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 – 2017 Amalie Robert Estate, LLC

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2009 September

Hello and Welcome,

This is the September 2009 Climate update. Despite all the hoopla regarding the 2008 vintage, I am still a firm believer that 2009 is the vintage of the year.

Let's start with the numbers. We have recorded about 405 degree days for the month of September (260 through the 15th and an additional 145 through the end of the month), providing a total of 2,040 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 414 degree days last September and a comparative total of 1,896 degree days for 2008. 

During September, our highest high was 98.6 and our lowest high was 92.5. Our lowest low was 41.0 and our highest low was 42.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for September was 1.13 inches and was 0.46 inches above last September's rain of 0.67. Rainfall since April 1st through September 30th was 9.41 inches, and is 4.31 inches greater than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 5.10 inches. 

Through the looking glass I see another 32 degree days for October and ideal harvest conditions. 


Monday, August 31, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2009 August

Hello and Welcome,

This is the climate update for August 2009.

All in all, I must say 2009 has been a pretty nice year. The vineyard still looks very green and healthy, the summer cover crops have contributed their all and are now resting below an inch or so of tilled soil, and the weather has been fairly moderate. I will drill in some Oats and Field Peas between the rows and that should put the vineyard floor in good stead for a well deserved winter rest.

Here is what I know for sure, as much as you can know anything for sure in agriculture. We have recorded about 534 degree days for the month of August, providing a total of 1,634 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 448 degree days last August and a comparative total of 1,481 degree days for 2008. Tack on another 300 for September, and we are in striking distance.

During August, our highest high was 103.4 and our lowest high was 100.2. Our lowest low was 45.4 and our highest low was 47.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for August was 0.35 inches and was 1.35 inches below last August's rain of 1.70. Rainfall since April 1st through August 30th was 8.28 inches, and is 3.85 inches greater than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 4.43 inches.

Regarding last month's question: Do the clusters at the end of the vine make better wine than the clusters toward the head? The answer is the best wine is made from the clusters that make it to the winery! Since we can never really know for sure, here are some thoughts on the subject:

  • As long as the vine is healthy, the cane is not too long and not overburdened, then the fruit should be relatively uniform along the cane. If any of these conditions are degraded, the fruit in the center of the cane may have lower quality.

  • The fruit at the end of the cane is typically better quality due to the vine's natural growth habit. The end shoots typically are more vigorous as they are looking to climb - they are vines after all. This means the end shoots are drawing greater energy from the vine in hopes for growing into an ideal location to produce fruit (aka ripen seeds.) The clusters on these end shoots are the beneficiaries of the increased vascular tissue activity.

  • Another view is that we want to space the fruit out along the cane. Early in the year this can be done by cutting large clusters in half. The result is the top half of the cluster remains on the vine and the clusters are evenly spread across the cane. I think this is easier to do with large clustered varieties such as Dolcetto or Syrah.

Also, whatever clusters remain, removal of the wings or "fruiting tendrils" may improve wine quality. This is due to the notion that wings flower about a week after the main cluster. The wing is Mother Nature's back-up plan in case of bad weather during the critical bloom stage. This means the wing needs an extra week or so to ripen. However, the cluster will be harvested long before the grapes on the wing fully develop flavor and aroma.

So, there we have it.

As I sit at my desk writing, I can see that the nearly inch of rain we just received is followed by a strong breeze and partly sunny skies. The forecast is for warm dry days and cool nights. Perhaps the wind is at our backs and the sun is warming our faces - it could be worse. Here is a link to a weather page that is no worse than any I have found:
September is the time of reflection on the year's events that have shaped this vintage. We look forward to September's sunny days and cool nights when Mother Nature puts her finishing touches on the vintage. Of course, we are doing our part by thinning off excess crop and late ripening wings.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2009 August Veraison


We will have the little pink berries again this year. They will emerge alone and unafraid in Block 14 (Pommard on Schwarzmann rootstock), which is now being expertly manicured for Mr. Etzel, on August 6, 2009. Congratulations Mike!

Some have suggested the harvest of the year will come early, and for some I am sure this is true. However, every time I am tempted by these "false choices", I remember that Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special where he is falsely coerced into kicking the football. I think this is also called "marketing."

He knows it is the wrong choice, however he is pressured into thinking about the glory to be his when he kicks that football. Not to plagiarize here, but he seems to have the audacity of hope. Alas, it is not to be. Fortunately, he is not seriously injured and returns in a few weeks time with a Christmas Tree, but that is indeed another story.

Personally, I know that I will be harvesting Syrah and Viognier at the last possible moment - in NOVEMBER - with the birds. So if anyone is ready to go early, I will be happy to accommodate.

In the mean time we will build sugars, ripen seeds and begin respiring malic acid.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2009 July


Now let's see, where did we leave off... Ah yes, we are preparing for the harvest of the year!

Well, the vines are certainly doing their part. They have full vibrant green canopies, enough fruit to make at least one bottle of wine (each), and enough photosynthetic surface to power a small factory. Wait a minute, they are small factories! They just have not been signed up for "cap and trade" yet. I bet those Cabernet vines could use the credits.

Thankfully our Congress is in recess, if only for a month, and is taking time to attend local "Town Hall" meetings. This is the citizenry's opportunity to provide direct input and "Specific High Intensity Training" to our elected representatives. I encourage everyone to vigorously participate, regardless of your rootstock choice.

Now, let me tell you what it has been like here for the vines in July 2009. We have recorded about 532 degree days for the month of July, providing a total of 1,100 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 531 degree days last July and comparative total of 993 degree days for 2008 (consistent, no?) and 1,054 degree days for 2007. In 2006 we had accumulated 1,246 degree days through the end of July. Personally, I think consistency is usually the hobgoblin of large homogeneous organizations, or disorganizations like... Congress, but I digress.

During July, our highest high was 101.0 and our lowest high was 997.1 Our lowest low was 41.0 and our highest low was 43.9 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for July was a blowout of 0.93 inches and was 0.90 inches above last July's rain of 0.03. Rainfall since April 1st through July 31st was 7.93, and is 5.20 inches more than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 2.73 inches.

Let's explore degree days for a minute. Conceptually, degree days are the way humans try and understand the vines response to temperature, and more importantly the growing season in total. The traditional formula is to average the high and low temperature of the day and subtract 50. Resulting positive number gives us the degree days for that day. The vascular tissue of the vine (think sap in a tree), is usually pretty dormant below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So we make this a baseline in our calculations.

Here is where I differ from the traditional program. I use data loggers to take temperature readings every 20 minutes, day or night, rain, wind or shine. This gives us the average temperature for the day, and we download the information each month for a monthly total, and finally an April through October summation (Northern hemisphere growing season.) This gives us a more accurate reading of what the vine is experiencing. That, and we simply ask them.

August will bring the third, and hopefully, final hedge pass. We are thinning and making all the necessary preparations for September 23rd. This is the 105th day past flowering.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2009 June


The vintage of the year continues to roll right along. We have a nice fruit set and the canopy is looking healthy, but a bit disheveled. Of course I only really see it during the day, who knows what is going on out there after dark. One thing I do know is we have a pair of juvenile Redtail hawks this year. They are certainly helping with our with the rodent issues. I don't mind helping them out, but I wish they would return my traps.

Here are the numbers. We have recorded about 369 degree days for the month of June, providing a total of 568 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 254 degree days last June and a comparative total of 462 degree days. During June, our highest high was 92.5 and our lowest high was 88.0. Our lowest low was 41.7 and our highest low was 43.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

The rainfall for June was 1.45 inches and was about 0.81 inches more than last June’s rain of 0.64. Rainfall since April 1st through June 30th was 7.00 inches, and is 4.30 inches more than last year’s Q2 accumulation of 2.70 inches. Every inch of rain is about 27,000 gallons of water per acre, or about 18.6 gallons per vine.

We are finishing our canopy management of clipping the third set of catch wires into place. I will begin hedging and mowing early next week, and will follow on with leaf pulling. The fruit set seems very uniform, with most berries on a cluster all the same size. I am hopeful this will promote uniform ripening of the cluster.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2009 June Flowers


It looks our first definitive sign of harvest is here - Pinot Noir flowers. The first of the little devils appeared on June 9th. After a quick review of the usual suspects, it turns out block 10 (Wadenswil/5C) was the lead dog.

So now the game is afoot. If we go "by the book," we have about 105 days from bloom to harvest. Since June 9th is the 160th day of the year, we can expect serious consternation regarding harvest to be in full effect by day 265, which is conveniently September 23rd.

However, we also have to keep an eye on the Big Walnut, as I am reluctant to harvest Pinot Noir until it begins to senesce. Alas, the birds have a different view, but we can address them next time.

Again the Spring has provided us with "seasonal" Oregon weather. This means we are on the look-out for Powdery Mildew, and with the rains that will be coming in June, perhaps even Botrytis. We are keeping tight intervals on our sulfur spray regime. We do not seem to have any mite damage this Spring.

First wires are up and clipped into place, the summer cover crop is drilled in and suckers have been removed. From my point of view, the world is spinning in greased grooves.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2009 May


This is the climate update for the month of May 2009.

We have recorded about 199 degree days from April 1 through May 31. This is nestled nicely between the 206 degree days recorded during the same period in 2008 and 2007's read of 194 degree days. That being said, bud break for the three years varies widely.

During May, our highest high was 92.50 and our lowest high was 88.00. Our lowest low was 35.70 and our highest low was 36.40 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for May was significant at 4.24 inches and was about 4.01 inches greater than last May’s rainfall of 0.23 inches. Year-to-date rainfall is 18.96 inches compared to last year's 17.23 inches.

We began Bud Break in the Pinot Noir on April 22nd this year, which is about 2 weeks ahead of 2008's date of May 5th. We observed the 2007 Pinot Noir break bud on Thursday, April 5 which, agriculturally speaking, is “nearly exactly” two weeks ahead of the 2006 Pinot Noir bud break of April 19. The 2005 Pinot Noir bud break was March 15.

The vineyard floor is weed-free, as I have now considered any plants in the vine row that are still alive to be "Cover Crop." That was easy. Last fall I established a permanent cover crop in alternate rows. The remaining rows have a cover crop blend of vetch and buckwheat or barley and vetch - depending on where I ran out, I mean where I changed the blend for cover crop trials.

We are spraying liquid sulfur this Spring. It is about the same cost as the increased price in micronized sulfur, and easier. One of the 2.5 gallon jugs is exactly what I need in my 250 gallon sprayer. As I age, I seem to be gravitating toward easy. I will have to get this looked after.

No signs of Powdery Mildew or Botrytis, and all seems healthy and green. The only exception is our Chardonnay which seems to have been the victim of early May herbicide spray drift or volatization. Another reminder to chat with the neighbors and the local farm stores each and every Spring without exception, about how evil this Crossbow product really is.

Although we do not have any mite damage that I can find, I am seeing pronounced apical dominance in some blocks. This is disturbing for several reasons, not least of which is that the less vigorous shoots are not up to the first set of catch wires when the end shoots are past the second set. Nonetheless, the first set of wires are up and clipped into place. Due to the uneven shoot growth, I have opted to remove suckers early this year, and will bear the consequences after fruit set.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2009 April


Just a little reminder that Tuesday is Cinco de Mayo. Other than that, not too much to report. Well, maybe a little bud break here and there.

We have accumulated 1.31 inches of rain since the 1st of April and that is 0.52 inches less than the same period in 2008. Q1 2009 rainfall was 13.41 inches and was 1.83 inches less than the 15.24 inches of rain for Q1 2008. The historical 30 year average for Q1 is 19.72 inches of rain, or 536,384 gallons per acre, mas o menos.

We have recorded 10 degree days this month. Our highest high was 83.00 and our lowest high was 71.80. Our lowest low was 30.10 and our highest low was 34.10 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, we did not record any degree days for April 2008 or April 2007; about 25 degree days for April 2006 and 49 degree days for April 2005. And everyone remembers how those vintages turned out! Ay Caramba!

One bright spot is that chisel plow springs are only about $25 apiece this year, plus s/h. Yes, the alternate rows have been flailed, mown, chisel plowed and rotovated. As soon as we get a break in the weather, I will be drilling buckwheat and vetch to those rows to help digest last years canes and winter cover crop and provide nutrients for the fall feeding frenzy. I can now finally answer "Si" to the following question with 100% certainty. "Does the roto-tiller need its clutches replaced every year?"

Now, onto the good stuff - we declared bud break in the Pinot Noir on Wednesday, April 22nd at 2:13 pm in block 10 which is full of wonderful Wadenswil clone grafted onto 5C, what a thrill! So far I have seen no scarring, or other signs of bud mite damage. As the season goes along, I am keeping a keen eye out for any potential mite issues. When mites are prolific they can really catch your eye, not unlike the hook on a screen door. No bien!

It seems the press corps has confirmed my suspicions regarding the 2008 vintage, so now we must start over. So for this year, I say we are "5x5" in declaring the vintage of the year.

Muchas Gracias,