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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate: A Personal Note from Dena & Ernie

Hello and Welcome, 
A personal note from Dena & Ernie. 
The known number of people infected by the Corona virus is increasing at an alarming rate. The good news is that the rate of contagion is not exponential. The strategy to mitigate the virus seems to be to avoid any potential encounter with the virus whether from another person or in a social setting – like foraging at the grocery store. For now, that is our first, best defense. 

We were fortunate to conclude a winter sales trip and return home to Oregon before this pandemic unfolded. We both arrived safely back in Oregon on separate flights and it has been over two weeks of close quarters with no signs of infection. Based on the number of airplanes we were on, and number of people we came in contact with, we consider ourselves to be extremely lucky, and blessed. If you, or a loved one is quarantined or has tested positive, we recognize your path is a different one. We wish you a complete and uneventful recovery, Godspeed.

In the meantime, you are sitting there looking at your computer monitor. We are sitting here looking at our computer monitor. Maybe it is time to take a respite from the seriousness. Social distancing yes, but not socially distant. Except for Ernie, who spent most of last week sequestered in a 30 cubic foot glass enclosure. Not a big space, but that is the size of the cab on his Italian tractor. And we have Home Tasting Kits now available for direct shipping!

The first day of spring was March 19th here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and as if on cue brought with it the first hummingbird. That is always a sign of good fortune. There are 7 species of hummingbirds in Oregon, and Anna’s was our first visitor. According to the Audubon Society, if you are fortunate enough to see a flock of hummingbirds, you are suggested to describe them as a bouquet, a glittering, a hover, a shimmer, or a tune of hummingbirds. Ernie prefers the term squadron.

The first day of spring in the southern hemisphere will be Tuesday, September 1st. Right about now they should be thinking about getting harvest operations and logistics in order. While we are all in this together, we each have a different perspective.

And we celebrated national pi day on March 14th with a freshly baked cherry pie. That was about the time Ernie ordered in 200 gallons of diesel and began preparing the vineyard floor for Growing Season 2020. This is Ernie’s time of year to get a leg up on things, and he rarely misses an opportunity. Note: We are still classified as “Dry Farmed, Non-Irrigated”.

It was two passes of flail mowing to chop up last year’s brush and a chisel plow pass to open up the soil and prepare for the Rotovator. The Rotovator is a German implement that does a wonderful job of aerating the soil and incorporating last year’s nitrogen fixing cover crop. But Rotovating alone can form a hardpan in your soil that acts like a barrier to nutrient recycling. Ah, but Ernie figured this out long ago and that is why the chisel plow makes its inaugural run before the Rotovator.

The chisel plow breaks up monolithic blocks of compacted soil and frees up the colloids to move throughout the soil profile. If you are a colloid, this is a big day for you. The rest of the year you just lay there waiting for something to happen. Maybe a gopher will tunnel by or a seed will germinate, or a bird will leave a dropping on you. That is “living the dream” in the soil profile.

The wild cherry trees are starting to bud out. We “bought the farm” in April 1999 when the cherry orchard was in full bloom. Montmorency cherries have big white flowers and they are clustered at the end of the branch. Ernie described driving the tractor through the orchard that first year like he was driving through a Montana blizzard in freeze frame.

The vines are surely not far behind. Around April 15th when you are finalizing your National Mathematics exam for the IRS, we should start to see our Pinot Noir vines bud out. And if you need a hand with your form 1040, we have about 40 million school aged young adults on waivers. Tom Brady was on waivers, for about 12 seconds, before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If you have any questions about farming, or wine growing or tractor repair, send Ernie a note. He would be more than happy to immerse you in the fine details and vagaries involved with our agrarian endeavor. And then if you have some time on your hands, you can check out what we will be doing in about 6 months –

And that reminds us that most new monitors have built in cameras. Not Ernie’s of course because he went to school learning about computers and all of the data that they can collect (some involuntarily). He also spent many hours of his formative youth listening to George Carlin records. (Remember those? Records? The 7 dirty words monologue became a case that went to the Supreme Court.) George Carlin foretold of a time when your words would be captured and preserved until such a time that they could be sold back to you, at a significant profit. Today, we see all manner of media being captured (some involuntarily) and published on social media sites. Hey Aretha, Who’s Zoomin Who?

Amalie Robert Estate Home Tasting Kits are Now Available!

Free ground shipping with any 12 bottle order! Don’t delay, get yours today! Pinot in Pink Rosé Lip Sanitizer available for a limited time!

In these uncertain times, we can help provide a little clarity in your vinous journey. The Amalie Robert Estate Home Tasting Kit will help you determine if your wine tests POSITIVE or NEGATIVE. Each Home Tasting Kit includes all of the sundry items you will need including: 2 Amalie Robert logo Riedel burgundy glasses, a polish cloth (2 pack), a corkscrew for those deeply seated cork issues we all sometimes face, a necker drip ring, red and gold logo synthetic wine stoppers, and a set of Amalie Robert Estate evaluation sheets specific to each wine in your 12 bottle order.

Wines shown are an optional purchase

We recommend replicated tasting trials of each wine where possible. This exercise can be performed by a single evaluator or in situ with a small group according to the laws in your local community. Note: It is hard to perform this rigorous evaluation in jail, not that the authorities will throw you in jail for defying their community ordinances, more likely just a large fine. This means you will have less money to spend on wine. Check with the Spring Break crowd for further guidance on civil disobedience enforcement in your area. They post on social media, excessively.

The following 5 points of criteria should be evaluated independently. A binary result of POSITIVE or NEGATIVE will be the only outcome from each criterion. You may add additional sensory evaluation in the white space provided. After each criterion have been evaluated, or the wine is fully consumed, you may draw a conclusion as to whether the wine in question tested POSITIVE or NEGATIVE. Partial specimen bottles may be stoppered with an Amalie Robert logo synthetic wine stopper.

Note: This is referred to as a “Destructive Testing Procedure”. Whereby the sample wine is NOT to be returned to the specimen bottle after evaluation. This is an important distinction in a replicated tasting scenario. The procedure has been well thought out and is to be strictly implemented.

Aroma:                 _____ Positive                  _____ Negative

Flavor:                  _____ Positive                  _____ Negative


Texture:                 _____ Positive                  _____ Negative


Finish:                   _____ Positive                  _____ Negative


Perceived Length: _____ Positive                  _____ Negative


You may audio or video capture (or both) your evaluation session and post to social media. Please note the section above regarding the unintended consequences of such behavior. If you have any doubts as to how to proceed, just ask yourself what George Carlin would do. That ought to clear things up pretty quickly, and (if you are like Mr. Carlin) will earn you a file at the FBI.

Please follow this link to place your order for the Amalie Robert Estate Home Tasting Kit. Your $59.00 kit ships free with any 12 bottle order (discount will be applied manually with order confirmation). Note that all 12 bottle orders have shipping included if you are on the A-List.

Amalie Robert Estate Home Tasting Kits can be purchased separately for $69.00 and shipped direct to your home in all states with no signature required.

We recommend a perfunctory Lip Sanitizer such as Pinot in Pink Rosé before you begin your evaluation. A six pack of Pinot in Pink Lip Sanitizer delivered with ground shipping included is a sweet $100, but just $80 for A-Listers.

If you would like assistance with your evaluation wines, we would be happy to provide a recommendation based on our personal preferences.

You can reach Dena by email at and by phone at 503-88-CUVEE (503-882-8833).

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate: Lip Sanitizer & 2020 Spring Cellar Report - Vegan Edition

Hello and Welcome, 
Before we get to the Spring Cellar Report - Vegan Edition, we have a Special FLOG Communication.  

As you are most certainly aware, the Coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the planet. Virtually all US and World health related agencies have issued safety precautions, travel warnings and, in some cases, quarantines to help contain the spread of the virus. These are important recommendations that should be followed. You can follow Johns Hopkins University tracking of the outbreak here.

The Pacific Northwest, and the Seattle area in particular, was one of the first areas in the United States to be exposed to the Coronavirus. As efforts to contain the spread of this virus have increased, many public events and gatherings have been cancelled. The downstream effects of these cancellations include a reduction in travel and tourism related economic activity. Specifically in the greater Seattle area, over 40 restaurants have closed, some permanently, in response to a lack of patrons.

Retailers are feeling the effects as well. If your local merchant is running “out of stock” on hand sanitizer or bath tissue, may we suggest looking to online sellers such as eBay. Not that we recommend that you should support these sellers, but it is interesting to see private label brands being re-sold this way. And maybe that is why your local merchant is running “out of stock”.

If you are looking for even more protections, may we suggest augmenting your facial mask protocol with a lip sanitizer. Lips are important and form a quite necessary aperture for the enjoyment of wine. To exclude lips from the first line of defense seems to leave open a pathway to potential infection. To help provide a first line of protection for your lips we suggest Pinot in Pink Rosé as a home remedy lip sanitizer. Note: The effectiveness of Pinot in Pink Rosé as a home remedy lip sanitizer has not been proven, studied or even contemplated.

We would also like to remind you that everyone gets a free cork included in each bottle. Our corks are firebranded (no ink) and are made from natural tree bark, as are most premium closures in use for fine wines today. They are also considered to be an approved vegan closure. We compress our corks to about 50% of their relaxed diameter and then insert them into our bottles. The cork will naturally expand to fill the neck of the bottle and seal the contents inside from virtually all outside contamination. While natural corks are not a substitute item for bath tissue, they may perform a necessary and vital function during an “out of stock” condition.

The winery at Amalie Robert Estate is closed to visitation for the duration of March. Even though we believe we are virus free, the challenge is for you to get here and return home safely via plane, train or automobile.

Please join us for the 2020 Spring Cellar Report – Vegan Edition.


2020 Spring Cellar Report – Vegan Edition

Hello and Welcome,

This is the 2020 Spring Cellar Report – Vegan Edition from @AmalieRobert. A FLOG Communication.

After a brief respite and a well-deserved nap, we are back in the cellar. The primary fermentations are complete, and the Malo-lactic conversions are in suspended animation. Too damn cold for the Malo-lactic bacteria to convert malic acid to lactic acid. But not to worry, when the cellar warms up the bacteria will complete their conversion and blow the barrel bungs. Then it is time to melt some sand and harvest some tree bark, it’s bottling season.

Meanwhile, we would like to guide you through the mystery of converting a vegan agricultural crop (wine berries) into an otherworldly adult recreational beverage (wine). Please be aware that what you are about to read and see may upset your cognitive processes and dislodge some preconceived notions about how we get from wine berries to wine. And the images will be graphic, especially the graphs. Like this one:

The “Jet” also known as the “Jet Stream” or more colloquially as the “Trade Winds” have a Yuge impact on the final days of the be-dangled wine berry, and consequently the resulting wine. In the above graphic, we see a trove of cold air coming to arrest the sugar development of any yet to be harvested wine berries, thus providing for lower alcohol potential and retention of scintillating acidity. Aroma, flavor and texture, however, continue to develop unabated, albeit somewhat more slowly. The harvest lesson to be learned is that if the Jet Stream is below you, prepare for a little arctic influence in your ripening curve.

This concept is known as hangtime and has been missing from the Willamette Valley for the past few vintages. As you will notice from about the 6th of September and throughout the end of the month, below average daytime temperatures keep sugars in check. Then toward the end of the month, the evening temperatures drop, helping to preserve our natural acidity.

Or, as Ernie would tell you, this is when the vintage took a turn for the best. We experienced slow and steady aroma, flavor and texture development without having to worry about excessive sugar accumulation and the resulting high alcohol potential.

What a welcome relief from the days of the Jet Stream to our north filling the Willamette Valley with all the misbegotten heat from the Central Valley. Note: Heat expands to fill the space available.

We think of a vineyard construct in terms of acreage cut into blocks comprised of rows of vines constrained by a trellis. All very well and good and serves our purpose of growing wine. But for today’s FLOG let’s just think of a vineyard as a big East Coast city. One that has been around awhile, maybe a century or so, harkening us back to the 20’s. Man what a time to be alive, Speakeasies and Alphonse Capone were alive and well. The unintended consequences of Prohibition were to be seen all around, including your prescription for medicinal wine.

Like most big cities, our vinous city has neighborhoods and boroughs. Boroughs because we also have gophers that burrow under the walkways and roads, always trying to undermine our good faith efforts by eating the roots off of our vines. Occasionally, we have the opportunity to confront these rival gangs and dispatch them forthwith. And yes, Ernie has a “grease gun” but not the kind you may be thinking about.

Welcome to the neighborhood. In our city there are several neighborhoods mostly defined by where they are located. Pockets of vines that face east or south, or southwest. We also have the east side, as any representative city would have. Some of these neighborhoods are very diverse, home to Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, or Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Others are more isolated, such as the Gewurztraminer grafted onto the old rootstock block. And then there is the Syrah and Viognier quarter. They are transplants from Northern Rhônia. They keep to themselves and are rarely seen in other parts of our vinous city.

A year in the life. As these neighborhoods have matured, they have started to gift the city a bountiful harvest. Not of tax dollars or intellectual ingenuity, but of wine berries. Each neighborhood provides a unique contribution depending on their geographic location and indigenous population. Let’s have a look at one family in particular.

Introducing Gluc and Fruct Ose. Gluc and Fruct are closely related by genetics. Each wine berry that is harvested has a similar Ose family. The acid family is well represented within the wine berry collective by Tartaric and Malic. (Note, these families were gender neutral way before it was nouveau.) And then there are the Saccharomyces cerevisiae (aka Yeast). Growing up alongside the wine berry, but never welcomed inside the outer membrane. These are the main actors in our neighborhood. Then there is Cousin Como T. Ose, more on that one later on.

In a genetic experiment that went horribly wrong, High Fruct Ose corn syrup was invented. Much like GMO crops and their associated pollen, once released into our environment they are hard to control. Legalization of previously restricted compounds, processes and procedures can have unintended consequences. Fortunately, these products do have ingredient labels.

And some products do not have warning labels but should. Consider the vegan wine dilemma. Their thing is they would like to not consume animals, parts thereof or anything with animal residue. Fair enough, but why does this have anything to do with wine berries, Gluc and Fruct, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae? In our city it doesn’t, but every city has its underworld. More on that to follow, ya follah?

Right, so on harvest day Ernie rolls up with the tractors and harvest bins and we collect the bounty from each neighborhood. We try and get there before the other unregulated factions do, but those birds and deer are fairly cunning in their approach. Nonetheless, there is plenty for everyone.

All of the wine berries are sorted in case they have been turned against us by mildew or Botrytis. Those compromised wine berries are sent to compost collectives where they will be repurposed to nourish the land and positively contribute to a future vintage. Everyone must do their part, to do the best at what is expected from them.

As the sorting and processing function occurs, the wine berry families are deposited in sanitized 3,000 pound containers (fermenters) along with several of their neighbors. A small amount of sulfur dioxide is incorporated to keep any nefarious actors from corrupting the group. Slowly but surely the wine berries start to release Gluc and Fruct out of their wine berry skins and across the membrane. The Acid clan Malic and Tartaric go with them to provide some microbial protection, and that is when they meet Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the first time.

Gluc is the more gregarious of the Ose family and is first to undergo the transition to Ethanol with the help of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This is a big day for the Ose family as they will become part of a new adult recreational beverage called wine. Sometimes a few grams per liter of the Fruct remain in the final product and accept the moniker of Residual Sugar, but for the most part in our city all of the Ose family will convert to Ethanol and become wine. The process can take up to 4 weeks, as we do not introduce any foreign Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We want the yeast that grows in our neighborhoods to transition the Ose family to Ethanol. Gotta support the home team.

Now the Acid clan takes a different path to wine. Tartaric and Malic will not be swayed by the charms or coercion of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In fact, Tartaric does not transition at all, but moves from the wine berry family to the Ethanol based wine unchanged. Malic has less of a constitution than Tartaric and falls victim to the sweet and sultry calls of Malo-lactic bacteria.

Once the Ose family has been converted to Ethanol, the Malo-lactic bacteria start to convert Malic to Lactic acid. It is a gentle conversion and only occurs when the cellar temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. While the Malic acid is wholly consumed in this process, the resulting Lactic acid is a softer acid and more approachable in the wine. Consider that as humans develop, we lose our primary teeth to more permanent teeth. Or you could consider this process more of a pubescent experience. Wine being an adult recreational beverage, this may be a more apt analogy.

Except for Chardonnay. Sometimes Chardonnay likes to hold onto its Malic acid. Linus has his blanket, and that works for him. And despite our best cellar efforts to induce Malic to become Lactic, it’s just not going to happen. And so, from time to time our Chardonnay will have Malic present. Some kids refuse to grow up and they retain a little wild streak. So be it.

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. Let’s focus in on our flamboyant friend Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yes, quite a character to be sure, but like everyone else there are limits. Gluc and Fruct are willing participants in the transition to Ethanol, but only to a point. Once the Ethanol level reaches 15.6% our friend Saccharomyces cerevisiae dies. Everyone feels bad, especially the person who has to sell the resulting (sweet) wine. There is no further conversion to Ethanol and it is usually Fruct left on the outside looking in at the Ethanol party.

How can this be, you may ask. Well, in these past few West Coast vintages there has been some serious heat units resulting in an over concentration of Gluc and Fruct. When Saccharomyces cerevisiae hits the scene, there is a limit to the Ethanol conversion. This is the result of external forces interacting with our neighborhood. The dastardly villain Climate Change has been here!

And yes, we have made a Fruct filled wine. Actually, a pretty good one too. Viognier, that masochistic wine berry provided an opportunity in 2015. Ernie picks on flavor and that is how the way it is. No flavor, no harvest. And so, the Viognier was not giving it up in 2015. Ernie walked away and pressed his Pinot Noir to barrel, ignoring the Viognier.

Eventually the aroma, flavor and texture did come around and it was as beautiful a juice as we had ever seen, but at a cost. The Gluc and Fruct were so concentrated that they conquered Saccharomyces cerevisiae. But not until the Ethanol had reached a concentration of 15.6%. That is the outer limit for Saccharomyces cerevisiae and it was death by Ethanol poisoning. They went off to meet cousin Como T. Ose.

But the wine was something very special. All of the Viognier goodness you could handle. It was 5 by 5! Aromas, flavors, and textures permeated the frontal lobe, not to mention a few compromised sensory membranes along the way. And yes, Fruct was there to experience it all. It was a marvelous wine darling, just marvelous.

And that is a teachable moment. Do not let your neighborhood get out of control, especially those Pinots. Gluc and Fruct are necessary, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Maturation and the path to bottling or, in the brave new world we find ourselves in, getting canned. The final step of winemaking is packaging the said wine for distribution and sale. And this is where the vegan lifestyle meets the winemaking world head-on.

The vegan wine conundrum is really hard to conceptualize. Wine berries being naturally fermented with the yeast they rode in on, into an alcoholic beverage seems to be as vegan as you can get. How did wine come to be so controversial in the vegan home world?

At a wine dinner recently, Ernie was confronted with this question: “I bought a box of Chardonnay the other day, and it said, “May contain fish parts. What the Hell is that all about?” This question, while not specifically vegan, brings the issue front and center.

First of all, if we want to drink wine or any other fermented beverage, like beer, or enjoy certain fermented foods such as soy sauce or kimchi, we have to accept yeast as vegan. Until Star Trek becomes real and we have Synthehol, we need yeast to make fermented beverages. And typically, the yeast among us are quite happy, if not pre-programmed to perform this service for mankind.

We consider grapes to be vegan. If you walk through any of our neighborhoods at harvest time, from Chardonnay to Viognier, and eat wine berries, they are as vegan as the day is long. If you put a few pounds of wine berries in a bucket and they begin to ferment with wild yeast that are already on the grape skins, then that has to be vegan as well. The resulting wine that is produced? Gotta be considered vegan, and a natural wine as well.

The additives (fining agents) are the issue – egg whites, fish bladders, ox blood, horse hooves etc. Sometimes, these fining agents are added to improve the sensory experience of the wine, be it aroma, flavor or texture. And that process of adding fining agents is as old as wine itself.

Fining agents are mostly old world remedies that resolved issues from old world methods and techniques. As the human population has gained greater knowledge, we have in many cases moved from old word techniques and associated remedies to new world processes that require less intervention. The relatively recent discontinuation of leaches in the medical field is a case in point.

Wine is a luxury good and should offer a pleasurable experience. An adult recreational beverage to be enjoyed with a meal and friends, or with a trusted companion by the fire as the case may be. In the case of Champagne, when you are in love, or equally so, when you are not.

But for goodness sake, let’s leave the chemistry experiment to the energy drinks business, or the upcoming cannabis industry, or some other product where we expect manipulation.

But there is one old world fining agent we use that has stood the test of time and that is Bentonite clay. Bentonite is a (common) clay used for clarification and it is vegan. We use Bentonite to clarify our white and rosé wines, so they are considered vegan. Our reds fall clear in barrel and we add no fining agents whatsoever, so they are also vegan.

So at this point of the program, we have vegan wine to put into a container for distribution and sale. Fortunately, no one uses goat skins anymore - especially fortunate for the goats. Metallic closures such as cans and kegs contain no animal residue, so they are vegan. Glass, which is melted sand is also vegan, so far so good.

That brings us to the stopper that goes into the bottle. Traditional corks and the new glass stoppers with silicone O rings are vegan. We use natural cork for all of @AmalieRobert wines, so our entire portfolio of wines are vegan. The technical closures are next.

Technical closures are made from all manner of things. One in particular could be of issue with vegan wine and that is a closure made of cork bits and bound with some form of glue. As everyone knows glue can and has been made from several binding agents. One such binder could be honey, or milk based. And then there is our school days friend Elmer’s glue which was made from equestrian components.

While many wines could be considered vegan, the packaging could eliminate the vegan status by using a closure that contains animal parts or residue thereof. @AmalieRobert we use natural cork, for all of our wines and that is always a safe choice. Good to go!

So as you read this, admiring your natural @AmalieRobert (vegan) cork wine stopper, you can rest assured that in vintage 2019 Gluc and Fruct have left the building. Malic has been smitten and is becoming Lactic. The neighborhoods are all getting pruned back, in order to deliver a spectacular bounty for vintage 2020. In case you missed the first go around, enjoy the “Roaring 20’s”.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Free (vegan) natural cork in every (melted sand) glass bottle.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Amalie Robert Portfolio Focus: Syrah

Hello and Welcome, 
This is a portfolio focus on cool climate Syrah from @AmalieRobert Estate. A FLOG Communication. 
Tucked into the center of our 35 acres of estate grown vines is block 13, our little acre of Côte Rôtie. Ernie was confident that he wanted to grow Syrah and Viognier. Dena said OK, but you can only have 1 acre – no more. The fortuitous siting occurred when opportunity and preparedness met face to face with luck. 

Having Dick Erath wander around your property before planting anything was also quite fortuitous. With Dick’s help, we selected the warmest, most sheltered little spot to nurture our Syrah and Viognier. But what clones of Syrah to plant? And how do you know?

A most fortuitous adventure to Burgundy included a detour to the Northern Rhône. In the little town of Ampuis we were once again face to face with opportunity, preparedness and luck. But this time our fountain of knowledge was Marcel Guigal. And that brief encounter provided the answers to “What clones of Syrah to plant? And how do you know?” The vineyard at Amalie Robert Estate was planted to 1,188 Syrah (4 clones) and 297 Viognier vines in 2003.

All of the local growers thought Ernie was daft. “Yeah, sure, go ahead. Let us know how that works out for you! Ha!” If you have met Ernie, you know he doesn’t really run with the traffic. He was simply more “encouraged”. The 2007 Amalie Robert Syrah was selected for the “The Year’s Best American Syrahs” by Wine & Spirits Magazine with a 93 point rating. And in 2008 our Syrah had a new name: “Satisfaction”. And that’s how it worked out for Ernie.

And as time went by, slowly at first, the vines did their part in growing their root systems and colonizing the soil. They were gaining vine age. And Ernie was doing his part, tending the Syrah vines to their own schedule and waiting for the optimal harvest window. Harvest for cool climate Syrah, as it turns out, is optimally executed in November at Amalie Robert Estate.

The resulting wine, maturing in barrel at the 24-month mark, was hauntingly familiar. As if we were transported back to the Guigal cellars in Ampuis tasting La Turque from barrel. The vintage was 2010, and at that revelation the reserve Syrah program was born – Top Barrel Syrah.

“Amalie Robert, whose vineyard is in the western part of the Willamette Valley, makes a very strong case for Syrah, but production of their two graceful wines is painfully small, as in just a few barrels of wine per vintage.” - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2018

Both the Satisfaction and Top Barrel Syrahs are 100% estate grown and indigenously fermented with a significant portion of stem inclusion. While the Satisfaction Syrah represents the four clones alluded to above and a wee bit of interplanted Viognier, the Top Barrel Syrah is a single barrel and quite often a single clone. But Ernie’s not telling which of those 4 fortuitous clones it is.

However, he will tell you, in excruciating detail, how he harvests the 12 row Syrah block moments before the arrival of the growing season-ending rains: clone by clone, 3 rows at a time. And what about the interplanted Viognier? It goes in the harvest buckets right alongside the Syrah. That’s just the old world having its way with the new world. C'est la vie.

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.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate: 2019 Happy Holidays!

As the season turns to friends and family, we would like to extend to you our warmest wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year. We would also like to take this opportunity to welcome new friends to the Amalie Robert Estate FLOG

The 5th of the month and the repeal of Prohibition!

The 5th of the month has more significance than Ernie was previously aware. A thirst for knowledge and a little research has greatly expanded his appreciation for the 5th of the month.

January through March is a write-off. We are just too busy working to be bothered. However, for some the 5th of the month is payday.

April 5th is a day we wake up and realize the government is about to get more of our money than ever before. However, we owe ourselves about $23.1 trillion (up from about $21.8 trillion last year), that's just about $69,923 (up from about $66,242 last year) per person living in the United States, and $186,948 per taxpayer. Hmmm, back to work. You can check our progress from time to time right here.

As you well know, the holiday Cinco De Mayo is a celebration on the 5th day of the 5th month. The purpose of which is to celebrate the victory by the Mexican Army over the French Army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Of course, and as always, there is more to the story. Here is a link with more details.

We transition right to June 5th. This date is very significant to Ernie, as it is Dena’s birthday! As many of you know, Dena’s middle name is Amalie and is the palate defining Amalie’s Cuvée.

July 5th is the day we would have declared our Independence, however as Americans, we just couldn’t wait. Somewhat like opening a gift, or maybe two, on Christmas Eve.

August 4th, 2011, again we couldn’t wait, is the first time the US debt exceeded 100% of our Gross Domestic Product - GDP (Gosh Darn Politicians).

However, August 5th brings little pink berries to our Pinot Noir vines. Ernie likes this, a lot!

September 5th is significant to all children and especially their parents. It usually is about the time the children are going back to school.

October 5th usually finds us in the middle of harvest. Due to the protracted nature of harvesting and fermenting Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier and now that little rascal Gewürztraminer, Ernie has dubbed the 10th and 11th months to be “Octo-vem-BIER.”

On December 5th we find ourselves at the end of the calendar. 2019 marks the 86th year of the repeal of the social engineering experiment known as Prohibition.

On January 16th, 1919, the United States Congress passed the Volstead Act. The Volstead Act was passed to provide enforcement of the 18th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, aka Prohibition. This marked the beginning of Prohibition. We wonder what Congress’s approval rating was that year.

This is an excerpt of section 1 of the 18th amendment:

“…the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.”

During the following 13 years, the people of the United States bore witness to the effects of Prohibition. Further, they were able to compare the politicians’ promises and pontifications to the experiences in their own daily lives - aka The Real World. This phenomenon has persisted in each and every congress since and can lead to the malady known as cognitive dissonance. Ernie calls it “Negotiated Reality”.

It was in 1929 that a curious little product was invented and granted trademark protection. Ernie may be deviating from his factual discourse here, but perhaps this product was used in reference to the politicians of the day who could not tell the difference between a good idea and Prohibition. Sometimes it is hard to tell fact from fiction, sometimes not. The product was a shoe wax called Shinola. Now they make watches.

Winegrowers of the time were a hearty breed, they had to be. The manufacture, distribution and sale (including export offshore) of alcohol was illegal. If your livelihood depended on growing some 100 tons of grapes and selling the fermented juice, you were out of business (and so was your labor force), or so the politicians thought.

Now, let us introduce the law of Supply and Demand. (Note: Much like gravity this is a law not subject to political pressure.) Despite a small minority trying to legislate morality on the entire citizenry, the American public sought to exercise their rights as citizens living in a free country. After all, that’s why they were here.

It turns out that many people had unexplained illnesses during those 13 years. In visiting their family physicians, it seemed the most cost effective treatment was the prescription of alcohol, wine in most cases, for medicinal purposes. One thing often leads to another and new upstart health clinics quietly appeared. Called speakeasies, these outpatient clinics provided a wide variety of treatments for whatever may be ailing you. Lead poisoning, while not common, was a serious health risk. The health care industry in this country is a very curious thing.

Even today, the debate continues over the health benefits of alcohol, red wine in particular and Pinot Noir specifically, for the high content of Resveratrol. You can learn more about Resveratrol here. Or NASCAR, which is the natural evolution of a rapid delivery system that kept the formularies of the day fully stocked - much to the chagrin of the treasury agents.

We now come to the presidential election of 1932. FDR, as he was known, achieved many things. The most wide sweeping change affected nearly everyone in the United States and for generations to come, including several of our foreign trading partners. Recall, the importation of Canadian, Irish and Scotch whisky was also illegal. As an aside, Ernie’s time in Ireland taught him that the Scot’s never acknowledged Prohibition and they kept the pipeline open.

On December 5th, 1933, the 21st amendment was ratified by the United States Congress. In what may be the most effective and efficient legislation known to this great country, here is Section 1 in its entirety:

“Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”

We see here that sweeping changes in legislation, or repeal of them, may be difficult, but certainty not impossible.

As you enjoy the holiday season, please take a moment to reflect on your constitutional right to grow, produce, blend, bottle, sell/purchase and consume wine, especially Pinot Noir!

When the time is right, please enjoy our wines with friends, food and in moderation.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2019 Harvest After Action Report - The Great Cluster Pluck

Vintage 2019 Harvest After Action Report – The Great Cluster Pluck 
Hello and Welcome, 
This is the @AmalieRobert Harvest After Action Report. A FLOG Communication.

Vintage 2019 will be remembered as the vintage that wasn’t ready, until it was – all of it – all at once. Yes, there was the typical atypical rain, as there always is in September. Good canopy management during the growing season is the preventive cure for that. But Botrytis will not be denied, and the clock started ticking with a pretty big shot of rain on the 10th of September. A little too much of a good thing with many returns to finish the month of September with 2.72 inches of rain.

To put this in perspective, August registered 0.11 inches of rain, and we received no measurable precipitation whatsoever during the first 15 days of October. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what’s known as the sweet spot of harvest. If you could hold out that long. And we did.

And so October, which is the first half of Okto-vember, made its way into the decision matrix. Hmm, that’s a pretty nice block of Chardonnay you got there. Why are the wine berries turning purple? And that is how you know Botrytis had caught up to The Great Cluster Pluck of 2019.

A little Botrytis is ok, kinda nice in Chardonnay actually. But that is your nudge that it’s time to bring it in. Despite your best canopy management efforts, the Chardonnay wine berry is highly susceptible to the wayward advances of Botrytis. And since it was now Okto-vember, more Botrytis encouraging rain was most surely on the way – but it wasn’t.

It was Okto-vember 1st at first light, when Ernie lit up tractors and we rolled up on block 24 from the south. The morning air was cool, with a little breeze and dry conditions prevailed as we Cluster Plucked our Dijon Clone Chardonnay. And that is when we verified another mystery of Vintage 2019 - a light fruit set. And at the end of that morning it was confirmed that Vintage 2019 was going to be low yield. Except for the Gewürztraminer, of course. A few more vines were bearing this year, so our yield almost doubled. Ernie still fermented it in “small, open top fermenters” (aka buckets), but he is up to about 5 cases worth now…

And by the end of that first week of Okto-vember our operation was up and rolling with Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir coming on. The September rains were a distant memory. Clear blue skies, a light breeze and cool nights were on tap for the next two weeks. The weather provided a most perfect opportunity to finish ripening our wine berries. For which we took full advantage – 8 days a week.

The Great Cluster Pluck of 2019 was on, and we were on it! We had daylight burning and Bird Gards squealing. The Cluster Pluckers arrived before dawn and set out their buckets and punch cards. Our production is entirely estate grown fruit and the clusters are all plucked by hand. Into the buckets they go at about 20 pounds per each and then into the harvest bins. Snap on the lids to deny Vespula germanica any of our prized booty, and off to the winery we go.

Rinse and repeat, and don’t forget to eat. The clear skies and dry conditions continued, and Okto-vember provided exactly the hang time conditions we needed to accentuate our aromas and flavors while keeping Botrytis in check. However, this fortuitous set of ripening conditions did not escape the opportunistic attention of those Flocking Birds. While not everyone could hold out as long as we did, the fruit quality was oh soooo worth the wait.

And there was not a lot of waiting to be had. The Great Cluster Pluck 2019 started on Okto- vember 1st and concluded on Octo-vember 15th. Everyday was full on, and we modified the work calendar to make more time. We added a day to each week of The Great Cluster Pluck 2019 by combining Saturday and Sunday into a single day. We would wake up on Saturday morning, but when we went to bed that was our Sunday night. The next day, which we have not yet named, was an extra work day! That’s 8 days a week! Ernie is a numbers guy and a calendar is just a mathematical construct. Not too big of a lift really, when you consider the legitimacy of daylight savings time.

Now, since you are there reading this instead of being here helping us, you probably do not know that we sort all of our wine berries twice. Our first sort is in the vineyard as the wine berries make their way into the harvest bins. That is when our nemesis Botrytis is dealt with. Yep, we sort that out right up front. And then in the winery, we have another look see. Any wine berries that are compromised are destined for the compost pile. But there aren’t so many of those as we do a really good job of canopy management during the growing season and sort at the harvest bin. What’s left for the fermenters is the duck’s nuts. Or the bee’s knees, if you prefer.

There’s a lot that goes into it, growing wine. But at the end of the day, we are just going to bring in those pristine wine berries and ferment the sugar out of them. And after that we are going to convert their malic acid to lactic acid. We have a bacteria for that. Then its off to a toasty oak barrel for some well deserved élevage. Of course, most folks are unaware of these things. But by the time the wine makes it to your elegant stemware, you are enveloped in the bliss of our viticultural prowess and oenological stewardship. And maybe some marketing along the way. At least that’s what we are shooting for.

The Great Cluster Pluck of 2019 proceeded undaunted amid the continual harassment of those Flocking Birds. Everyone knows who they are. Robins and starlings gather in trees and fly to pluck a wine berry then return to the safety of the forest’s edge. Ernie has counter measures called Bird Gards, but this year the birds were voracious. The last resort is to deploy the nets. This was especially important for the Syrah which was the beneficiary of our excellent hangtime weather up until it’s final day of ripening, Okto-vember 37th.

Our indigenous species of raptors seemed to be off on holiday or were simply molting. And without this air support, the Flocking Birds demonstrated air superiority early on. But as we were cluster plucking the last of the Pinot Noir clusters to be plucked on Okto-vember 15th (a Tuesday), the raptors returned. Red tail hawks are the “Constitution Class” of the raptors and define air superiority. The next best raptors to have in the avian theater are the Cooper’s hawk and the sharp shinned hawk. These are forest hunters and their aviary skill is equally at home among the vineyard canopy. The Syrah and Viognier had the good fortune to finish ripening under the hawkish eyes of these Amalie Robert Estate raptors. Don’t pay too much attention to the robin and starling carcasses littered around the vineyard. That is evidence of a healthy ecosystem.

Causation, correlation or coincidence? An exercise in climatically predictive wine quality. What we present to you here at this time, in this space, is what happened during the growing season. While that will have an impact on the quality of the vintage, it is much like evaluating the size of one’s wand. Where in fact what we are more concerned with is the magic in it. And more to the point, when that magic is ready to be presented and consumed. Perhaps, in the case of Pinot Noir, a better title would be “Bewitched, bothered and bewildered.”

Vintage 2019 was really a pretty nice vintage. Not too hot and a clean break from the arid conditions of the last several vintages. But not too cool, more of a 2007 mixed with 2008, and certainly warmer than 2011. Slow and steady ripening with a shot of rain just before harvest. Statistically more rain in September than most vintages, but not an overall significant factor @AmalieRobert Estate. Once again, this vintage is a grower’s vintage. When your winemaker wears the winegrower’s hat, it is always a grower’s vintage.

Vineyard labor is a lesson in economics. Good old supply and demand is alive and well. The supply is fairly fixed, but the agricultural demand continues to expand. And except for hedging, there is little vineyard mechanization to be had. That means virtually all of our canopy management is performed by, and the biggest chunk of the vineyard budget goes to, skilled vineyard labor.

Good canopy management demands timeliness, focus and attention to detail. The best weather conditions in world will not save you from untimely or poor quality vineyard work. The condition of the vineyard canopy, and the wine berries in it, during mid-September has a substantial impact on when to Cluster Pluck. And that in turn reveals more about the quality of the vintage than any Degree Day summation or growing season rainfall. Yet as humans, we are fixated on quantitative measures to compare and contrast. They help us comprehend the seemingly unending factors that culminate in a glass of wine.

Aromas and flavors develop on the vine over time. Sugar accumulation (alcohol potential) is a response to heat. As long as the vintage does not accumulate excessive heat (Degree Days), the longer the wine berries are on the vine, the more aromas and flavors are available to be captured during fermentation. While the presence of Botrytis can be an indicator that it is time to start Cluster Plucking, excessive sugar accumulation tells you it’s time to finish it up, right farming now.

This is why Syrah hangs until early November at @AmalieRobert Estate. Each and every day we are increasing the intensity of available aromas and flavors. Thanks to a cool climate, Syrah sugar accumulation is kept in check and the wines normally vacillate around 13% alcohol.

Deciding to Cluster Pluck because you believe the aroma and flavor profile of the wine berries is going to make the style of wine you like is the goal. Having spent the entire growing season focused on canopy management, positioning shoots, thinning and performing other timely vineyard tasks helps to ensure that when the rains do arrive, the canopy, and the wine berries in it, will take some rain and continue to ripen aromas and flavors without significant rot.

Or not. After that shot of rain in early September, some folks discovered their Cluster Pluck schedule would more be determined by the advancing rate of rot than by aroma and flavor development. There is little if any remedial action that can be taken at this point of discovery. This is not the goal. And it should not be a surprise to anyone that September brings rain to the Willamette Valley.

And how do we know this, you may ask? We saw it first hand in our Chardonnay. But that is Chardonnay and it is to be expected. Unfortunate, but not uncommon. The key there is to take the fruit before Botrytis spreads and can compromise the wine. We have been there and had that done to us with Typhoon Pabuk in 2013. The remainder of the vineyard however, and more to the point is that the Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, was rock solid. And we heard a fair bit about it from our harvest crews.

Harvest crews represent an informal information network of how the vintage is progressing. They go where the work is and see hundreds if not thousands of acres of vines. They will tell you where they have been and what they have seen. Time and again we were told how our wine berries were the cleanest they had seen. And they kept coming back to help us. This is an important indicator, as Cluster Plucking around rotted fruit is less financially rewarding.

Why are we telling you this? As a climatic predicator of wine quality, we are trying to point out that harvest dates provide clues. How were those wine berries farmed all summer? What was their condition after the rains? Did you harvest because you wanted to or because you had to? Being able to handle some challenging weather conditions and let your wine berries hang through to develop aroma and flavor ripeness is a strong predictor of wine quality. The amount of Rosé produced might be another indicator of vintage quality.

Now the numbers, which honestly do have some meaning and relevance. While not a predictor of wine quality per se, they do provide a comparison to previous vintages and a historic continuum that can be the basis for debate. As we assess the vintage growing conditions, it is important to bear in mind that our ability to measure far exceeds our ability to comprehend the effects of what is measured.

Let’s start with the Heffalump in the room that joined us in September. There were three appearances spread throughout the month. The first was around the 10th which gifted us 0.68 inches of rainfall. Next up was around the 18th with another 0.97 inches of rainfall, and again on the 20th with 0.42 inches. And lastly around the 30th with 0.55 inches of rainfall. September total was 2.72 inches of rainfall. Squish, Squish, Squish… Not too bad if you are a duck, you know.

But then it was dry during the @AmalieRobert Estate Cluster Pluck vintage 2019 until the 16th of October when about 0.96 inches of rainfall came rolling in. Not to be outdone, the 21st brought in another 1.63 inches of rainfall. That was a soaker. And then again dry all the way through November 6th when we Cluster Plucked the Syrah and Viognier. October total was 2.59 inches of rainfall. The 2019 growing season total April through October was 13.78 inches. And in preparation for next Spring, we can expect about 30 inches of rain between now and then.

Degree Days (aka heat units or heat accumulation) help provide an understanding of how the vine was able to ripen its wine berries within the constraint of available heat during the vintage. Matching heat accumulation to harvest date ties it all together. We track our readings every 20 minutes, so we have a pretty good idea what the vines are going through. Daytime highs, nighttime lows and the diurnal shift also tell the tale of ripening during the last few weeks before harvest.

While the growing season total is handy for multiple vintage comparisons, a detailed monthly view is more useful in understanding the character of the vintage and is an exercise left to the reader.

Coming into the home stretch of Vintage 2019, September registered 316.5 Degree Days, providing a growing season total of 2,220.2. The first half of the month recorded 195.0 Degree Days and the second half of the month recorded 121.5. The high temperature was 92.8 degrees Fahrenheit recorded on September 5th at 4:36 pm and the low temperature was 37.2 recorded on September 28th at 3:00 am.

Now the sweet spot of Vintage 2019 was the first half of October where we recorded another 55.0 Degree Days, and not a drop of rainfall to be had. The high temperature was 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit recorded on the 7th at 5:00 pm and the low temperature was 31.6 recorded on the 9th at 7:36 am. Heat accumulation through the middle of October was 2,275.2 Degree Days and that concluded the Great Cluster Pluck of 2019 – except the Syrah and Viognier.

The second half of October brought another 46.7 Degree Days for a monthly total of 101.7 and a growing season total of 2,321.9. The high temperature was 72.3 6 degrees Fahrenheit recorded on the 22nd and the low temperature of 24.6 recorded on the 31st at 7:00 am. That‘s frickin’ cold!

The Great Cluster Pluck 2019 was officially completed November 6th, 2019 with the Syrah and Viognier. We accumulated an additional 11.8 Degree Days through the 6th of November with a high temperature of 66.6 degrees Fahrenheit recorded on the 3rd at 2:00 pm and a low temperature of 32.9 recorded the same morning. This represents a one day diurnal shift of 33.7 degrees. Total Vintage 2019 Degree Days stand at 2,333.7

While most of the Willamette Valley experienced similar conditions, within a standard deviation or two, the cipher to understanding Vintage 2019 will most likely be harvest date. A sloppy September gave way to an ethereal October. If you were a Rhône Head, you were riding the temperate weeks into November. And at a harvest brix of 24.0, you were feeling pretty good about that.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie