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

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.”

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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: June 2019


Hello and Welcome, 
  
This is the Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: June 2019. A Flog Communication
  
June is the month that the vines typically flower, and they did. It was a pleasant month, with some absolutely amazing weather during bloom. We are expecting a full fruit set, and then some, so we may need you to check your roller bag. Note: Wine flies free on Alaska Airlines flights out of Portland. Of course you, or your designated handler, will need to accompany it.


This outrageously fantastic weather means we are most likely sitting on about twice as many wine berries as we can optimistically hope to ripen. But that depends on the months of July, August and September – if we can hold out that long. Ernie’s block 2 midnight naked rain dance has been less and less effective each passing year. However, it does seem to keep the deer fascinated. Maybe he needs some new moves.

And we have equipment maintenance redux with our newfound best friend Ray the welding man. Ernie picked up on checking his lug nuts each and every farming day. But what have we here? Yep, it’s a case of broken spokes. But only 4 out of 5.


Have you ever noticed that when you start a project everything is exciting and new, but as you work your plan it can become a shlog? Never enough time to wrap it up completely before the next big thing comes along. If Ernie just spent a little more time mowing that day, why he could have snapped that last spoke. Sometimes it is good not to finish. But thanks to Ray and an afternoon of welding, it is not only as good as new, it is significantly more better!

And June means wires. Miles and miles of high tensile wires. And humans to tuck those shoots and raise those wires. Fortunately, the weather was quite moderate, mostly topping out in the 70s during the day and a chilly mid 40s at night. Makes you appreciate a steaming cup of morning accelerant and a cold post-shift beer. The diurnal cycle of caffeine and ethanol, what kind of world would we have without it?

And it was Dena’s birthday. Happy Birthday Dena!!

Next up is hedging and 5 sets of oil changes. Let’s talk about hedging. The concept here is that you trim off the shoot tips so the vines redirect their energy from growing longer and longer shoots to ripening their wine berries. So that we in turn may cluster pluck them from within the safety of their catch wires and ferment the sugar out of them. That is what we want. The vines just want to ripen their seeds and make new little vines. We can take cuttings and graft new vines. A medieval form of cloning if you will, but sometimes the old ways are the best. Just ask Dolly the sheep.

Vine Row Before Hedging

Vine Row After Hedging

And we have two sets of numbers to report on. The first comes from Vinous Media, where Josh Raynolds, Oregon’s correspondent, published his much anticipated and long overdue report on Oregon Pinot Noir. Our entire Pinot Noir portfolio (one exemplar each) spanning 3 vintages, 2013 – 2015, was reviewed. While they were a tight grouping, 92-94 points is a good group to be tightly grouped in with.



Now, on to the farmin’ numbers!

June’s high temperature was 98.8 degrees recorded mid-month on the 12th around 4:12 pm. The low temperature for the month was up from May’s 34.3 degrees to 43.0 recorded on June 8th at around 1:00 am. It was quite a time to be up viewing the stars and recording temperatures. Too early (and cold) for the first rain dance.

Once again, the diurnal shifts in the first half of the month were wider and produced a higher average temperature of 64.83 compared with the second half of the month at 61.53 degrees.

Degree Days for June were 406.4 with the first half of the month registering 229.5 and the latter period 176.9 Degree Days. The growing season to-date Degree Days stand at 806.7 for 2019 compared with 784.3 Degree Days for 2018. Clearly, we can see the breakaway in Degree Days from the last growing season beginning to manifest itself.


Climatically speaking, the big surprise was the blast of artic air, and corresponding 0.35 inches of rain that came toward the end of the month. Nice to have that in your back 40 going into summer, as it could be the last measurable precipitation we receive until a harvest window opens up. Total rainfall for June 2019 was 0.40 inches compared with June 2018 accumulation of 0.91 inches.

That’s what it was like at our house.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Portfolio Update: Vinous Pinot Noir

Hello and Welcome, 

This is an Amalie Robert Estate Portfolio Update: Vinous Pinot Noir. A FLOG Communication

Who do you trust? Who can you trust? Is that fake news, again? In all things vinous, we trust Vinous Media to provide the most experienced, relevant and thoughtful opinions from wine growing to sensory evaluation. It has been that way long before we began producing wine nearly 15 years ago.




Our early Pinot Noirs starting from the 2004 vintage were reviewed by Josh Raynolds when he was writing for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. Now a part of Vinous Media, Josh continues to cover Oregon’s Willamette Valley, as well as one of Ernie’s other favorite regions, Côte Rôtie. But our focus today is Pinot Noir. The Syrah and Viognier will get their due this fall.

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.


What happens next is the focus of this FLOG. After the wine berries from each of our 42 vineyard blocks are individually hand harvested, fermented and put to barrel, our task is to blend and bottle up to 8 estate grown Pinot Noirs that tell our story. The goal of each wine is to blend for complexity and evolution of aromas, flavors and textures through natural cork bottle maturation.

We like the evolution of whole cluster stem tannins in our Pinot Noirs with 5 to 7 years of bottle maturation. But we also appreciate that waiting can be time consuming, and the lure of immediate gratification has a very strong appeal. Insider Tip: Check out the library.

Here is a brief overview of our Pinot Noir portfolio, including the most recent Vinous Media reviews, beginning with an introduction by Josh Raynolds.

"Owners/winemakers Dena Drews and Ernie Pink have always marched to their own beat, opting to release their extensive range of wines after they have had some bottle age. Thus, current releases here focus on the 2014 and 2013 vintages. I was pleasantly surprised by the graceful character of the ‘14s, a vintage more noteworthy for its power than finesse. That said, they do show the abundant fruit and concentration that marks the year but in a minor key. My impression is that they are good cellar candidates even if some decanting time makes them quite drinkable now." - Oregon: An Embarrassment of Riches and Richness, June 2019


Presenting the Amalie Robert Estate House Style. This is the story of the sculptor and The Uncarved Block. When a sculptor imagines a block of marble, he sees what others cannot. His chisel removes what does not belong to expose the elegance and beauty of what was hidden. This purity of form is only revealed by careful and thoughtful action.

As is the case with all of our Pinot Noirs, this bottling is 100% estate grown and hand harvested fruit. The individual blocks were fermented with whole clusters and indigenous yeast from the vineyard. In the cellar, we age the individual lots in oak barrels representing a variety of coopers and forests for at least 18 months. The blend is a reflection of our soils, microclimates and stewardship of the land.


The “Hers and His Reserves” reflect our estate vineyard through our individual palates. Amalie’s Cuvée and Estate Selection are exclusive barrel selections of Pinot Noir representing the unique qualities of our vineyard. Every block within our 35 acre vineyard is individually hand harvested at its peak of flavor maturity and intensity. Block by block, the fruit is fermented by indigenous yeast in small 1.5 ton lots and matured for over 18 months before the final blend is created.

Every vineyard block and clone/rootstock combination showcases something unique and special from the vineyard. After fermentation is complete, the wine is placed into a selection of barrels to mature. We source French oak barrels from several coopers. The wine takes a different path to maturity in each barrel, developing its own nuances. Our use of whole clusters in each fermentation provides a continuously evolving tasting experience. From year to year, we strive to reveal the elegance and grace of Oregon Pinot Noir. Amalie’s Cuvée is this blend.


We taste all of our barrels of wine many times throughout the year. We experience the evolution of flavors and aromas and remember the significant events in our vineyard. The excitement of an early bloom, the mystery of a very light fruit set, the discovery of color change at veraison and the rapture of harvest. Tasting each barrel of wine provides us a snapshot in time. We experience the wine’s development.

It is usually during the spring when Pinot Noir in barrel begins to reveal the character of the vintage. Much like experiencing the lavender lilac bloom – you notice the color, then the hint of sweetness in the air and as time passes you are witness to the entire bloom – a testament to the season. This is when we begin blending trials for Estate Selection to capture the more structured and broadly textured interpretation on the vintage.


The Reserve is an exclusive barrel selection of Pinot Noir representing our most intriguing wine in the cellar. The final blend represents countless hours of tasting wine from barrel. Only with such in-depth knowledge of our subject matter, are we able to select this barrel or two of Pinot Noir.

As we taste wine through the cellar, we can usually agree on when we have found the best barrel or two of Pinot Noir. When that happens, we find that we disagree on whose reserve blend it is going into. And when we find that we agree to disagree, we have just found The Reserve. And occasionally, The Other Reserve.



iPinot® is our way of connecting Amalie Robert Estate reserve quality wine directly with savvy internet consumers at the lowest possible price.

iPinot® is reserve quality barrels of wine selected for our “Hers and His Reserves”, Amalie’s Cuvée and Estate Selection. Once the final “Hers and His Reserve” wines are blended, we have a few reserve level barrels of wine to blend. We blend these barrels of wine together to create iPinot - a reserve level wine without the reserve level price.

iPinot® is available for retail purchase as well as a subscription service.



The Dijon Clones is a blend of 7 Dijon clones sourced from 12 dry farmed blocks. The barrels of wine crafted from each block are culminations of the soil, rootstock, clonal selections and our unique microclimates.

Much like an individual instrument in a symphony, each barrel contributes its own unique character to the final composition. The individual clonal attributes are presented in the aroma and bouquet. The flavors and textures combine on the palate to provide depth and rich layers of Pinot Noir fruit that are distinctly Oregon.



Pommard Clone is a barrel selection of our most intriguing estate grown Pommard clone Pinot Noir. The pioneers who began planting Pinot Noir in the North Willamette Valley began primarily with 2 clones of Pinot Noir – Pommard (French, of course) and Wadenswil (Swiss). As the vines matured, high quality wines from both clones were grown in the valley, but the Pommard clone was gaining widespread acclaim and notoriety.

There is a very good reason the Pommard clone was catching on. The Pommard clone represents all that is inherently beautiful in Pinot Noir. It is grown on all types of soils and is unique in its ability to reflect vineyard specific splendor, nuances and vintage conditions. While the eyes are the window into the soul, the Pommard clone expresses the inherent beauty of our vineyard through the lens of the vintage.


Wadenswil Clone is a barrel selection of our most intriguing estate grown Wadenswil clone Pinot Noir. Follow this link to read Interview with a Clone - Wadenswil 2A.

When planning our vineyard, we were particularly intrigued with the Wadenswil clone wines we had experienced from sedimentary soil vineyards. The fragrant, intense, laser focused fruit aromas were relentless. It is no accident, but a strategic choice that we have several of our sedimentary soil vineyard blocks planted to the Wadenswil clone.

It may seem that we go to a good deal of trouble to explain an inconsequential event, but it is not so. Wadenswil clone Pinot Noir grown on our sedimentary soils is, for us, what Pinot Noir is all about. The full range of Pinot Noir aromas and flavors along with a dizzying array of mid-palate textures and reverberating acidity define the Wadenswil clone.

While The Reserve is a blend of our very favorite barrels from the vintage, the Wadenswil clone blend represents our best expression of this pioneering clone.


As most of you already know, we save the numbers for the end and here they are.

Along the top of each column you will see the Degree Days (specific to Amalie Robert Estate) that we logged for each vintage. At the bottom of each column is an average of all the press that we received from the vintage. Reading across, you will see the wines we produce and at the far left is an average of all the press we have received for that wine. Dena is currently edging Ernie out, but the disparity is manageable.


We offer a portfolio of highly regarded and age worthy wines spanning a breadth of price points with a depth of vintages.

Each of the wines presented above and reviewed in the latest Vinous Media article Oregon: An Embarrassment of Riches and Richness are available for purchase from Amalie Robert Direct. We also have limited availability of cellared vintages reflecting the aroma, flavor and texture development of natural cork bottle maturation.

Please follow this link to purchase wines from Amalie Robert Direct. We ship to all states where legally allowed.

As always, if you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Dena at 503.551.9978 or E-mail at Dena@amalierobert.com.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: Flowers 2019


Hello and Welcome, 
  
This is an Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: Flowers 2019. 


They are out! The bloom is on the vine! And the weather is just absolutely gorgeous! Fruit set is happening all over the vineyard from Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay through Pinot Meunier and Noir to Syrah and Viognier. While we don’t grow Rosé wine berries, we can finagle a little bit out of the winemaking process.

So, just how many flowers are there this year? At this point in the game, you would expect Ernie to have an answer to that and he does. First, let’s review the following definitions from that all knowing communal source, Wikipedia.


Prime Number: A prime number is a number with no divisors other than 1 and itself. Euclid proved that there is no largest prime number. But people do keep looking. The largest prime number known as of this writing is 24,862,048 digits long. That’s a big meatball!

Twin Prime Number: A twin prime is a prime number that is either 2 less or 2 more than another prime number. For example, the first few twin prime number pairs are: (3, 5), (5, 7), (11, 13), (17, 19), (29, 31), (41, 43), (59, 61), (71, 73) and (101, 103). Leave it to the mathematicians to be fixated with the twins that really are not twins. Reminds us of the imaginary number crowd.

Perfect Number: Now we are getting somewhere. A perfect number is a number that is half the sum of all its positive divisors (including itself). The first perfect number is 6. Its proper divisors are 1, 2, and 3, and 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. Equivalently, the number 6 is equal to half the sum of all its positive divisors: (1 + 2 + 3 + 6) ÷ 2 = 6. The next perfect number is 28, then 496, and 8,128 and then 33,550,336. What would these guys do without spreadsheets?

So, it follows on with perfect linearity that this year we have 148,326,337 flowers. Let’s start with 49,433 flowering vines. While we have a few more than that, 49,433 is a safe bet and a prime number. Each flowering vine has 11 to 13 shoots on a single 4 foot cane, and as you can clearly see, 11 and 13 are twin prime numbers.

Here is where it gets tricky. Each shoot will have 2 or maybe 3 potential clusters. These are called inflorescence. Since both the number 2 and 3 are prime, we can logically assume that the true number resides between 2 and 3. We really got out of a tight spot there.


Each inflorescent will have about 101 to 103 flowers. Again, you can see these are twin prime numbers. However, not all flowers will pollinate. So as harvest rolls around we may have 79, 83 or 89 wine berries per harvested cluster. Each of these clusters’ wine berry count represents a prime number. But as we are talking about flowers, not wine berries, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Ergo, with simple mathematics we have been able to ascertain the final flower count of 148,326,337 flowers is a prime number. The final proof is an exercise left to the reader. Please beware of the illegal prime number, it does exist.

Now, here is an easy number, 105. That is the number of days that typically elapse between flowering and harvest. While we have not seen the Vintage 2019 movie before, we did see Vintage 2011, which was a prime number vintage, as was 2003. The next prime number vintage does not occur until 2027. And wouldn’t you know it, 2027 and 2029 are twin prime number vintages! How cool is that?

If it is a warm vintage, look to the prime number 103 to open the harvest window, and if we hang out for hang time, we go to the prime number 107 as a starting point. All perfectly legal and within the bounds of mathematical fidelity – no systemic variability permitted.

Stay up on the FLOG to see how the vintage shapes up: http://amalierobert.blogspot.com/


Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Friday, May 31, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: May 2019


Hello and Welcome, 
  
This is the Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: May 2019. A FLOG Communication
  
May is the month the vines get busy and in turn the vineyard hands get busy with vine shoots and trellis wires. Miles and miles of vineyard trellis wires. In our vineyard construct, we run about 9 miles of trellis wires per acre. With each and every shoot perfectly tucked in by hand. That ought to hold ‘em till harvest.




Ernie spent most of April dodging raindrops and getting the vineyard floor turned, tilled and seeded for the summer with a cover crop mix of Buckwheat and Vetch – a timeless combination not unlike Pommard and Wadenswil.

     
                       
“Owners/winemakers Dena Drews and Ernie Pink have always marched to their own beat, opting to release their extensive range of wines after they have had some bottle age.” – Josh Raynolds, Vinous, June 2019

Now it is the vines’ turn to take the lead. With plenty of soil moisture and warm temperatures in early May, the vines took the advantage and played right into our viticultural plan. You see, while Ernie was out burning diesel, the vineyard crew was preparing for this very event. Their task in April was to count to 12, on about 50,000 vines.

Deep Dive - Vine Shoot Spacing
This is our “deep dive” into vine shoot spacing and the number 12. First, lets review the mental construct that precludes the number 12 and that is vineyard spacing. Yep, we are talking about vine density or vines per acre. The next time you look out into an open field try and visualize 43,560 square feet. That’s an acre. Or when the NFL comes back on, that football field is 1.32 acres including the endzones.

Or you could do it the Ernie way. He decided that the most optimal vine spacing on our dry farmed sedimentary Bellpine series soil would be 7.5 feet for the tractor row and a cozy 4 feet between each vine. That provides us with 1,452 vines per acre. Using farmer math, we can break that down like this.


First, we start with our acre of land, 43,560 square feet. Then we divide that by our tractor row spacing of 7.5 feet and that gets us to 5,808 lineal feet of vines per acre. Said another way, an acre is a strip of land that is 7.5 feet wide and 5,808 feet long. A quarter mile race track is 1,320 feet long, so a mile would be 5,280 feet. Ergo, we are 1.1 lineal miles per acre. That becomes important next month when we talk about a fully functioning canopy, aka our solar array.

So what we do is break up that 5,808 lineal feet into a vine at every 4 feet. Logically, 5,808 divided by 4 gives us the magic number of 1,452 vines per acre. There is a little more math left to go, so if you are starting to feel some swelling at your frontal lobe, this would be the right time to break out the duct tape and apply a few wraps.




As most of you have no doubt figured out, each vine has 30 square feet of soil to colonize. It has 2 feet each front and back and 3.75 feet side to side. The only variable is effective rooting depth. Ask Ernie about rootstock growth habits sometime. Or just wait until the August drought for the rootstock “deep dive”.

Right, back on point. The trellis system we adopted for our vineyard construct is called Vertical Shoot Positioned or VSP. And we employ a single Guyot, because he couldn’t find a date. Actually, that is a farming term we will get to soon, relatively speaking. When you train vines to grow into a trellis system, which you have to do each and every year as they seem to have the attention span of a gnat, you have to decide on cane pruning or cordon spur pruning.

In the last best place to grow Pinot Noir, we choose to cane prune. This means we take a (smart) shoot from last year that was successfully trained to grow into the trellis and wrap that on the fruiting wire which is conveniently located 30 inches above the vineyard floor oriented (not orientated) in a horizontal plane. This is so that the new shoots can be trained to grow vertically into the trellis system until they reach a total height of 90 inches at which point Ernie goes out and hedges their shoot tips off. That’s our canopy, it’s 60 inches tall starting at 30 inches off the vineyard floor and tops out at a solar radiation maximizing 90 inches. Assume 18 inches thick and for each 48 inch long, single Guyot that makes 51,840 cubic inches of canopy, or 30 cubic feet. That’s the same soil footprint at 1 foot deep. Hmmm…




We are going to bring it home now. When you wrap a cane onto the fruiting wire the cane is called a Guyot. In our vineyard construct we have 4 feet between each vine and choose to run a single unidirectional 4 foot Guyot, mostly. While it wasn’t obvious at first, Viognier does not like a single, unidirectional 4 foot Guyot. So we tried a double, bi-directional 2 foot Guyot, but not much better. How about a double, bi-directional 3 foot Guyot, happy now? Yes, I like that. Very good.

A cordon is what they typically use in the Napa-Sonoma Nebula. It’s as if someone put down a cane one year and forgot to prune it back the next. For those of you who don’t know, Cabernet Sauvignon is the galactic faux pas that was created when Sauvignon Blanc met Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux. It’s a different world in a galaxy far, far away.

On each Guyot, there are several buds that will push shoots that in turn will produce clusters of wine berries. From a wine quality point of view, we would like to have enough space between each cluster for good air flow and sun exposure. That means we are looking for about a 4 inch space between each shoot distributed equally along the 4 foot cane. We want 3 shoots per foot of cane times 4 feet of cane. Aha! That’s how we get to 12. So easy a winemaker can do it!

The vines could care less. Sometimes there are 6 or even 8 shoots per foot of cane. Sometimes a shoot will have a double shoot that grows right next to it. Imagine an aerial view of any interstate in the USA. Those cars are not equally distributed along the road. And then there is the guy in the far left lane doing one mile an hour over the posted speed limit. The spacing behind that car is short, and over time will come to reflect the temperament of the following drivers.

So, that is what the vineyard hands were doing in April. They were out there equally distributing 12 shoots along a 4 foot cane, about 50,000 times. And what about the epicormic buds? Yeah, we take those suckers off at the same time!


During the month of May we have the vines right where we want them, growing into the trellis wires! And they are getting some help from a team of specially trained vineyard workers. Now get this, since there were only 12 growing points and not 25 or 30, the shoots grow faster and that makes it much easier to catch them in the trellis wires.

Surface the boat! The deep dive exercise is concluded.

Farm Equipment
It wouldn’t be May without an appropriate tribute to farm equipment. “Hey, is that a new battery cable? Looking good!” Most every corner of the wine growing planet has produced some form of wine growing equipment. Some more useful and certainly more reliable than others. As Ernie has lamented frequently, all three of his tractors are of the Italian persuasion, oh joy.




The hedger is French and mounts on one of the Italian stallions. After 20 years, they have worked it out. The flail mower is made domestically, by an Irish founded company. The rototiller, which is as tough of an implement as you are likely to find, is German. Jawhol!

That leaves the vineyard sprayer, which comes from our good friends up north in Penticton, British Columbia, Cehnehdeh. You see up north, “a” is pronounced “eh”. Ernie had to buy a new sprayer a few years back. It was the same manufacturer and he just upgraded to the latest version. While this may sound kinda funny, farm equipment does evolve. Better components, larger tanks and more money.

“What the hell is a sprayer?” We hear you. Check out this vintage advert for sprayers in 1924. Some were designed for the horticulturists of the day to apply some sort of airborne mixture to a rose bush. The goal is for the ejecta (in a water vapor form) to land on the rose bush and prevent mildew or other nefarious insects from taking over.

While the modern-day implementation may have changed, the goal remains the same – to prevent mildew from growing on your bush.

The gentlemen of the day, however, appear more concerned with other, more pressing matters.


For roughly $25,000 CDN, you too can purchase a device that will apply an airborne mixture of sulfur and water to prevent mildew from growing on your horticultural bush or agricultural crop, such as wine berries. Water is simply the delivery vehicle to get the sulfur onto the vines. Much like French fries are a delivery vehicle for ketchup. And yes, sulfur is organic, but we are not so sure about the ketchup.




When you purchase a new piece of equipment, you are buying “time”. While there are “all kinds of time”, there never seems to be “enough time”. As in “productive time” without “down time”. “Over time” as equipment depreciates, it begins to offer the Master Farmer “some time” to reverse engineer its inner workings.

While Occam’s razor is a fine tool to be implemented in most situations, it is rarely applicable to farm equipment. Much better tools are hammers (in a range of sizes), the internet, telephony and electronic payment processing capability. And speaking of “buying time”, there is Next Day Air.

Farmers, while generally risk adverse people in their non-farming lives, are also somewhat impatient. As in “this needs to be done now before the rains or hail or birds arrive”. Hence the TLA (Three Letter Acronym) RFN which stands for “Right Farming Now”. Pick your pestilence, in any given agricultural endeavor at any point in the growing season, but especially harvest, and you will see the true metal of a Master Farmer shine through.

In Ernie’s case it was 24 hours from the problem detection point until returning to productive time. Pretty good, really. But the protocol is very simple. The first step is identifying you have a problem. That was the easiest step, as one side of the sprayer was spraying the vines and the other side was not. Ok, that’s a real and verified problem.

The second step is to determine why the problem is occurring. Since the valves on the sprayer are all electronically controlled, Ernie focused on tracing power through a variety of fuses, connections, switchboxes, relays and solenoids, most of which were not designed for easy access. It’s an Italian tractor pulling and providing the power to a Cehnehdiehn sprayer.

After consulting the owner’s manual, which was actually written in American English, performing a set of tests, and leaving 2 messages with the manufacturer, it was time for lunch. Lunch lasts just as long as it takes for all of the second step activities to gel into a plan of action. Then it is back on the phone to the manufacturer.

“Well, it could be …” Yes, of course it could, and I just saw a unicorn run by. After getting a matrix-like download on sprayer valves, and phone numbers for US based parts houses that might have inventory, Ernie was on it. But first a call to the closest parts house. “They are really busy right now. I can take a message and have them call you back.” Ernie left a detailed message with the part number he would most likely need. Two days later, there was a call back, “What can we help you with?” That’s just farmin’ great.

One of the advantages of newer equipment is that the parts have evolved and become easier to disassemble, if you have the newer tools that evolved alongside said parts. Hammers, however, are universal and percussive maintenance has stood the test of time. An hour later with everything disassembled, cleaned and reassembled in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation, lo and behold, it still did not work!



  



Once the impossible is ruled out, only the improbable remains. After all the internals were verified, the only possible explanation was the motor that controlled the valve. Sure enough, it worked one out of three times. Looking back on it, that one time it did work was most likely sampling error. So, back to the list of parts houses in hopes the inventory supply chain had functioned as intended and correctly stocked the shelves with all the right parts in all the right places.

The most local parts house was still far too busy to take the call or return the call from the hour prior. At that point Ernie made a phone in Yakima, Washington, ring and spoke with Jonathon. It was 3:35 pm. ”Why yes, we have one of those. We have a bunch of them.” Ernie immediately thought about buying a spare and just as quickly forgot to do so.

Once the part was physically verified as actually being in stock, the financial transaction ensued. Credit card declined? How could this be? Run it again, same result. “Is this an American Express card? We don’t take that.” New card and we have success. 3:45 pm.

Yes, I do want Next Day Air, Ernie confirmed. After the $400 valve motor an extra $25 was gravy for next day delivery. “OK, UPS picks up at 4:00, we should make it.” Ernie fell silent as he heard the pitter patter of parts man fingers gently working their magic on the UPS shipping website. “Got it” came through at 3:52 pm. Now the hard part. Waiting to see if it actually arrives. Who remembers sending off box tops as a kid, only to grow old and unfulfilled?

Miracle of miracles occurred at 9:55 am the VERY NEXT morning when the most beautiful UPS truck on the whole planet backed down the driveway. “Here you go, have a nice day.” Ernie scurried back into the house and with surgical precision opened the box. It looked just like the valve motor he was trying to replace.

Down to the shop, a quick tap with the most appropriate hammer and the old valve motor was off and the new one was on. Now the moment of truth, would it work? Ernie wired it up, flipped the switch and just as sure as Shinola, it did. Throwback to the old Microsoft days in Europe, “We don’t ask for miracles; we depend on them!”

The Numbers
May started off on a tear with the first half of the month recording near record high temperatures. Mid-May transitioned to an influx of rain and cool temperatures. Were we seeing an ominous preview of harvest 2019? Then the end of the month came through with more moderate day and nighttime temperatures. Just ideal for capturing the new vine shoots in our single 4 foot Guyot Vertical Shoot Positioned trained trellis system - mostly.

May’s high temperature was 93.2 degrees recorded early in the month on the 10th. The low temperature for the month was 34.3 degrees recorded on May 1st. The diurnal shifts in the first half of the month were wider and produced a higher average temperature of 59.01 compared with the second half of the month at 57.97 degrees.

Degree Days for May were 295.3 with the first half of the month registering 161.0 and latter period 134.3 Degree Days. The growing season to-date Degree Days stand at 400.3 for 2019 compared with 392.3 Degree Days for 2018. While an 8 Degree Day difference is measurable, at this stage of the growing season it is statistically insignificant. Just don’t tell the vines, they are getting ready to flower.




Rainfall came mostly during the third week of the month, well before flowering, registering 1.53 inches, providing a full month total of 1.79 inches. While the data support no conclusions as of yet, Vintage 2019 is shaping up to be pretty farmin’ nice.


Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie