This is the most unconventional winery within Zamora Company. Launched in the 2003 vintage, Cruz de Alba is a single-vineyard project (the only exception was Lucero de Alba, a red made with grapes sourced from local winegrowers between 2009 and 2014) based on Finca Los Hoyales, a property that extends over 40 hectares in Padilla de Duero, on Ribera del Duero’s “Golden Mile”.
The plots that make up the estate were purchased from different owners between 2003 and 2005. The oldest vineyard, which is now wire-trained after converting it from goblet, dates back to 1963 and is destined to the top wine Finca Los Hoyales. Further plantings were made in 1989 and 2003. Tempranillo is the dominant grape variety although there are small pockets of Merlot and Cabernet in the vineyard. Poor, sandy soils on limestone are the norm, although there are zones with more presence of clay and loam soils that produce wines with more structure.
Cruz de Alba stands out among the wineries in the group because of its use of biodynamics, with special attention to homeopathy and radiesthesia. This technique, used by dowser for capturing radiations and electromagnetic stimuli, is applied here by winemaker Sergio Ávila to know the needs of the vine.
Ávila was born in Quintanilla de Onésimo where he works and lives with his family -the winery is also in the village. An agronomist by training, he took to winemaking while working at Bodegas Borsao in Campo de Borja (Aragón) and joined Cruz de Alba for the 2006 vintage. His interest in biodynamics led him to enroll in several courses and make his own preparations. “I buried cow horns until 2014; since then, I’m more focused on agro-homeopathy.” His growing interest in this area as well as in radiesthesia is the result of her daughter’s health problems which were finally identified and successfully treated by a homeopath.
In the vineyard they use irrigation and green covers alternating one street with sown crops and another with natural vegetation; they till sparingly and try to prune late to avoid spring frosts (in the very devastating 2017 they only lost 5% of the harvest because they pruned on April 21). They regularly use silica as well as whey to treat mildew. Ávila is not in favor of using too much sulphur "because it closes the stomata of the plant, suffocating it and burning tartaric acid". Both the vineyard and the wines are organically certified.
Ávila thinks that balanced soils are essential to have balanced vineyards and balanced wines. “Excess is as bad as deficiency,” he points out. “Having balance means less work in the vineyards and in winemaking.” The main benefit for Cruz de Alba so far is an increase in acidity and lower pHs.
Cruz de Alba produces around 100,000 bottles, making it the smallest winery in the Ramón Bilbao group. The flagship red is the Crianza (90,000 bottles, €14.5 in Spain). The Reserva (6,000 bottles, €28) was first launched in the 2012 vintage, its grapes sourced from sandy plots. One third of each of these wines is aged in new barrels, one third in second-use barrels and one third in third-use barrels. Ageing times vary from 15 months in the case of the Crianza to 20 months for the Reserva.
Finca Los Hoyales (€63, under 7,000 bottles) comes from the oldest plot in the property. The 1.8Ha vineyard has poor, sandy soils and lies next to a small pine forest. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation and ageing take place in 500-litre French oak barrels. The wine remains there for 22 months -no rackings are done. The style, with herbal notes and bright acidity, follows the trend towards freshness and balance as opposed to the powerful, ultra-ripe Riberas of recent times.
Apart from Cruz de Alba, Zamora Company owns Ramón Bilbao in Rioja, Ramón Bilbao Rueda, and Mar de Frades in Rías Baixas.
The wines can be bought at the winery's online store.