growing season. While Alba Estate Vineyard receives a large number of overall hours of heat each day, its most direct exposure to the sun comes early in the morning when the heat is less intense. Afternoon sunlight falls indirectly on the vineyard, allowing for slightly cooler afternoon temperatures. The vineyard also sees the widest range of day to nighttime temperature swings in the Musconetcong Valley, setting up the fruit well each morning to withstand the afternoon heat. The result is even and consistent ripening of the fruit, translating into a rounder, smoother tannin structure from fully ripened skins, and an increased amount of sugar in relation to acid in each berry. Our valley floor vineyard blocks and rocky soils, making the growing conditions even warmer than our hillside sites, resulting in bold concentrated Chambourcin and Traminette.