Jonaid and I road tripped out there on Saturday to taste the wines they had to offer. Unfortunately, I did not do my research and was informed upon arrival of the winery's current status of 2009 NJ Winery of the Year. Immediately I was ancy to try the wines.
The stunning winery, est. 1980, was a dairy farm in a former life and utilizes many of the farm's old structures, including housing the tasting room. For $10 you can try "6-10 wines", get a plate of h'ors d'oeuvres, and keep the glass. The plate included cheeses, nuts, grapes, tomatoes, etc; the wine glass was a bit disappointing as it didn't even have the name of the winery on it. The bottles of the wine had labels designed by local artists.
Courtney was our tasting guide. She mentioned due to the dry, hot summer weather many of the grapes are already ripe a month early. Out of twenty-one wines we tasted fourteen, as commented on below. Many of these wines have won multiple awards including in NJ, California, and the Tasters Guild International.
Barrel Reserve Chardonnay So light it's like drinking sunshine. Flavorful and oaky. Very refreshing and for the second time in a week I chose to buy a glass of white instead of red.
Chardonnay - Did not try
Dry Riesling - Jonaid enjoyed this but for some reason it made me shudder as it went down. There was a bit of bitterness to it that didn't sit well with the flavor. I wonder if it will age and I would enjoy it more.
Gewurztraminer- very aromatic and definitely a summertime treat. Delightful; very well done.
Mainsail White - Pinot grigio-esque that would be a wonderful table wine. At $9 a bottle it's a good option if you're looking for something unique but easily enjoyed by many varieties of wine drinkers.
Riesling - Did not try
Rosa - My sister Alex would love this. Light and semi-dry with an odd but enjoyable peach aroma. It is a blend including the foch grape.
Chambourcin - I have come to love the NJ style of chambourcin and this is no exception. Very well bodied and warming; aromas that smell of fall and grilled steak dinners. Courtney informed us that chambourcin is a grape that agrees very well with NJ climate and soil; I hadn't known that but it makes sense now that we see so much of it.
Heritage - Jonaid enjoyed this and got a glass. Very smooth, a flavorful red that could replace a Cabernet or Pinot for a night.
Old Mill Red - The table wine of the reds as it is a combination of many grapes. Aromatic and spicy from the grape combos but it is surprisingly not overwhelming. For the price of $10 you have no excuses as to why this shouldn't be in your personal cellar.
Pinot Noir - Alas my old friend the Pinot. If I ever get a puppy, maybe I'll name him Pinot (or Spock). We were told by Courtney this grows well due to the limestone in the soil- a rarity for the area. Although good, it's quite pricey at $22, and I just don't think it's a value for the money.
Chelsea Cellars Red Wines ('chelsea' named after the area the winery is located, 'cellars' because of how the wines are aged)
Cabernet Sauvignon - Jonaid smiled as he sipped this. It's very aromatic but burned a bit going down when I tried it.
Merlot - No sharpness at all and extremely smooth. Very light flavor which was somewhat disappointing- although it may just be that my trying the Cab immediately prior overshadowed the minor flavors going on here.
Syrah - I'm an old fan of the Syrah/Shiraz category and this fits the rubric perfectly. A very powerful red yet easy going down.
Blueberry Wine - Quite well done for a sweet wine. It is a blueberry crisp with alcohol.
Dolcina did not try
Forbidden did not try
Red Raspberry 12% alcohol but tastes like juice. Recommended over cheesecake; delicious with a fabulous raspberry flavor, fruits fresh from central NJ (various locations but Courtney mentioned Hammonton)
did not try
It was easy to see why this is the 2009 NJ winery of the year. Alba conquers many traditional wine types and adds a few of their own unique blends. Toss in a beautiful venue and friendly/knowledgeable staff, it is a fabulous wine experience and a must-hit on the wine list. Their downfall is the pricetag on the bottles. Few are under $10, many over $15.
After the tasting we took our glasses of wine and gave ourselves a self guided tour of the vineyard. Sauntering up the gravel road we noted the balloons amidst the grapes as if there were a birthday party. Courtney had explained to us the balloons are combined with civil war-esque canon fire are keep the birds away. We also overheard another employee explaining the birds preferred the red grapes.
Returning to the outdoor patio I noted a few fellow patrons were smoking cigars while listening to a band with a singer from the Bronx. The band did some cover songs and slid suddenly into a country tune. "Surprised this boy from the Bronx has a little country in him?" he joked. The woman drinking Rosa at the table next to us replied, "Everyone has a little country."
And on that note, cheers.