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!


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

- Rusty Gaffney, PinotFile - September 2016


"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


"...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


© 2005 – 2020 Amalie Robert Estate, LLC

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate Memorial Day Update: COVID-19

Hello and Welcome, 
This is an Amalie Robert Estate Memorial Day Update: COVID-19. A FLOG Communication from Dena and Ernie @AmalieRobert Estate. 

Pinot Noir – The Essential Vines

The great state of Oregon has 36 counties covering 98,466 square miles and home to about 4.2 million residents. The governor’s original emergency order to close all nonessential businesses has been extended to July 6, 2020. As of May 15, counties have begun to open in a phase 1 capacity except 5, as identified by the County Status from the Oregon.Gov website. Of these counties, 3 have not yet submitted their detailed reopening plans to the governor for review. That leaves 2 of us who have submitted detailed reopening plans, but were rejected. Here is the answer to this week’s super trivia question: The capital of Oregon is Salem located in Marion County.

Closed we remain. However, we are open by appointment for pickups. Please contact Dena by email at or by phone at 503.88.CUVEE (28833).

However, emboldened we remain. We are planning our first 2020 winery open house for Father’s Day weekend June 20-21. This presupposes our county will have passed the opening requirements established by the governor and achieved by most other counties. We will be here with the required PPE and hope to see you equally adorned. In case of emergency, Ernie will have the pressure washer and “Hot Box” at the ready. This combination can produce instant steam delivered to your person at 4,500 PSI.

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we have a new release of The Reserve Pinot Noir. The Reserve always seems to take forever to come around, and the 2015 vintage is no exception, but when it does what a treat! The wine is beautiful, and we wish you were here. Or as Jimmy Buffet might say, “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.” What a Parrot Head!

In the meantime, Stay Safe and if you are a resident of a closed county, Stay Home. But it’s not so bad, really. You could be enjoying the company of a fine glass of Amalie Robert wine in the privacy of your own home. We would venture a guess that would be warmer than our barrel cellar this weekend, and most likely, a lot less humid and moldy. And while you are enjoying some fine wine, you could be reading the FLOG. Or watching one of our highly acclaimed videos. While it is a (slow) work in progress, you could go to our Facebook page and “like” us. If you don’t like us, well we don’t want to know.

Or get to know Amalie Robert Estate and Take the Tour.

Our full portfolio of wines is at your disposal on Amalie Robert Direct all day, every day. Lip Sanitizer 6 packs are still available. Click on the Big Blue Button.

We have been told that in the alcohol business, it is illegal to give anything away that may be an inducement to sell wine. In that regard, there is no longer a free cork in every bottle. The cork is now included with each bottle purchased. Alex, I’ll take “A distinction without a difference” for $1,000 please.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: April 2020 & Library Pinot Noirs

Hello and Welcome, 
This is the Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: April 2020. A FLOG Communication from Dena and Ernie @AmalieRobert Estate. 
It has just been a lovely Willamette Valley start to the growing season. Wind, rain, sun and clouds provide an ever-changing landscape of environmental conditions that afford us the opportunity to conquer the agrarian challenges of getting the vineyard ready to bear fruit. And of course, it would not be springtime in wine country without a visit to the shop for some equipment maintenance. Then just wait until you see the numbers! They are just one sig-fig this year, but they are stunning.

First off, we have a little housekeeping to attend to. We have begun using Evite to help us manage in the times of COVID-19. Evite allows us to send invitations to help manage visits to the winery, so that we can comply with social distancing requirements, while not being socially distant. We have yet to figure out how to schedule specific times, so if you RSVP please indicate your preferred time. We also send an Evite to announce new releases. Note: We are not shipping any wine without your approval.

When you receive an Evite invitation, please notice there are often multiple pages to the invitation. The cover card is just the first page of the invitation (and notice the Pinot Noir stamp on the envelope). The second and third pages will contain details about releases or visits to the winery. Label images or other artwork are sometimes included. From time to time Ernie may insert a coded message, such as the timeless “Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine”. Also, we are introducing The Big Blue Button.

And while we are on the topic of cards and wine, we would like to point out that Mother’s Day is Sunday May 10th. Most of the country is still under lockdown and that means someone has to figure out how to make brunch for Mom. We suggest cinnamon spiced waffles with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream. Super easy and a very colorful presentation with purple lilacs for the table or a dozen pink roses - like Pinot in Pink Rosé, the perfect brunch wine.

There is still time to up your waffle making game before Sunday, and we are confident in your corkscrew abilities. You’ve got this! But if you need some Rosés, we are here to help. Pinot in Pink Rosé 6 packs are still $100, shipping included. Just press the Big Blue Button.

Digging in the dirt. That is springtime in wine country. The vineyard floor has been recycled to release the nutrients from last fall’s post harvest cover crops. Then Ernie prepped the soil and drilled the new spring cover crop. And the rain played right into Ernie’s plan to germinate the new seeds. Rain in April doesn’t actually require a lot of planning, just being ready to go when the sun peeks out is usually good enough. And so now we have about 18 acres of vineyard floor that is growing fertilizer for the vines. Once their above ground usefulness is at an end, these cover crops will be tilled under and the natural nutrient recycling lives on.

We recorded bud break on April 13th. The vines are starting to wake up and they have their pre-programmed plan. They know exactly what they are going to do and when they are going to do it. We have our plan as well. We know what we are going to do, we just don’t know when we are going to do it. We are in the driver’s seat, but we are certainly not in control.

Next on the vines’ agenda is flowering. We usually have to wait until Dena’s birthday in June, but sometimes we have to wait longer, and sometimes we don’t. That’s farming where we remember fondly, the words of Yogi Berra who once said, “You can observe a lot by just watching”. We will know it when we see it, and we will let you know when we see it.
Why yes, we have a little equipment maintenance to do. Of Ernie’s 3 Italian tractors, two of them have sequestration stations, aka cabs. And both of these tractors are equipped with air conditioning. (You would think the glass would offer UV protection like your vehicle’s windshield does, but hey this is agriculture.)

And it just so happens that both of the cab tractors need their air conditioning compressors replaced this year. These things usually run in three’s, but the third machine is an open station crawler, so the air conditioning is “au naturel”.

The alternative to not restoring the air conditioning function is to operate the tractor as a full-size convection oven. The heat is from the tractor engine and drive train, and the sunlight is unfiltered and magnified through the glass. The fan, while not providing any cooling, does distribute the heat evenly throughout the cooking space. Replace SPF 15 sunscreen with olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of paprika and you end up with braised winegrower by mid-August.

And wouldn’t you know it. One tractor has a hydraulic pump attached to the crankshaft pulley. There is no way to just slip on a new belt. That means to change the belt that runs the air conditioning compressor, the entire front end of this machine has to be disassembled. And then reassembled. Correctly. While this is unfortunate, it is not uncommon in farm equipment.

The first thing to cover for the Vintage 2020 numbers is that 2020 is a leap year. If you were born on February 29th or have a wedding anniversary, this is your Special Year! Enjoy it now, as 2024 is a long ways off, and “the future ain’t what it used to be”. On February 29th we recorded a high temperature of 45.3 degrees and a low temperature of 29.7 degrees. We hope you made the most of it.

For the first month of the growing season, April 2020, we logged 133.5 Degree Days. The high temperature for the 30 day period was 79.3 degrees and the low temperature was 30.7 degrees. The first half of the month was cooler registering 41.6 Degree Days and recorded the low temperature. The second half of the month registered 91.9 Degree Days and recorded the high temperature.

And it seems Ernie’s prior vintage rain dances have a half-life. April rain slogged in at 1.33 inches. Note: The rainfall will continue to be expressed in 2 sig-figs. There is no reason for it, it just seems like the right thing to do. Kinda like some lockdown regimes.

Cleaning up the cellar. The COVID-19 SIP regulations have given us an opportunity to raid our cellar and we imagine you may have too. We have tucked into a little Spanish wine from the 1980’s which is sublime, and Ernie’s favorite Northern Rhône Côte Rôties from the 1990’s and somehow we found a bottle of Bordeaux from 1982. We tucked that one back away as it seems it has another 100 or more years to go.

And then we found this. From the very corner, bottom shelf of our library racks we uncovered a cache of our very early vintages. Only a few bottles of some blends and just a handful of cases in total of 2006-2007-2008-2009 vintages. There is an odd magnum or two to be had as well. Of course, we immediately performed the necessary Quality Control measures and are able to report that these wines are just singing!

The first vintage in our estate winery was 2006. That was the year, trial by fire. But it worked out pretty well. We made our first vintage of The Reserve in 2006 – just about 24 cases worth. So, we sent our first vintage of The Reserve, Amalie’s Cuvée and Estate Pinot Noirs off for review. And we sent them to the toughest critic of them all – Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. The best review and highest score awarded from the 2006 vintage was a 93. And we were very, very pleased to see that our inaugural vintage of The Reserve earned that score. Our individual wines, Amalie’s Cuvée and Estate both came in at 92 points. As far as inspiration goes, 2006 was a very significant year for Dena and Ernie at Amalie Robert Estate. And then there was Ernie’s favorite vintage, 2007 where The Reserve once again earned the top score from the vintage from not only Stephen Tanzer, but also Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Just sayin’.

Please have a look at the following availability. We are offering these wines first come, first serve. If you see something you like, just press the Big Blue Button and an E-mail window to Dena will open where you can indicate your selections. Please specify 750 ml or 1.5 liter format. Dena will confirm back with pricing and availability. Happy Hunting!

And here is a Vintage Scorecard to help you in your quest. You can also check out the Vintage Vestibule to review past vintages.

We have all SIP’d and pulled together to flatten the curve. Well done one and all! However, there could be another curve to pay attention to later this year. And that will be in the form of increased maternity ward activity just about 9 months after your local SIP order was issued. Time to find the waffle maker and get busy in the kitchen. Somebody put the kettle on.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate: A-List Release - 2019 Dijon Clones Chardonnay!

Hello and Welcome, 
Big News! We just received word from Punxsutawney Phil. That big fur bearin’ rodent says that they will have 6 more weeks of lockdown! A FLOG communication from Dena and Ernie @AmalieRobert Estate. 
While masks are all that have been called for in Oregon, other jurisdictions of the US are taking a more authoritarian or “Full Body” approach to your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e. the “FBC-PPE.” You are free to choose your own PPE. In farming we say, “If it looks stupid but it works, it is not stupid.” Certainly, we are not here to judge.

Meanwhile spring has sprung, and we have a new A-List release, the 2019 Dijon Clones Chardonnay! The winery will be open for wine pickups and perhaps a bit of tasting from 10 am through 3 pm on Saturday and Sunday, May 2nd and 3rd.

Look for an E-vite from Dena to schedule your pickup time. You can also request any last-minute wine needs to replenish the Oregon section of your Adult Recreational Beverage cellar and read the latest updates on any socially unacceptable behavior. We look forward to seeing you and your choice of PPE.

If you need ground transportation (UPS or FedEx) to co-locate with your wine, we can make that happen. The outer box will be inconspicuous brown cardboard. Each bottle in your order will come individually wrapped in its own PPE. We recommend setting the bottles upright and at the correct temperature for a minimum of 24 hours before opening them. Visit Amalie Robert Direct to place your order, discretely.

Let’s get right into it. We are very proud to introduce to you our estate grown 2019 Dijon Clones Chardonnay! Kinda rocks your world, we know. Here is what didn’t change. Ernie still grows this wine in block 24. The block still has 1,089 vines of Dijon Clones Chardonnay, with the field blend favoring clone 76 over 95. The rootstock is still that mother of all rootstocks, 5C. And yes, we still produce the BFC Heirloom Cameo. Starting to feel the hairs on the back of your neck relax, maybe just a bit?

Besides, how can you have Champagne Deconstructed without Chardonnay? If you have time for a little home schooling, pick up a six pack of Champagne Deconstructed. Your order will contain 2 bottles each of 2019 Dijon Clones Chardonnay, 2018 Pinot Meunier and 2012 iPinot Pinot Noir, complete with examination sheets. Don't delay, order yours today and shipping will be included through Mother's Day!

So, what’s new about the 2019 Dijon Clones Chardonnay? We have retired the Her Silhouette fanciful name in favor of a more informative name. The Dijon Clones of Chardonnay are the new vines on the block. The vines were brought into Oregon direct from Burgundy just about the time we were establishing the vineyard at Amalie Robert Estate. And they make a damn fine wine. It also
eliminates any confusion that we are growing that much maligned 108 clone out of California (where you can see some of the most unusual self-quarantine PPE - ever.)

The primary fermentation of sugar to alcohol is still done without oak influence. Stylistically, the Her Silhouette was colloquially known as “No Oak, No Malo”. We have moved on. And you can too! All it takes is a little bacterium and all of that malic acid becomes lactic acid. If that sounds yummy, it’s because it is. Lactic acid is the acid in goat's milk, and you get yummy goat cheese from goat's milk. Malic acid is from your granny’s “screamin’ greenies” green apples that she grew out on Boone’s Farm road. Remember her? That was before cellphones, and cellphone cameras, fortunately.

The Malo to Lactic (ML) conversion happens virtually all the time in red wines. In white wines winemakers typically have a choice to encourage or discourage this conversion. Mistakes (known as uncontrolled experiments or, sometimes, successful failures) happen all the time in winemaking. In some circumstances, you will have the ML conversion whether you want it or not. The opposite is also true. You can wish in one hand and wait in the other, but it’s just not going to happen. Maybe next year, but that’s a long time to wait.

We made the stylistic (and intentional) choice to change our ML program in 2019. Over the last 20 years or so, we have noticed our site affords a bit of a Sancerre expression in our Chardonnay that provides some intrigue. Ernie wanted to try and expand on that, while better integrating and softening the screamin' greenie experience. That, and Dena said we are not planting any Sauvignon Blanc.

So as part of our unquenchable thirst for knowledge and unabated appetite for risk, Ernie said, “What the Hell, let’s give it a try!” And that is how we arrived at the 2019 Dijon Clones Chardonnay - "No Oak, Full Malo".

Tasting Notes: Cold Fusion Yellow releases Meyer lemon zest, star fruit and guava aromas delineating an unadulterated and pure expression of Dijon Clones Chardonnay. Integrated, viscous and expansive, the mid-palate is wholly enveloped with a lingering silken texture before the smooth and palate cleansing delivery of tempered acidity.

Culinary Inclination: Poached black cod or shark (if you are a little slow working the reel), in parchment with julienned green onions, fresh sliced ginger root, enoki mushrooms and artichoke heart. Add a thin slice of Habanero pepper if you want to add some color to your dining companion’s complexion.

Vintage Notes: It all comes down to September. It used to be October, but things have changed and as farmers we are along for the ride. Vintage 2019 was a moderate growing season with adequate amounts of sun, wind, rain and wind all properly folded into the mix. Until September. That’s when we recorded a record amount of rainfall from the beginning to the end of the month. Of course, it was just lovely from there on out and that is when we were out Cluster Plucking. Read all about The Great Cluster Pluck on the FLOG!

Fill out the RSVP on your E-vite for a time to come by and have a taste. Or maybe just gaze longingly at the label until you can get one home, squeeze out the cork and have a swig! Note: we do have a few Home Tasting Kits still available (including PPE stemware) if you are uncomfortable drinking straight out of the bottle. As with all PPE, get it while you can. And there is still a free cork in every bottle!

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Amalie Robert Anniversary and Earth Day Vintage 2020: Do Some Good for the Earth!

Hello and Welcome,

This is the 21st Anniversary of Amalie Robert Estate. It was April of 1999 when we told Bob, “It looks like we got here too late. You have your cherry orchard sitting on top of our vineyard!” The winery will be open this weekend for wine pickups. If spring whites and rosé (or lamb) are on your mind, then E-mail with your thoughts - and we will meet you here, with your wine! A FLOG communication from Dena and Ernie @AmalieRobert Estate.

April 1999, the orchard was in bloom with snow white Montmorency blossoms - 1,188 trees worth. When Ernie first drove the old Massey Ferguson tractor through that orchard, he said it was like driving through a Montana blizzard in freeze frame. Yeah, he was right out there in it, as that tractor was open station – no protective cab. Montmorency cherries are also known as pie cherries and they are mechanically harvested. We harvested the fruit in July, and then came back for the trees. There are a few volunteer cherries around the property and when they bloom they remind us of our very first year as farmers. Learn a little bit more about the Amalie Robert Estate history through an interview with Dena & Ernie courtesy of VineStories.

We planted our first 10 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (about 15,000 vines) at the turn of the century, with the last vine being planted with some very good friends on Earth Day 2000. And that is when the vineyard at Amalie Robert Estate was established. Happy Anniversary!

Do Some Good for the Earth - Plant some cover crops. And that is exactly what Ernie did. Mother Nature added the secret sauce, known as springtime rains and we are in step with the season. His vineyard floor efforts have yielded succulent little starts of Buckwheat and Vetch that will provide nutrients to our vines naturally. The transition from Computer Science to Agrarian production was not all that difficult. The farm is really just a holistic program that runs each year. The difference is that each year you run it, the variables change. But instead of compiling the program, we harvest the wine berries. Ernie has an app for that, and you can watch it here:

Do Some Good for the Earth - Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Drink Wine, Save Lives. These last few weeks have seen some unprecedented developments. Some of these developments have been in the logistics, sales and delivery of Adult Recreational Beverages, aka wine. Major segments of our economy deemed to be “non-essential” have been closed. It is up to each state’s governor to make the determination of essential v non-essential. It is up to each state’s residents to comply, and then determine if the governor is essential or non-essential. It’s a Rock-Paper-Scissors type arrangement.

In some cases, an unfortunate determination has been made to include businesses that sell Adult Recreational Beverages as non-essential. The Keystone State is such an example. The state controls the sale of all Adult Recreational Beverages through their state run stores - mostly. This would be a good juncture to point out that Adult Recreational Beverages are not sold in the same establishments as are firearms and ammunition. Good to know! Good to go! 

The non-essential determination has led to all manner of unintended consequences, including lawsuits, demonstrations without social distancing and what used to be known as a “Beer Run” across state lines. And that activity can now get you ticketed, fined and incarcerated (and potentially virused). So we are told…

The other alternative is to have Adult Recreational Beverages brought across state lines and delivered directly to your SIP location. The folks at FedEx and UPS make a living doing just that. And get this, it is completely legal! Even in The Keystone State! State and local taxes, of course, are unavoidable and must be remitted in a timely manner even if no one is there to collect them. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, it still falls and the governor gets a cut.

If you are ready to replenish the Oregon section of your Adult Recreational Beverage cellar, we are ready and standing by to assist you. Our full production of wines, blends and vintages awaits your thoughtful perusal at Amalie Robert Direct. Purchase: Amalie Robert Direct

While you are pondering your selections and filling your cart, we would like to provide some time sensitive ordering information.

Discounts: We’ve got ‘em! Any 12 bottle order receives a 10% discount through the month of April.

Shipping: Our standard shipping fee is $3 per bottle. If you can manage to find 6 bottles (or more) to put in your Amalie Robert Direct cart, we will include continental ground shipping at no extra cost. Wines may be shipped via FedEx or UPS and delivered to your address, a FedEx or UPS pickup location, or in some cases your essential Walgreens. Winery pickup is also available (we are about a 45 hour drive from Philly). Your shipping promotion code is: WhoistheGovernorofPennsylvania. Or you can use: SHIP6 through the month of April.

Order Confirmation: Dena confirms every order before shipment. This provides her an opportunity to ensure all pricing, discounts, delivery logistics and ship date are in order. You can expect her call prior to shipment. Ernie packs the boxes.

Our affinity program is the A-List. When you join the A-List, Dena will confirm your selections from full portfolio, reds only, Pinot Noir only or whatever suits. The discounts are better and the fulfillment costs are lower. And at the end of the day, you are on the A-List. So is Captain Kirk. Check it out here:

So until this passes, we recommend following all federal, state and local ordinances to the best of your ability. And if you must SIP, we hope you are sipping some very fine Oregon Pinot Noir. And Pinot in Pink Rosé Lip Sanitizer. Lips are very important.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Monday, April 20, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: Breaking Bud 2020

Hello and Welcome, 
This is an Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: Breaking Bud 2020. A FLOG communication from Dena and Ernie @AmalieRobert Estate. 

The Vintage 2020 has officially begun @AmalieRobert Estate with Bud Break on April 13th. The vines may look dormant, but that’s just a disguise. They have been waiting oh so patiently for Mother Nature to give them the “go signal” that it is time to start growing. That signal is usually passed on by the cherry trees as they begin to bloom.

But the vines lead two lives. What the vines will bear, and we will bear witness to during the Great Cluster Pluck, seems so far removed from what is occurring in the subterranean space. And that has been Ernie’s focus leading up to Bud Break.

The vine roots have been active during the winter months taking up all of the nutrients available in preparation for this momentous occasion. And new roots will be growing out to help replenish the root system that may have been compromised by tractor blight or more likely a random pocket gopher trying to gnaw off the roots. The vines don’t have much in the way of defense against these fur bearing varmints, so they just take it. New growth in the spring is their countermeasure. 

Ernie has been quite the busy farmer leading up to Bud Break. His job is to get about 35 acres worth of vineyard floor ready for the growing season. Here is what you get when you turn Ernie loose in the vineyard with three Italians and 100 gallons of biodiesel to burn. He farms it, and he farms it hard.

Nutrient Recycling: Not everybody does it, but everybody should.

The first thing to do is mulch in last year’s woody canes with the green growing grass in the tractor rows. The first pass chops them down to size, and then Ernie sets the mower to “Pulverize” for the second pass. The second pass mixes the shredded canes with the fresh green grass and deposits the sublime mixture onto the vineyard floor. This just happens to be where the earthworms, microbes and other assorted soil digesters live. They take in this mix and compost it into new soil, releasing all manner of nutrients to the vines. All natural and no chemical fertilizers. As a farmer, you gotta love this part.

Those two passes take care of half the vineyard. The other half of the vineyard is where the rest of the nutrient cycling will occur. These “open” rows are where last fall’s cover crop of barley and nitrogen fixing winter peas were planted. Now it is time to cycle those nutrients for the vines and here is how Ernie does that. The first pass is in the open air with the crawler and the nearly indestructible (never say never) chisel plow. This handy implement goes down about a foot or so and cuts of any shallow roots – a little subterranean root pruning. This is handy for a dry farmer, as we want deep, penetrating roots that will tap into water late in the growing season. We don’t need no shallow roots @AmalieRobert.

Next up is the Rotovator. This implement turns-in the green growing plants with soil and oxygen. Just what the soil microbes need. And since we still have showers in March, the crawler is the ideal machine to tread lightly on our soil and not flatten the air channels and compact the soil. Vine roots don’t do well in compacted soils. Of course, springtime means paying the extortion fee to the winter battery gnomes who somehow manage each and every year to corrode the battery terminals. Hey, nice seed bed!
Click to watch Ernie and the Rotovator

And now for the pièce de résistance. Ernie self-quarantines in about a 30 cubic foot glass enclosure in yet a third Italian tractor. And that third tractor is mated up with a Schmeiser seed drill. The Schmeiser will take about 600 pounds of buckwheat and nitrogen fixing vetch seeds and deposit them at about an inch or so apart, in 7 furrows that total up to about 20 miles long. This is some very precise detail work, and you just can’t find that kind of help these days.

We then patiently wait for rain, (which doesn’t take too much patience in the Pacific Northwest) and then these little seeds will germinate and grow all summer long. Their above ground usefulness comes to an end right after harvest and that is when Ernie turns them into the soil and plants his winter cover crop right over the top of them. The vine roots will absorb these nutrients over the winter with the help of their codependent mycorrhizae and, before you know it, they will be ready to break bud in vintage 2021.

And that, along with the Super Pink Moon that appeared on April 7th, is springtime in wine country. You probably think Ernie just made that up to match his last name, but that is not the case. The first full moon of April is called a Pink Moon due to the pink blooms on a wild flower that comes out in April. And it is a Super Pink Moon due to the close proximity to Earth.

To make these Pink Moons, just look at them through your Pinot in Pink filled Rosé glasses. And if you find yourself in need of a little moon watching wine, you can check out Amalie Robert Direct.

Hard to believe, but we will be ready to cluster pluck in about 6 months. The big question is will we have a crew?

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate: Thank you & Happy Easter!

Hello and Welcome,  
This is us wishing you a Happy Easter! A FLOG communication from Dena and Ernie at @AmalieRobert Estate. 
We would like to extend a very personal Thank You to everyone who has taken the time to reach out to us. Yes, we are still here and both physically healthy; the mental health is an evolving work in progress. We appreciate your thoughts and efforts to connect with us. Please feel free to drop us a line anytime or tweet us @AmalieRobert. You can also share an image. A picture is still worth a thousand words.

If you want to see a real Cluster Pluck, check out our harvest video:

Check this space after Easter, and Ernie will share his braised Rabbiduck with white beans recipe. Very Pinot friendly, Meunier and Noir. And if you need some wine (preserved wine berries) for your Easter Celebratory purposes, please visit Amalie Robert Direct. The winery is open for pickups by appointment all week and we are shipping nationwide. If you are looking for a more traditional duck experience, you can always check out Maple Leaf Farms here:

Everyone’s perspective is influenced by national and local circumstances. From what we see it looks like we could be turning a corner. What awaits us around that corner is yet to be seen. But let’s have a look anyway. There are a couple of Coronavirus survivors that can give us all inspiration. Both of these men served our country in World War II, and now it would seem they have survived what could be considered a third War on our World.

William “Bill” Lapschies, who just celebrated his 104th birthday, and Bill Kelly, who is 95 years young, both live in Oregon and tested positive for the Coronavirus in early March. They hunkered down and did what needed to be done - today, just as they did back in the day. The month of April finds them both recovered. There are several wonderful stories written about both men that you can find online - if you have the time…

As the month of April begins to unfold, the vines will start waking up from their 6 month hiatus to find they are now subject to social distancing. Not really a big deal for them, as they have been 4 feet apart since they were planted back at the turn of the century.

The barrels however, well, that is a different matter. Their bung holes are only about 3 feet apart. In response, we have instituted a more frequent inspection schedule to ensure all bung holes are properly sealed with a tight-fitting bung. Chaste, we remain.

Just so you know, vines can get viruses, too. Mostly they are infected by some type of insect that is a carrier (or vector) for a virus. (If you think mosquitos and malaria, you are on the right mental track.) The most recent example was a bacterium called Pierce’s Disease that devastated the Temecula winegrowing region in California. The vector that spread the bacterium from vine to vine was an insect called the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

The vineyards were decimated, and the fledgling wine industry was devastated. That was the 1880’s. Fast forward to the 1990’s and Temecula vineyards had been replanted, but the bacterium and the glassy-winged sharpshooter were still there, just lying in wait. Once again devastation and financial ruin followed. This guy Peirce had some disease.

So, logically, as long as the Coronavirus has at least one host, going forward we can expect to be on guard for quite some time. And while we are viticulturalists and not virologists, we can expect slight mutations of the Coronavirus to keep us up on our (lip) sanitizer regime. We know this because Dena has summer allergies and slight mutations to the drug manufacturers’ formulas maintain their patent protections “ad infinitum”.

And vines need “vine yard” workers. Sure, Ernie has 3 tractors that he can deploy at a moment’s notice (assuming they will start), but most of the ultra-premium wine grown in the Willamette Valley needs hand labor. @AmalieRobert Estate if we are lucky and Mother nature smiles upon us, we need about 7 minutes of hand labor per plant to get us ready for harvest.

Speaking of harvest, there are quite a few new webinars now available to watch ranging from sipping wine to who knows what all. If you want to see a real Cluster Pluck, check out our harvest video:

Fortunately, during this “Stay Home, Stay Safe” period the vines are still dormant and do not require any attention. May is the month where we need vineyard workers to do some seriously intense canopy management, by hand. We will see what the labor pool looks like around Mother’s Day.

In the interest of your health, and those around you, Ernie would like to share his Super Antioxidant Smoothie recipe. And yes, you can put a shot of distilled spirit in the blend, right at the end. You will want a blender or “Super Bass-o-Matic 76” (especially if you try this “by hand” the first time), 2 ripe bananas, one cup of nonfat yogurt, a dozen strawberries, ½ cup of apple juice, ½ cup of blueberries and you can throw in a few almonds or walnuts if you are into that sort of thing. Add the liquids followed by the solids and activate your Super Bass-o-Matic 76! It’s just that simple!

If you are unfamiliar with how to operate the Super Bass-o-Matic 76, you can click on the captions below these images to view a brief YouTube tutorial hosted by “Not Ready for Primetime Player” Dan Aykroyd, circa April 1976.

You may be reading this and speaking to your monitor as if Ernie can hear you, “Hey Ernie, there are no fresh blueberries or strawberries at my grocery store.” Yes, he is nodding and smiling back at you. If farm labor supply becomes tight, you can expect more of these outages. Frozen berries may be the next big thing after toilet paper. Gotta see a man about a freezer…

Living here in rural utopia, we encounter those sorts of outages from time to time. Sometimes when we go to the store, we buy things that we don’t really need. We do that because they are out of the things that we do really need. And we would like to continue our evening meal ritual.

So, let’s look at how you can have your Super Antioxidant, High Octane Smoothie without the comfort and convenience of fresh berries. Back in the old days, the summer’s bounty was preserved by drying fruits and vegetables, and smoking or jerking a variety of proteins.

While not that common for most of us today, you may once again, someday, be able to dine at the Herbfarm in Woodinville Washington for a modern implementation of the old days. Tweet Ron @Herbguy.

Or Fitts Seafoods in Salem, Oregon will ship you some fresh salmon that you can prepare, smoke, freeze, can or jerk. Tweet Rod @Fittscfood.

Back to your Smoothie. As humans advanced along their culinary journey, technology answered the call in the form of ice and iceboxes. All manner of foodstuffs could be put into an icebox containing ice. The foods would nearly freeze, thereby prolonging their “use by date” and denying the spoilage organisms and bacterium that most certainly awaited.

Canned goods and home canning were invented shortly thereafter and that is how we came to know botulism. It would be several decades until a commercially viable product would be developed from this deadly bacterium. And then to sell this product, Botox parties were invented!

Let’s stick with the evolutionary period that gave us iceboxes. Getting things cold to preserve them is a relatively lo-tech invention that is pretty easy to implement. Consider the last time you ate melted ice cream or drank warm beer. Refrigeration is not that complicated. You are perfectly within your lane to add frozen berries to create your Super Antioxidant, High Octane, Bass-o-Matic 76 Smoothie. And if you don’t finish it all, you can put it in the icebox for later! Note: With a slight modification of ingredients, you can make lime smoothies, aka Margaritas. This is an exercise left to the reader, and may add a little zip to your morning Zoom meeting.

And that brings us to the preservation of wine berries for future enjoyment. Unless you are drinking Beaujolais Nouveau, those tons upon tons of wine berries are not going to last very long if you do not find a way to preserve them. The technologies discussed so far including drying, jerking, canning, smoking (ask the California wineries about this one) and cold storage are not the right solution for the preservation of wine berries.

Portfolio of preserved wine berries showing the breadth and depth of Amalie Robert Estate

The need to preserve wine berries is at the root of modern day winemaking. It was discovered that allowing the wine berries to ferment would create alcohol that could kill any pathogen in the resulting wine. Humans caught a break there, as we were not all that smart way back when. Hemlock anyone? The fermented wine berries were then transferred into vessels that would slow the rate of spoilage until the wine could be consumed. Some vessels were good for a few days, others for a few months. Some vessels were simply not good at all. Add in the geo-political factors, and you end up with Madeira.

In modern times it is not uncommon for humans to gather in small groups to inject botulism toxin into their dermis and consume preserved wine berries while doing so. The next big thing on the horizon seems to be repurposing distilled spirits into hand sanitizers. And from there, no one knows where we go.

But we can supply you all of the Estate grown preserved wine berries you could ask for at Amalie Robert Direct. And still, a free cork in every bottle!

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie