Introduction

Winemaking: The Continuation of Terroir by Other Means.®

Welcome to the Amalie Robert Estate Farming Blog, aka FLOG. By subscribing, you will receive regular FLOGGINGS throughout the growing season. The FLOGGING will begin with the Spring Cellar Report in April. FLOGGINGS will continue each month and detail how the vintage is shaping up. You may also be FLOGGED directly after the big Cluster Pluck with the yearly Harvest After Action Report. Subscribe now and let the FLOGGINGS begin!

Rusty

"This is one of the Willamette Valley’s most distinguished wineries, but not one that is widely known."

- Rusty Gaffney, PinotFile - September 2016

Josh

"Dena Drews and Ernie Pink have been quietly producing some of Oregon's most elegant and perfumed Pinots since the 2004 vintage. Their 30-acre vineyard outside the town of Dallas, abutting the famed Freedom Hill vineyard where Drews and Pink live, is painstakingly farmed and yields are kept low so production of these wines is limited. Winemaking includes abundant use of whole clusters, which is no doubt responsible for the wines' exotic bouquets and sneaky structure…"

- Josh Raynolds, Vinous - October 2015

David

"...Dallas growers Dena Drews and Ernie Pink... showed me this July three of their reserve bottlings and thereby altered my perception of their endeavors. Since these are produced in only one- or two-barrel quantities, they offer an extreme instance of a phenomenon encountered at numerous Willamette addresses, whose really exciting releases are extremely limited. But they also testify, importantly, to what is possible; and what’s possible from this site in these hands revealed itself to be extraordinary!... And what a Syrah!"

- David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate - October 2013

Wine & Spirits

"Finding that their whole-cluster tannins take some time to integrate, Pink and Drews hold their wines in barrel for up to 18 months - so Amalie Robert is just releasing its 2008s. And what a stellar group of wines: Bright and tart, they possess both transparency and substance, emphasizing notes of rosehips and sandalwood as much as red berries. The pinot noirs alone would likely have earned Amalie Robert a top 100 nod this year. But the winery also produces cool-climate syrah that rivals the best examples from the Sonoma Coast. And the 2009 Heirloom Cameo, their first attempt at a barrel-fermented chardonnay, turned out to be one of our favorite Oregon chardonnays of the year. Ten vintages in, Amalie Robert has hit its stride."

- Luke Sykora, Wine & Spirits Magazine – September 2011

Copyright

© 2005 – 2017 Amalie Robert Estate, LLC

Monday, November 4, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Portfolio Focus: Pinot Meunier - 2018 Vintage Just Released!


Hello and Welcome,

This is a portfolio focus on Pinot Meunier from @AmalieRobert Estate. A FLOG Communication

Pinot Meunier, the hidden gem of Champagne, is the subject of our Portfolio Focus. Most prominently, Pinot Meunier is one of three grapes grown in Champagne, along with Chardonnay and assemblagePinot Noir, to make the region’s most interesting wines. While rarely a single variety bottling, and never included in a Blanc de Blanc, Pinot Meunier is, of course, often part of the final

And while Dena does have a verifiable addiction to Champagne (we produce the Bellpine Pearl – more on that in a bit) we choose to vinify Pinot Meunier as a still red wine. But never that much of it. Our half acre of vines from Block 1 usually produces 3 to 4 barrels of wine and that’s it for the whole year, for the whole country and Hawai’i too!

Oh, and let’s cover the pronunciation, it’s a French thing. Pinot Meunier (Pee-no MUH-n’yay) 'Meunier' means 'miller' in English. The miller is the guy grinding grain into flour. The vine has this name because the clusters are small and pinecone shaped like Pinot Noir, but the leaves have the appearance of a dusting of flour, hence the name miller or Meunier.





In neighboring Austria Pinot Meunier is known as the Miller’s Burgundy. Also, the feminine form is 'meunière', which you may have seen on a menu. White fish such as sole is dredged in flour, pan fried in butter and served with the pan drippings, parsley and lemon. Voilà, sole meunière!

Pinot Meunier wine, however, is our Portfolio Focus. For those of you who love the transparency of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier will absolutely drive you wild! As a close cousin, or parent of Pinot Noir, the wine’s color is often as light or even lighter and brighter than Pinot Noir. That is the natural color of the wine and we celebrate it!

From a winemaking point of view, our goal is to showcase the elegance and purity of Pinot Meunier and present it as a young wine. We ferment with indigenous yeast and without any stem inclusion so as not to introduce harsh stem tannins that will take years to evolve. We barrel mature in old, neutral French oak, more of a holding vessel than to influence the aroma, flavor or texture with toasty new oak. The wine is bottled within a year of harvest unfined and unfiltered. It can be considered vegan.

Now, if we have done our job right in the vineyard and winery, the aromas of ripe red raspberries and rose petals should be prominent. Just as pretty as the day is long. On the first sip, the wine is lithe and juicy, colonizing your palate by stimulating all the unsatiated nooks and crannies. And while this is all proper and pleasant, the reason Pinot Meunier is a Champagne grape is about to be revealed. The wine’s finish is a crescendo of firm tannin and punctuating acidity, stimulating the senses and looking for a perfect pairing. It could be with you!

Here at the vineyard, Pinot Meunier finds a good home with salmon, a charcuterie board, warm duck confit topped salad, or maybe just about a quarter to 5 on a Friday night. Pinot Meunier, alone and unafraid, brought to you by Block 1.

And what about the Bellpine Pearl? Ernie made a deal with Dena that we would not produce sparkling wine, but instead would focus on making excellent Pinot Meunier red wine. And if that worked out Ernie would buy Dena Champagne. Rosé Champagne to be specific and Pinot Meunier Rosé Champagne if it could be found domestically. Or maybe a weekend shopping spree in Paris would suffice.

Right. So, a couple years back our 2016 Pinot Meunier earned the highest review ever for an Oregon Pinot Meunier at 92 points from @VinousMedia - these are people who know good wine. Dena called in her marker and Ernie went shopping for Champagne, Pinot Meunier Rosé Champagne to be specific. And that was the day the Bellpine Pearl took conceptual form.

Simply put, the Bellpine Pearl is a Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir still wine. It is made from the early harvest of the wings of both the Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir clusters. If the planets ever align and the moon is right, there could be a secondary fermentation leading to sparkling wine. But not yet.

The Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes are separately, very gently, whole berry pressed with very little skin contact time. The free run juice is then combined and co-fermented to dryness in stainless steel. We bottle very soon after fermentation to capture as much of the carbon dioxide in the wine as possible.

While the wine is not effervescent it does take some time to integrate. Much like Champagne, carbon dioxide then takes on the role of stewardship as the wine slowly unwinds through bottle maturation until eventually the carbon dioxide is fully depleted.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie


About Amalie Robert Estate:
It was the spring of 1999 when we happened upon Bob and his Montmorency cherry orchard. We had been studying soils and climate in the Willamette Valley and doing our level best to evaluate as many wines as we could. It didn’t take too long before Ernie said, “Bob, I got here too late. You have your cherry orchard sitting on top of my vineyard.”

We chose the Willamette Valley because it was the last best place on the planet to grow Pinot Noir. All of the other planets had one issue or another - soils, climate or the proximity to established markets were some of the most significant drawbacks.

And so it began. April of 1999 is when we became cherry growers for just long enough to bring in the harvest. From there on out, our singular focus was to develop our 60 acre property into a world class vineyard and traditional winemaking operation that we would own and operate ourselves.

The benefit of starting with a cherry orchard is that you are not buying someone else’s vineyard and their deeply rooted mistakes. You have the opportunity to make your own mistakes - and learn from them. From those humble beginnings we decided on our own rootstocks, vineyard spacing, trellis design, varieties of wines to grow and their specific clones. We learned how to farm wine to showcase the inherent qualities of our vineyard. We had help from some great and patient mentors including Bruce Weber, Dick Erath, Mike Etzel, Steve Doerner, and many, many others.

When it came time to design the winery, we only wanted to build one, so we found the best architect with the most experience in the Willamette Valley and that was Ernie Munch. Aside from the aesthetics and site placement, the guiding principle was gravity flow. Our crown jewel is the 1,200 tons of below grade concrete that maintains our naturally climate conditioned barrel cellar and the 500 or so barrels entrusted to mature our wines.

And what about the name? Amalie Robert is a combination of Dena's middle name, “Amalie” (pronounced AIM-a-lee) and Ernie's, “Robert.” We are them.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Portfolio Focus: Oregon Chardonnay


Hello and Welcome, 
  
This is a portfolio focus on Oregon Chardonnay from @AmalieRobert Estate. A FLOG Communication
  
Today our focus is Chardonnay, the white wine of Burgundy and the most popular white wine on the planet. From a scintillating stainless steel fermentation to the sublime BFC, Chardonnay holds a special place in the cool climate viticulture of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.


And at @AmalieRobert Estate, we grow our own. We planted Chardonnay as part of our first plantings back at the turn of the century. Thanks to the efforts of David Adelsheim and a few other like minded souls (who were responsible for bringing the Dijon clones to Oregon from Burgundy), we had the opportunity to plant the (new to Oregon) Dijon clones of Chardonnay.


And we did just that. We chose Dijon clone 76 and 95. Ernie had the foresight and good fortune (aka luck) to choose the ideal rootstock for our sustainably, dry farmed site and that was the deep rooting 5C. Being somewhat densely planted at 1,452 vines per acre, we wanted more than a little root competition at the surface. We wanted deep roots to colonize the soil and find soil moisture to carry us through each vintage to full ripeness.


At harvest time, we pick both clones at the same time. There are only 11 rows and they are conveniently located one right after the other. In the winery, we whole cluster press the wine berries and settle the juice overnight. While crushing the grapes will give more yield, whole cluster pressing helps preserve the natural acidity. Here is an example of less juice being higher quality juice. And for us, that’s what it’s all about.

Our first endeavor into the world of Chardonnay was Her Silhouette stainless steel fermented Chardonnay. We took the extra step of blocking the malic to lactic acid conversion to retain a crisp, acid driven finish. Oregon Chardonnay without acid? Come on, what’s the point?

And then after a few vintages, we said Hmmm. “What do you think of whole cluster pressing those wine berries, putting them in a large format barrel and fermenting the sugar out of them? And we can go all the way through the malic to lactic acid conversion!”

As Bill Gates used to say, “Go big or go home,” so we went big with a new 500 liter puncheon. 2.2 times the volume of a regular Burgundy barrel. (We buy a new one every vintage.) And here is why.


To make the most sublime Barrel Fermented Chardonnay we learned the old school way. Ferment in a big barrel and leave it there for 16 months to let the spent yeast lees impart richness back into the wine. Don’t stir it and most certainly NEVER, EVER top off that sole puncheon with Pinot Noir! So we don’t and we haven’t yet. Our first vintage of the Heirloom Cameo Chardonnay was 2009.


As summer turns to fall and there is a crispness in the air, your thoughts may turn to a cool climate Chardonnay, say maybe from Oregon. The wine is good and it is a real category, becoming quite popular now.

If you fancy the crisp and clean Chablis style wine, perhaps the Her Silhouette would be the right choice. Or if you are more inclined to an elegant, barrel fermented, Chassagne-Montrachet experience, take a look at the Heirloom Cameo BFC. The allure of a classically vinified and barrel matured Chardonnay has a very strong appeal.

If you would like to experience these wines vicariously, please follow these links to view their respective sales sheets.



Or even better yet, contact your sales representative for local availability, pricing and to set up a tasting appointment. We understand that you have a virtually endless sea of choices in the world of wine and appreciate your consideration of our brand.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie


About Amalie Robert Estate:


It was the spring of 1999 when we happened upon Bob and his Montmorency cherry orchard. We had been studying soils and climate in the Willamette Valley and doing our level best to evaluate as many wines as we could. It didn’t take too long before Ernie said, “Bob, I got here too late. You have your cherry orchard sitting on top of my vineyard.”

We chose the Willamette Valley because it was the last best place on the planet to grow Pinot Noir. All of the other planets had one issue or another - soils, climate or the proximity to established markets were some of the most significant drawbacks.

And so it began. April of 1999 is when we became cherry growers for just long enough to bring in the harvest. From there on out, our singular focus was to develop our 60 acre property into a world class vineyard and traditional winemaking operation that we would own and operate ourselves.

The benefit of starting with a cherry orchard is that you are not buying someone else’s vineyard and their deeply rooted mistakes. You have the opportunity to make your own mistakes - and learn from them. From those humble beginnings we decided on our own rootstocks, vineyard spacing, trellis design, varieties of wines to grow and their specific clones. We learned how to farm wine to showcase the inherent qualities of our vineyard. We had help from some great and patient mentors including Bruce Weber, Dick Erath, Mike Etzel, Steve Doerner, and many, many others.

When it came time to design the winery, we only wanted to build one, so we found the best architect with the most experience in the Willamette Valley and that was Ernie Munch. Aside from the aesthetics and site placement, the guiding principle was gravity flow. Our crown jewel is the 1,200 tons of below grade concrete that maintains our naturally climate conditioned barrel cellar and the 500 or so barrels entrusted to mature our wines.


And what about the name? Amalie Robert is a combination of Dena's middle name, “Amalie” (pronounced AIM-a-lee) and Ernie's, “Robert.” We are them.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: August 2019


Hello and Welcome, 
  
The is the Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: August 2019. A FLOG Communication from @AmalieRobert Estate. 
  
We apologize for the belated FLOG'ing as we have been set upon by the Great Cluster Pluck of 2019! 

Ah, the AUG FLOG. We have been waiting all year for this one. By the time most folks read this, the heavy lifting in the vineyard will be finished and we are on final approach to the Great Cluster Pluck of 2019. Hell may be coming to breakfast, but harvest is coming to wine country.

And no one loves harvest more than V. Germanica, aka the German yellow jacket. He is the not so cute one, second from the left.

 


And a more recent addition to the harvest matrix is his distant, and significantly larger cousin, the Bald Faced hornet. It’s not really a hornet, but in fact a dreadnought variant yellow jacket wasp. No matter, these bastards live in above ground, highly flammable, paper nests and are quite aggressive when YOU interact with THEIR environment. And they define their environment as anywhere they happen to be at any given time. Watch out!


Skunks will dig up yellow jacket nests and eradicate them for you. Bald Faced hornets, however, are best handled with fire. While at times impractical, the flame thrower is a highly effective tool.

“Captain, I suggest running a level 1 diagnostic.”

And then there is that. Ernie has been working on his upcoming “Star Trek into Wine Country” piece, and we seem to have lost some editorial containment between the two data sets.

“I will try and compensate.”

“Make it so.”

August is the time we start “fine tuning” or “manicuring” the vines and hope Mother Nature has a like minded approach. Mani-Pedi and a glass of wine anyone? The past few vintages have seen arid conditions from August through harvest. Fortunately, this year we have seen much more moderate temperatures and even a little August rain. Pretty Farmin’ Nice is how Ernie would describe vintage 2019, so far. And when we get it in the winery, our job is not to bucket-up.


And as foretold in the June Climate Update, we will do a “Rootstock Deep Dive.” Yeah, we are gonna get right down into the effective rooting zone. Look for topics such as available soil moisture and its impact on harvest dates. Then we will do a fruit zone pop-up where we will look forward into the weather at harvest.

“Captain, I am detecting nothing on long range sensors.”

“Helm, maintain course and speed.”

So, you may be wondering just exactly what do we mean by “fine tuning” or “manicuring” the vines. Well, let’s look at it from the vine’s perspective first. Here is what they have been doing all summer long. They have been growing out shoots and leaves and setting literally tons of wine berry clusters, including some in the most inappropriate places.

The reason they do this is they want to reproduce. They need to ripen their seeds and have some vineyard pest such as a bird, racoon, deer or other creature, big or small, ingest the seeds and deposit them (with a bit of fertilizer) in a different location. When this chain of events has occurred, the vine has completed its preprogrammed task. The leaves will senesce providing a beautiful vineyard patina, and then the vine will go dormant for about 6 months. At which point, it will spring to life and start the cycle all over again. Unless some nefarious gopher gnaws its roots off. Like it or not, Mr. Gopher is part of the farming lifecycle. And Ernie doesn’t like it, but it keeps his nursery man in business.

Now, let’s have a look at what we want from the Great Cluster Pluck of 2019. We are wanting a block by block Cluster Plucking of wine berries that uniformly reflect their growing season, not too much sugar, more red fruited aroma and flavor from the skins and no mold, mildew, rot or other irregularities to sort out. And this year we will be plucking 42 +1 blocks. The Gewürztraminer colonized the rootstock block, that’s our +1.

Now, how do we achieve the subset of wine berries we want to Cluster Pluck from the superset of wine berries the vines want to produce? That’s easy! We spend the month of August cutting off everything we do not want in the fermenters.


“Sir, Occam’s Razor is a mid-14th century Earth …”

“Mr. Data, isn’t it about time you ran a level 1 self-diagnostic?

In replicate.

In private.”

He’s right, you know. The simplest answer is often the most correct. Through trial and error, paying attention, and listening to Dick Erath we have a very simple to understand and easy to implement thinning plan. The only issue we have is replicating this thinning plan over about 55,000 vines. All done by hand, one cluster at a time. Oh, and we nip off the late to ripen wings.


“Except for blocks 1, 14 and 15. The wings from those 3 most amazing blocks make a beautiful Blanc de Noir still Rosé. Everything you need to make a stunning Bellpine Pearl Rosé wine is available to you in those three perfectly tended blocks representing Pinot Meunier, Pommard and Wadenswil clone Pinot Noir. Are you ready for the Great Cluster Pluck of 2019?!” @GordonRamsay, is that you?

Right. So here we are in August nipping off extra clusters that the vine has set, wings from the clusters we want to Cluster Pluck and the thirds. The thirds are the vine’s way of showing off. Most shoots have 2 clusters of wine berries, sometimes just one, but usually two. Occasionally, we will have a third cluster of wine berries on a shoot. And this cluster will look ripe, but it is not ripe.

And if it gets left on the shoot the two clusters below it will not achieve their full potential. So, a quick snip is all it takes to improve your wine quality. This fine tuning in the vineyard pass costs just about 1 minute per vine, by 55,000 vines, by the prevailing wage. But, once the Great Cluster Pluck starts, there is little time to cull out these under-ripe clusters.

And all the while these clusters are anywhere from fully purple to a mix of half purple and half green to mostly all green. The later into August we go, we favor thinning off the more green clusters. Now some of these clusters will, as if by magic, find their way from the vineyard floor into the harvest buckets anyway. A mystery wrapped in an enigma to be sorted out at the harvest trailer, before the wine berries ever make it to the winery.

To address the notion that the goal is to just leave the vine alone and then make the best of it with the wine, is not a philosophy adopted by @AmalieRobert. We would venture to guess there is a fair bit of sorting out involved with that method.

At this juncture, everyone take a deep breath or allocate another portion of wine to your glass – even if you must open a second bottle to do so. We are going on a “Rootstock Deep Dive” into the effective rooting zone. Watch out for nematodes. And if you find Ernie’s 11/16” wrench, please speak up.


“Captain! Klingon Warbird decloaking at the edge of the Neutral Zone!”

“Mr. Warf, I have had just about enough of this. Charge the forward phaser array and load photon torpedoes.”

Ernie used to race the ¼ mile track at Spokane International Raceway park, mostly just for shitz and grinz. Not that difficult really. When the Christmas tree turns from yellow to green, you just mash your foot down on the throttle. After 1,320 feet, you can let off the gas and drop the anchors. Pretty easy. But if you want to actually win some races, and not just burn rubber, it is a bit more complicated. Speed costs. How fast do you want to go? Note: Having the fastest car in town comes with some unwanted recognition.

Similarly, making wine is not that difficult. Humans have been fermenting grapes for centuries, whether they knew what they were doing or not. The good news is that fermented grape juice, even when it is bad, is not lethal. Hence the continuing evolution of wine quality vis-à-vis the human condition. Why even at a certain point in the United States history, wine was prescribed for medicinal purposes, because otherwise it was a controlled substance. Is this a great country or what? Note: Having the highest rated syrah from the Willamette Valley also comes with some notoriety.

Rootstocks are the connection between your inherent terroir and your human terroir. The soil is the soil and as a winegrower your job is to know your dirt. To be a Master Farmer is to know what rootstocks to put into your terroir that will produce the highest quality wine berries across all varieties, and vintages. Of course, you cannot know this empirically when you buy a cherry orchard, but that orchard left us plenty of clues. That and the 60 odd soil pits we dug before we selected and then planted our grafted vines.

When the Drouhins came to town in the 1980s, they bought volcanic Jory soil in Dundee. They planted vines and enlisted Ernie Munch to build them a winery. Ernie was the only architect to tell them what they were planning to do would not work. They hired Ernie, planted grafted vines and made it work.

So one day, our Ernie met Robert Drouhin in the famed Seven Springs vineyard where he was sampling wine berries and putting them in Ziplock bags to take back to the winery for analysis. And that is when Ernie popped the question. (His recollection of events is chronicled below.)

“How is Clos de Mouches looking this year?”

“Ah, you know where the good wine is made! It is very nice this year.”

“Robert, when you planted Pinot Noir in Dundee, what rootstocks did you use?”

“We planted on 3309 and 101-14. Of course, we have irrigation here.”

“Yes, of course. Why did you choose those rootstocks for Oregon? Was it based on your experience in Burgundy?”

“Well, no. You see in Oregon, it was all we could get!”

"It was all we could get." Hmmm. Of all the rootstocks available, the only grafted vines they could get in Oregon were some of the shallowest rooting in all the world. But they have irrigation, so they could augment their available soil moisture during the beautiful sunny and dry months of August and September.

Now some of you may be wondering why there is so much to-do about rootstocks. We are going to address that right now. Rootstocks are the part of a grafted vine that grows roots, obviously. Rootstocks are grafted (at the crown) onto grape varieties such as Pinot Noir that grow above ground and bear wine berries.

The significance of any given rootstock is measured in how deep the roots go looking for water. And sure, we want to know if they are resistant to nematodes and phylloxera. Those are soil borne pests that can significantly tax a vines energy by feeding on the roots vascular system, or even kill it. Akin to leaches on humans, another medical treatment gone awry. Maybe, why not just write me a scrip for some wine?

Here is an interesting chart. It reveals the parent material of a whole host of grapevine rootstocks. Rootstocks are made from crossing two subspecies of American grape that grew up with phylloxera and can protect themselves from that pest. Most rootstocks have two parents, such as Schwarzmann which is the result of crossing Riparia Gloire and Rupestris. See it, right there in the middle? However, there are rootstocks that have three parents. Can you find 44-53 Malégue? Yeah, Ernie has some of that grafted onto Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Correct, that is Champagne Deconstructed!


And here is yet another illuminating illustration. It illustrates a vine’s world when planted in a vineyard spaced 1.5 meters (about 60 inches) for the tractor and 2.2 meters (about 80 inches) between each vine. But that’s not important. What is important is the distribution of the roots penetrating through the surface soil, sub-surface soil, subsoil and subsolum.


The upper most roots in the surface soil are picking up most of the nutrients that feed the vine. This is where the fencepost rots, as they say, and it is where most nutrient recycling occurs. The greens and the browns are tilled into this soil layer and soil borne organisms decompose the material to provide nutrients for the vine. The rest of the roots are in a race to the bottom. The deeper the roots go, the more likely they will find water to sustain the vine during drought (Xeric) conditions.

And this is where the rootstock selection becomes critically important. Once we identify the rootstocks that can protect the vine from nematodes and phylloxera, we are looking primarily for rooting depth.

The key here is to match the depth of the roots with available soil moisture. Based on empirical evidence we know the rooting proclivities of the rootstocks listed in the spaghetti graphic provided above. They are as follows:

Shallow roots: Riparia Gloire

Moderately shallow roots: 101-14, 3309, Schwarzmann

Moderately deep roots: 44-53M

Deep roots: 5C, own rooted (not grafted) vines


The next topic is available soil moisture, what is it and why is it important. Soil moisture is just that, it is water that it is dissolved in the soil. But it may be that there is so little of it, the vine roots cannot separate the water from the soil. Hence there is no soil moisture available to the vine.

@AmalieRobert is a dry farmed Estate. We knew that we wanted that expression of our terroir when we selected our rootstocks and began planting at the turn of the century. We also knew that our Bellpine soil taxonomy is classified as “Xeric Haplohumults”. That mouthful of marbles and toothpicks simply means “The soils are usually moist but are dry for 45 to 60 consecutive days during the summer between depths of 4 and 12 inches”. During the summer, there is no available soil moisture in the top 12 inches of soil. Good to know when you are selecting rootstocks.

The concept to retain here is, as the growing season progresses to harvest time, the soil moisture available to the vine goes deeper and deeper into the soil profile. Shallow rooted vines go without water and deeper-rooted vines are still drawing moisture from the soil.


Matching rootstocks to available soil moisture. Here we will introduce the most common rootstocks planted in the Willamette Valley, which are all phylloxera tolerant, and then we will talk about the rootstock less used (and Ernie’s favorite), 5C.

The shallowest rootstock is known as RG, as in Riparia Gloire. It has the shallowest effective rooting zone of all the rootstocks commonly in use. Normally planted in very deep and wet soils or dry soils where effective soil moisture is controlled with irrigation.

101-14 Mgt, 3309 and Schwarzmann are all crosses of Riparia Gloire and Rupesteris and are all phylloxera tolerant. They are all very similar in that they have a bit deeper effective rooting zone than RG. However, they have varying degrees of nematode resistance, with 3309 being the most susceptible. Nematodes are very small subterranean blighters that tap into the roots and feed off the vascular tissue. As noted above, of the endless medical treatments available, a prescription of wine can be a pretty good remedy.

The 44-53M rootstock is a bit of an odd ball as it has 3 parents. Not something you see every day. It is a three-way cross between RG and Rupesteris and Berlandiari. The effective rooting zone is a bit deeper than the aforementioned group, with one distinction. This rootstock does not pick up magnesium from your terroir very well. This becomes quite obvious later in the season as the vine begins to move magnesium around from the old leaves to the new leaves. The old leaves look like they have a red border in Pinot Noir, or yellow in Chardonnay.

And we sum up with own rooted vines which tend to be deeper rooted than any of these rootstocks. Grapevine roots have been found at 6 feet deep and beyond when the soil conditions allow. The problem own rooted vines have is that they cannot tolerate phylloxera. The little blighter taps into the roots and creates an opening where all manner of bad actors in the soil enter the vines vascular tissue eventually killing it. Hence the reason for the phylloxera tolerant grafted vine discussion.

And that brings us to the 5C rootstock. This rootstock has the deepest effective rooting zone of all the rootstocks noted above and is the most on par with own rooted vines. Now we are getting somewhere, deep! And it is tolerant to phylloxera meaning the blighter still taps into it, but the vine is able to protect itself from the pathogens that live in the soil. However, as strong a rootstock that it is, 5C is just as susceptible to “tractor blight” as all the rest. Maybe time to tighten the loose nut behind the wheel.

Now, let’s put the roots in the soil profile and head on into harvest. The rootstock is interacting with all the stratums of the soil. The soil has a depleting supply of moisture as the Great Cluster Pluck approaches. The vine is depending on its deepest roots to access available soil moisture. The vine is using soil moisture to cool the leaves and translocate nutrients throughout the vascular tissue. So far all is right in the plant kingdom.

As the weeks turn to the days leading up to the Great Cluster Pluck, winemakers must decide when to “pull the trigger” and start plucking clusters. A tremendous amount of contemplation, consternation and even some constipation occurs during this time frame.

The vines, and in turn the subject of our discussion, the wine berries, are pre-programmed. If their roots have access to available soil moisture, they are in no hurry. They gradually increase sugars by using their malic acid as an energy source thus becoming sweeter. The skins continue to develop aroma and flavor. Eventually the sugars reach a range of around 23 Brix and the acids drop down to give us a pH around 3.4 to 3.6. When these factors align with a very pleasurable aroma and flavor profile, it is time to get out the harvest buckets.

If you have shallow roots in a dry, well drained hillside that hasn’t seen rain for 60 days, life is markedly different. The vine has taken all of the available soil moisture available to the roots and is now translocating water from the wine berry to sustain itself. The wine berry is now starting to desiccate. The wine berry is losing water and concentrating its sugar and acid, without much advancement in aroma and flavor development.


In the lab, you see the sugar concentration increasing which is normal, and the acid concentration is rising as well. This is not normal, it tells you the berry is losing water, not ripening. Once the sugars reach about 25 Brix, or 15% alcohol potential, you most likely have missed the optimal harvest window. Elvis has left the building.

“Captain, they are coming about!”

What comes about, goes about and climate change has brought this issue to the fore. Shallow rooting rootstocks have a natural tendency to advance the harvest window by a few days. The desire to Cluster Pluck before the birds, rain and the rot visit themselves upon the vineyard is a strong one. However, that desire must be tempered with our goal of producing world class wines in every vintage, climatically challenging or not. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

“Fire phasers and photon torpedoes, full spread!”

@AmalieRobert 5C is the rootstock of choice that spans the full spectrum of climatically challenging growing conditions. 5C can tolerate longer drought conditions and still achieve elegant aromas and flavors. In cool vintages we can adjust our canopy management and vineyard floor vegetation to achieve aroma and flavor ripeness. As we compare Cluster Pluck dates with some old timers who still grow own rooted vines, we see a strong correlation in own rooted vines and that handsome 5C rootstock.


And now what you have all been so patiently waiting for, the numbers. Our slow and steady march to the Great Cluster Pluck of 2019 continues unabated - one day at a time. August provided very moderate temperatures and a little tinkle of rain. Our neighbors to the south have yet to really set themselves on fire, so we don’t have smoke taint to worry about. Or excessive atmospheric particulate that prevents us from cooling down at night.

The month of August continued the everything in moderation theme, and then promptly put moderation in moderation with a significant ramp up in heat for month end. Let’s break it down like this.

August 1 through 15 recorded 273.1 Degree Days with a high temperature of 92.8 recorded on August 4, 4:12 pm and a low temperature of 50.5 degrees on August 11 from 3:00 am through 4:00 am. This represents a diurnal shift of 42.3 degrees during the first half of August. Rain was a trace at 0.02 inches.

The second half of the second half of the month of August provided the heat we had been expecting all month long. The last week of August saw temperatures cresting the 100 degree mark at the farm. But a fast horse doesn’t run long, and the intense heat was not sustained for more than a couple of days. Ernie is still suffering flashbacks of vintage 2018. Note the 55 degree diurnal shift listed in the Salem weather graph for Tuesday, August 27.


The high temperature for the second half of the month was 100.1 degrees recorded on Tuesday, August 27 at 4:12 pm. And get this, the low temperature for the second half of the month was 49.1 degrees recorded on August 22 at 5:36 am. August 22 brought 0.07 inches of rainfall.


The second half of the month recorded 321.7 Degree Days for a monthly total of 594.8. The year to date growing Degree Days stand at 1,903.7, compared with 1,954.4 from vintage 2018. Whoa!


Whoa! When I say whoa, I mean WHOA!
- Yosemite Sam 

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Portfolio Focus: Pinot in Pink Rose


Hello and Welcome, 
  
This is a portfolio focus on Pinot in Pink Rosé  from Amalie Robert Estate. A FLOG Communication


These are the Dog Days of summer. No matter how you do it, the rule is to stay cool. A crisp refreshing Rosé can go a long way to achieving that goal. It is the perfect summer accessory for your poolside table, or alfresco dining.


Pinot in Pink is a Rosé of Pinot Noir fermented in stainless steel after limited juice exposure to the skins. The result is a light bodied and refreshing wine with purity of fruit, a rich mid-palate and a lingering finish. After all, this is Pinot Noir!


Here is a refreshing summer wine that respects you for who you are, whenever you can find the time. Perhaps you are dockside with oysters and a tantalizing Granita, or along the river with fresh strawberries, cheese and a baguette. Surely, the evolving colors and shapes of the ever-changing sunset complement your style.


And if you are ready for a little summer intrigue, we would like to introduce you to the Bellpine Pearl Rosé. Bellpine Pearl is a pale Rosé made from gently pressed wings of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. We were on our way to making a sparkling wine and stopped here.


Both Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir clusters have small fruiting tendrils or “wings”. These wings typically flower about a week or so after the main cluster. And as you would expect, they ripen about a week or so after the main cluster.


We leave them to slow down sugar accumulation. Then just before harvest time we thin the wings off. However, we found the flavor and acid profile of these Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir wings to be perfect for an elegant, stainless steel fermented dry Rosé.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

About Amalie Robert Estate:


It was the spring of 1999 when we happened upon Bob and his Montmorency cherry orchard. We had been studying soils and climate in the Willamette Valley and doing our level best to evaluate as many wines as we could. It didn’t take too long before Ernie said, “Bob, I got here too late. You have your cherry orchard sitting on top of my vineyard.”

We chose the Willamette Valley because it was the last best place on the planet to grow Pinot Noir. All of the other planets had one issue or another - soils, climate or the proximity to established markets were some of the most significant drawbacks.

And so it began. April of 1999 is when we became cherry growers for just long enough to bring in the harvest. From there on out, our singular focus was to develop our 60 acre property into a world class vineyard and traditional winemaking operation that we would own and operate ourselves.

The benefit of starting with a cherry orchard is that you are not buying someone else’s vineyard and their deeply rooted mistakes. You have the opportunity to make your own mistakes - and learn from them. From those humble beginnings we decided on our own rootstocks, vineyard spacing, trellis design, varieties of wines to grow and their specific clones. We learned how to farm wine to showcase the inherent qualities of our vineyard. We had help from some great and patient mentors including Bruce Weber, Dick Erath, Mike Etzel, Steve Doerner, and many, many others.

When it came time to design the winery, we only wanted to build one, so we found the best architect with the most experience in the Willamette Valley and that was Ernie Munch. Aside from the aesthetics and site placement, the guiding principle was gravity flow. Our crown jewel is the 1,200 tons of below grade concrete that maintains our naturally climate conditioned barrel cellar and the 500 or so barrels entrusted to mature our wines.

And what about the name? Amalie Robert is a combination of Dena's middle name, “Amalie” (pronounced AIM-a-lee) and Ernie's, “Robert.”

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: July 2019


Hello and Welcome, 
  
This is the Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: July 2019. A FLOG Communication
  
The best way to describe farming wine berries during July in the Willamette Valley can be summed up in a Lyle Lovett lyric. To wit:

“Like two backseat lovers, can't wait to get started
Knowing everything's over too soon”
                                - Memphis Midnight/Memphis Morning

First, we were racing to get the trellis catch wires up to harness the explosive vine growth. Then it was running the rows to clip the wires and the shoots into place. Ernie was in hurry up and wait mode because he can’t start hedging until the wires are secured. Block by block the vineyard started to take discipline.
  

Load in another 200 gallons of diesel and then the “Enforcer” is trimming a tight canopy. The first pass gets the vines attention and the second pass actually starts reprogramming their behavior. And then when it’s over, you get to sleep. But by then it’s August.





The whole concept of hedging is quite simple. We want to redirect the vine from growing more leaves to ripening their seeds and in so doing ripening the aroma and flavor packet that holds those seeds. That’s what we want, nice and easy ripening of the wine berry skins which is where all of the aroma and flavor is. Our interpretation of Pinot Noir is a silky, supple, sultry, svelte and sublime wine and to end up that way, you need to pay close attention to how you ripen the wine berries while they are still on the vine. That’s Ernie’s summer job and he is sitting on about 100 tons worth of silky, supple, sultry, svelte and sublime.

But there is more to it. After paying attention to the last few vintages, Ernie has done some figuring. He figures that hot vintages give you high alcohols. And he knows that the more leaf surface the vine has, the more sugar the vine will pump into the wine berry. This in turn will ferment into higher alcohol potential. So, he figured he would cut a much shorter canopy this year. He is about 6.5 feet tall instead of the standard 7.5 feet tall canopy. Much lower and you are trimming the tops of the posts off. Not so good, they don’t grow back.




Click on the image above to watch the video: Looking out the tractor window – A dog’s point of view.

Now, about those aroma and flavor packets, aka wine berry skins. Too much sun exposure during hot days has a tendency to create very bitter skin tannins. Have you ever had a wine that tasted like black licorice in the mid-palate? That is from over exposure to the sun and it is not pretty. So this year, Ernie figured he will not pull leaves. Oh sure, there will be some leaf casualties when we get to thinning and that’s fine. But other than that, he skipped the whole sordid affair.

But if you want to be bad, you’ve got to be good. We are talking about good canopy management and shoot spacing. The risk of developing mildew or botrytis is much higher if you do not pull some leaves out of the fruit zone. This is where 20 years of experience farming your own piece of dirt pays some handsome dividends. By focusing a tremendous amount of effort in our canopy management, we are able to provide shade to protect our silky, supple, sultry, svelte and sublime aromas and flavors.


Everything we have done so far in vintage 2019 is cumulative. Our goal is to be in the best possible position that allows us to choose when to harvest. And we want to make those harvest decisions based on ideal aroma and flavor in our wine berries. Yeah, it’s going to rain, we just don’t know when. But we feel confident that the timely actions we have taken with the vines will carry us through in silky, supple, sultry, svelte and sublime fashion. Just like vintage 2007…

Let’s dig into the numbers. The big news to report in July is that there is no big news to report. The month of July was very moderate and that portends what could be the most stunning vintage since 2007! Yes, that’s right, 2007. It is clearly too soon to start putting down money, unless you had to buy barrels for this fall, or pay for some vineyard labor, or replace a farming tractor tire…

We received and recorded 501.4 Degree Days for the month of July. The high temperature was 94.5 degrees recorded on the 26th at 3:00 pm. The low temperature was a respectable 46.0 on July 19 at 5:48 am. The growing season-to-date Degree Days @AmalieRobert stand at 1,308.9. While the growing season took off like a twin-turbo Hemi powered speed racer, it appears Mother Nature missed a shift as she was burning down the avenue. And we are all the better off for it.


And tinkle, tinkle, we had a sprinkle. Very rare for measurable precipitation in July, but yet here it is. We experienced two mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive rain events. The first was on the 10th where we logged 0.51 inches of rain. The second event was on the 15th where we logged an additional 0.33 inches for a month total of 0.84 inches of rain.

Compare and contrast to July 2018 graphic, where we had a high temperature of 106.9 and a monthly accumulation of 611.1 Degree Days. And no rain.


Of course, we have records back to 2007 and actually were able to retrieve them. July 2007 logged 557 Degree Days and 0.39 inches of rain. How do you say less is more in wine writing speak?

So, you may be wondering where all of that heat went this year. Well, it followed the Jet Stream and went north – to Alaska.


Anchorage hit an all-time record high on the 4th of July, 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s some serious Baked Alaska! The historical high temperature for Anchorage on the 4th of July is 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here on the farm, we crossed the 90-degree line for just a few minutes at about a quarter to 5 that afternoon. Just past Bier:30, Ernie noted in his daily log, as he refreshed his Adult Recreational Beverage. It was burgers and dogs and Happy Birthday to the USA!

Clearly, we need to be having some serious speaks with whomever is driving the Jet Stream. It could be that Alfred E. Neuman character. He has been out of a job for a while now…




So, there it is. August brings us the dog days of summer. Our thoughts naturally turn to Rosé wines. The Pinot in Pink in particular. But Ernie is keeping a close eye on the color development of the wings in block 1. That is where the Pinot Meunier lives. And soon, he will be bringing those wings in along with some Pinot Noir wings to make our Blanc de Noir Bellpine Pearl Rosé. Very exciting!

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: Pinot Noir In Flagrante 2019


Hello and Welcome, 
  
This is an Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: Pinot Noir In Flagrante 2019. A FLOG Communication
  
It is that time of year once again. We have seen the first wine berry “In Flagrante!” 


The day was a beautiful day as we have grown accustomed to this time of year, only more so. The day of the first wine berry to show a little skin (color) was Tuesday, July 30, at about 8:15 am. The Julian calendar day was 211. For those who live in the moment, Ernie would remind you that last year this event occurred on Julian calendar day 215. The historical average for this type of activity is the 15th of August, Julian calendar day 227, or 228 if it is a leap year. You can read up on the Julian calendar here:

The lucky block was block 11, which is the deeply rooted home to 891 Pinot Noir clone 114 vines grafted onto that soil moisture extracting 5C rootstock. These vines were planted nearly 20 years ago and we are starting to reap the benefits of vine age.



After that first wine berry sighting, it becomes a race for attention. Block by block it’s “Hey, look at me!” and “I’ve got your wine berry. I’ve got your wine berry right here!” or “We’re takin’ names and kickin’ acid!” There really is no end to this showboating until the Great Cluster Pluck. Kinda like political debates in some ways. And in some ways not…

The other really cool thing to happen this time of year is the IPNC – International Pinot Noir Celebration right here in McMinnville, Oregon. We were fortunate enough to be selected as a Featured Winery again this year. This is a truly spectacular event that anyone who is remotely interested in Pinot Noir and great summer events must attend. It’s a picnic for Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir enthusiasts.

And it truly is international with featured Pinot Noir producers attending from all corners of the globe. As of yet, we have not had any intergalactic Pinot Noir producers, but the International Space Station did a few fly-overs during the event. You can find the best times to view their orbit from your locale here: http://www.isstracker.com/



Things being what they are, we had representation from some of the best growing regions in Europe. You may know them as Austria, France, Germany and Italy. That is because when Europe was finding its footing these countries were continually shifting their boundaries. When it was all said and done, they ended up with the countries and borders that we see today. But what if…

Things worked out differently? Maybe Napoleon did not go to Waterloo and instead opened a pastry shop (Pâtisserie) or boulangerie? Maybe that great regional terroir would ultimately be controlled by just two entities, let’s say Germany and Italy. Perhaps that growing region would today be known as German-Italia. Kinda just rolls off the tongue with a little practice. Sort of…

And if you are a fan of “Star Trek into Wine Country” you may have the opportunity to soon read about a space-time continuum rift in a “return from the future” episode. Visitors from the future return to take vine cuttings and in so doing alter the course of Earth’s history, and by definition, future. Will Pinot Noir become Pinot More? And is Cabernet actually ready to drink with 1,200 years of bottle age?

No longer do the history books list these specific countries, but just a single growing region is referenced – German-Italia. Fortunately, a digital Vinous archive was also appropriated and brought to the future. The Holodeck is then used to recreate Earth’s past vinous history.



And who could have known that the Borg would make such great vineyard workers? Why there is one now mounted up to the front of Ernie’s tractor.

Enough of this nonsense, we have real work to do. In about 60 days’ time, depending on Mother Nature’s mood, we will commence The Great Cluster Pluck of Vintage 2019. If we can maintain a 25 furlong per fortnight speed, we should end up there just about right on schedule.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie