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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2010 Harvest – After Action Report (AAR)

Hello and Welcome,

This is the final vineyard report for the 2010 growing season.

From a vineyard point of view, the 2010 growing season was a tremendous and unqualified success. Ernie has detailed the specific months leading up to harvest, and the review of those months "is an exercise left to the reader" at http://www.amalierobert.com/2010_julian_calendar.htm (Ernie heard that "comment" from his college calculus professor at least once a week for a whole year, and has endured the mental scars ever since.)

The final days leading up to harvest were as beautiful as the day is long. Daytime temperatures were warm to moderate with cool night-time patterns and most importantly, dry. Harvest began as it always does, in earnest, on Sunday, October 17th. We enjoyed sharing these first days of harvest with some special friends. Thank you for making the journey to see Dena and Ernie.

Specifically, Ernie had estimated about 72.98 tons of fruit for the year. That is 717,837 clusters of grapes with wings removed weighing in at about 92.3 grams. That averages about 5 clusters per pound, and is a little smaller than an "average" yield of 4 clusters per pound. Yeah, he tracks things at that level. Where does he find the time...

The final result came in just under estimate at 65.23 tons, or 89.4% of estimate - statistically significant, but irrelevant. All blocks were harvested, and we lost very little fruit to Botrytis aka "Bunch Rot." At the end of the day however, we did determine that our winged Pinot Noir "connoisseurs" had taken an early and "long" position in our surrounding forests. This was one of those years where you feed the birds.

The challenge we faced was bringing in 65 tons in short order. While the harvest window looked really nice, it was not going to last forever. There is a funny story about someone who made a substantial sum in the stock market. He was asked how he did it; what was his "secret?" He replied "I sold too soon!"

And so it was as harvest began. People wanted to pick, but they thought it was too soon. The sugars were rising (Brix) and the acids were falling. The planets were beginning to align. The cold 2010 vintage was being redeemed! The weather was stunning and Ernie understood the temptation to wait. But Ernie has lived through the "Dot.Com" bust, and the thought of waiting was never seriously considered. He learned the hard way that those "gains" are not yours until you bring them home.

So we picked grapes like it was going to rain tomorrow, and eventually it did. Our last big Pinot Noir push was on Saturday, October 23rd. Ernie was also picking fruit for not only our best customer, but our only customer, Cristom. Knowing this was to be the last best day of harvest, Ernie made the call, and a long-time friend came through with 14 additional picking bins. Game on!

Logistics is something that Ernie takes seriously. That fateful day, he was faced with harvesting about 20 tons of Pinot Noir (that is 2,000 buckets) with 36 pickers, 50 picking bins, 74 harvest buckets and 2 tractor trailer combinations that held 3 picking bins each. This was planned to be our biggest harvest day ever, if we could beat the rains. Harvest began at 7:30 and covered the expanse of the vineyard, picking the final blocks that needed all the growing season they could get.

All day was gray and overcast. Temperatures were in the upper 40s with momentary sunbreaks and a light breeze. The threat of rain hung in the air with the potential of a deluge at any moment. Ernie thought about the Hindenburg. He had to take a couple calls throughout the day and the crew thought he was calling in favors for more time. Ernie did not dispel the myth.

With this number of pickers, the harvest bins filled quickly. Each bin holds about 36 buckets of hand harvested Pinot Noir. In other words, when each person in the picking crew finishes a bucket, that fills a picking bin. As each trailer filled, Ernie would make a run to the winery to R & R (Remove and Reload) another 3 bins. Every trip to the winery was headed west where the storm clouds were gathering and the front was building energy. It was going to rain, but not yet.

It isn't over until its over. As we watched the sky to the west grow darker and closer, we could see the rate of the pickers decrease. For the uninitiated, hand harvesting grapes is very hard work; it had been 7 hours. We stayed true to the task at hand and kept moving. The feeling of knowing you are cheating the gods is a very powerful aphrodisiac.

Then something wonderful happened. We ran out of bins and we ran out of grapes to pick. And it started to rain as if on cue. The time was 2:30 pm and we had our harvest bins out of the field and covered with lids. Victory, snatched from the jaws of defeat! It continued to rain for the next 24 hours and we logged 2.23 inches of rain. Trust us, in agriculture it is better to be lucky than good!

In the winery, the harvest strategy has been validated. As noted earlier in the Julian Calendar, we look for Brix (fermentable sugars) and pH (measure of acidity) to be in the acceptable range to ferment grapes into wine. Our Pinot Noir Brix ran the range of 20 to 22. This will translate into a very acceptable final alcohol of around 12.5% to 13.5%. So far, so good.

The acids in the grapes are primarily Tartaric and Malic, and we had plenty of acid. We will convert the Malic acid to Lactic over a long winter's respite. But the tartaric acid will be with us in the final wine. Look for very firm to trenchant acidity to provide balance, delineation, cut and length to the finished wines. But wait, it gets better.

We are winegrowers. Wine is about aroma, flavor, balance and pleasure. Despite the cool growing season, we did have relatively long hang time. Our benchmark for Pinot Noir aromas and flavors to develop here in the Willamette Valley is 105 days from flowering to harvest, and we met that mark on October 12th. Tasting the berries in the field before harvest revealed a pleasant surprise, the flavors in the skins had developed earlier than we had calculated. Add to that 5-10 extra days of outstanding, dry weather, and you have the 2010 Oregon Pinot Noir harvest.

A final note, lest we forget the Syrah and Viogner. Once again Ernie stuck to his guns and waited into November to harvest his 4 clones of cool climate Syrah and the Viognier. Is this guy a genius, or was he just getting really tired? The Syrah again this year has the tell tale aromas of white pepper and spice. The Viognier was pressed whole cluster and the resulting juice smelled of apricots, white nectarines and baking spice.

We overcame a minor set-back mid-way through Okto-vember. But like much of the country, we were able to figure out how to reset most of our chronographs. The rest of the work now includes punch down of the caps in the fermenters and then filling barrels for a long winter's rest. The wine that is, we need to focus on the promise of the 2009 vintage that awaits our blending selections and bottling in the new year.
Lastly, the numbers. Not much changed in the last 16 days of October.


Our highest high was 76.0 and our lowest high was 73.9. Our lowest low was above the frost point at 35.7 and our highest low was 36.4 degrees Fahrenheit. We have accumulated 6 more degree days, for a 2010 growing season total of 1,722 degree days. Our heretofore coldest vintage, 2007, accumulated 1,890 degree days. The rainfall through the 31st of October was 6.22 inches and over 2 inches of that came in the afternoon after we finished harvest!


Kindest Regards,

Ernie



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2010 Mid-October

Welcome to Okto-vember!


This is the 61 day period that is the most interesting time of year. The leaves are turning, the grapes are ripening and the German lager bier is flowing! More on that later...


The harvest is fast approaching, so we will make short work of the numbers this time.

Through the first 15 days of October, our highest high was a respectable 87.3 and our lowest high was 83.7. Our lowest low was above the frost point at 38.0 and our highest low was 40.2 degrees Fahrenheit. We have accumulated 154 degree days, for a 2010 growing season total of 1,716 degree days. The heretofore coldest vintage, 2007, accumulated 1,890 degree days. The rainfall through the 15th of October was 1.23 inches and 1.20 inches of that that occurred in a single event on October 9th and 10th.

Summary: The last couple weeks of September and first 15 days of October have been the most fortuitous in our 12 years at Amalie Robert Estate. This is exactly the type of final ripening pattern we hope for, moderate days with cool nights and no extreme spikes - just another day of ideal ripening conditions! But, you don't have to take my word for it, here is a graphic file from one of our temperature loggers representing the temperature ranges (Y axis) for this period (X axis).


Note: The 50.0 Degree line represents the lower limit of the vines' ability to translocate energy from the leaves to the rest of the plant. During the first part of October we see warm days and warm nights, but as we transition to harvest, we are seeing clearer skies at night and cooler temperatures. This trend bodes well for retained acidity in the fruit and classic, well structured wines.

Clearly, it is too soon to comment on the quality of the vintage. However, there are a few things we do know as we are coming down the home stretch.

1) The cool growing conditions have provided lower sugars (Brix), and therefore we expect to see lower alcohol wines. Brix is a rough measure of fermentable sugars, or more exactly "soluble solids." In warm vintages we typically see Brix readings in the 23-25 range. This year we are looking at around 21-22 Brix, converting to about 12.5 - 13.2% alcohol. To convert Brix to alcohol, multiply by 60%.

2) We are seeing ideal ripening conditions during the last 4 weeks leading up to harvest. As I mentioned last month, this is the time when the flavors and aromas are developing in the skins. This was also the case in 2008, when we had an extended ripening period through the end of October. Surely, this is not the same vintage, but the ripening conditions favor full-on sensory development in the skins.

3) Fruit health in the vineyard is very good. It is said time is a luxury. In the winegrowing business this translates into the luxury of harvesting when you want to, not when you have to. Our key fruit pathogen in the Fall is Botrytis. This is "noble rot" if you are making Sauternes, but in Oregon Pinot Noir vineyards, it is just called "bunch rot."


If the vineyard has not been properly cared for, bunch rot will grow when the temperature and rainfall conditions are aligned. These conditions occurred in mid September and early October. As we grow all of our own wine, we were keen to the possibility of Botrytis, and took the appropriate steps to allow our fruit to hang to optimal flavor and aroma maturity. The key here has a lot to do with the application of the owners' (winegrowers') footprints in the vineyard on a regular basis.


4) The waiting game. There are several factors available to use for harvest "decision criteria". Usually we start by looking at the numbers - sugars and acids - the science part of winegrowing. We also count 105 days from flowering as the minimum time for the skins to develop flavor and aroma. This year we see low sugars and high acids, and are dreaming about traditionally styled, elegant and age worthy Pinot Noir. Also, the 105th day was October 12th, so we are beyond the obligatory 105 day "cooling off" period.

We then turn to flavors, berry texture and seed ripeness. As we walk the field we are constantly plucking berries into our mouths. Something about hunting and gathering this time of year is a very primal urge. We gently crush the berry with our tongue and taste the juice, gently chew the skin, feel for the "jelly coat" around the seeds and then evaluate the color of the seeds and the crunch. We also notice the stems the berries are attached to because a portion of these will go into the fermenter intact. This is what we mean by "whole cluster" fermentation.

External forces are not to be taken lightly. Pinot Noir is highly sought after even before it is wine. Connoisseurs of fine Pinot Noir take wing each fall to get an early assessment of the vintage. From the high level of interest we are seeing from the aviary, I would say we are looking at a "top flight" vintage. Perhaps a bit lighter in tonnage due to the extended crop sampling.

The weather plays a key role in harvest. The longer we can hang fruit, the more developed the flavors and aromas become - to a point. Wait too long, and we are making wines that tend toward the "dark side" of the flavor spectrum and more closely resemble Oporto. Also, it is not too much fun to harvest in the rain.

Knowing our vineyard and it's ripening profile is key in optimizing our wine quality. Each of our 35 blocks is individually hand harvested when it is ready. That being said, we do let Ernie's Syrah hang until November. If you want to keep tabs on the vintage weather, follow this link http://wxmaps.org/pix/pdxgfs.png Maybe we will see you there!

Lastly, we consult with Mother Nature. In the Spring, Pinot Noir buds out at the same time the lavender lilac flowers. This is not a coincidence, but a response by both plants to the growing season. They share the same trajectory for a short time.


In the Fall, our volunteer Walnut (Ernie thinks it is an abandoned squirrel's nest) starts to turn yellow when the wine is ready to be taken from the vine. This is our final harvest decision criteria at Amalie Robert Estate. We wait for Mother Nature to give us the "go ahead nod" to home plate.

  

Kindest Regards,

Ernie

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2010 September

Hello and Welcome,

Well, it seems we may be harvesting these grapes for wine after all. Dena was starting to pick out packaging for about 65 tons of "Christmas Gifts."

September gave us a beautiful closer and now we turn our focus to October. The weather is just mostly something to talk about until it gets to about 30 days before harvest. The last 4 weeks are when the flavors and aromas develop in Pinot Noir skins. Oh sure, we are building sugars and dropping acids, but the real show is happening with the skins. This is by design.

The vine is continuing on its undeterred mission to frustrate winegrowers and then eventually ripen their seeds for wide dispersal. Until these seeds are ready to be consumed by unsuspecting birds, deer or other vermin (the vine is fairly indiscriminate in this relationship), the vine maintains a bit of tartness (acid) and is slow to produce the tantalizing aroma of ripe fruit. Note: Not all berries ripen at the same time, and the local population of birds are intuitively aware of this fact.

As we approach seed ripeness, these aroma compounds are developed and all harvest breaks loose! But the weather leading up to harvest substantially impacts the resulting wine aroma, flavor and body. Mother Nature seems to like a bit of this and that. For those who have visited over the summer and tasted the 2006 vintage next to the 2007 vintage, you don't need me to tell you she has a sense of humor.

Now, here is the rest of the story: It's her weather, but we decide when to harvest. The result will be the 2010 vintage. Of all the decisions you must get right in winegrowing, when to harvest is "the one." To keep all the harvest options on the table, you must take care of the vineyard all year long. Mess up with the vines, and you may have bunch rot (Botrytis) taking you out of the game. In other words you have to pick before the aromas have really developed, because if you don't, the fruit will just rot on the vine while you wait. Sum it up this way: "They are not ready, but they are only going to get worse."

The best case scenario is a well managed canopy that can handle a little this and that. The result is your harvest decisions are disciplined based on wine quality. Remember, we are growing wine here. For you MBA types out there (you know who you are), consider Mother Nature the "Program Manager" and we, the little people, are the "Project Managers." We schedule in harvest around the season fall rains, sunbursts and the occasional double rainbow. We grow Pinot Noir in the last best place. That's what we do.

Here is what you missed if you were not "present" in the Willamette Valley over the last month. We have recorded about 298 degree days for the month of September, providing a total of 1,562 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 405 degree days last September and a comparative total of 2,040 degree days for 2009. That is about a 20% shortfall.

During September, our highest high was a pleasant 92.5 and our lowest high was 88.0. Our lowest low was 41.7 and our highest low was 44.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for September was 1.86 inches and was 0.73 inches above last September's rain of 1.13. Note this was one big event ending right around the 25th. Rainfall since April 1st through September 30th was 15.64 inches, and is 6.23 inches greater than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 9.41 inches.

Now, you may be asking yourself where all this rain goes. There are only three places it can go. The first step was to saturate the soils. From there a portion went to the ton of cover crop seeds Ernie drilled into the field at the beginning of the month. Of course the permanent grass rows took their "fair share" and lastly the vines got in on the action. So was it too much?

One way to answer this question is to see if any of the berries split from taking up excess moisture. If this happens it is "really bad" (another technical farming term.) It is bad because not only have you just lost that berry, bunch rot can now start to grow due to the exposed juice. Left to grow under warm conditions for a few days, it will compromise the entire cluster. The seeds however, will still be viable. 15-Love, advantage Mother Nature.

Another way to look at this is dilution of the juice if the berry does not split. The surface area of the berry contains only so much of the wonderful aroma compounds we are looking for. By the berry swelling up, we are diluting that concentration of "good stuff" (a technical winemaking term.) Extended cellar aging (12 - 18 months) may reduce this dilution due to evaporation of water.

So, we go back to the weather report and take comfort in knowing we have done all we can to care for the vines again this year. The first couple weeks of October are forecast to be dry, warm and mildly breezy. I see a harvest window approaching around the 12th. We are not out of the woods yet.

Kindest Regards,

Ernie

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2010 August

Hello,

This is the climate update for August 2010.

Due to the tardiness of this communiqué, I can tell you September is shaping up to be quite fine. September 11 brought with it a beautiful day that Ernie took full advantage of by sewing in his fall cover crop. This was a day the quail had been waiting for since the Spring cover crop was drilled in April. It was also a day of remembrance at Amalie Robert Estate.

So, we find ourselves right where Mother Nature wants us. Despite the "noise" from the peanut gallery we are right where we should be, turning the corner from veraison into a slow and steady ripening phase. Not too hot, not too cold, but just like the proverbial porridge - just right. Maybe it's true, the ends do justify the means.

Sure harvest will start about the same time we finished last year, but hey if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Bear in mind, that the old timers around here will tell you (and have told me, repeatedly) that own rooted vines on wide spacings typically were harvested in the second to third week of October. Their view on a "late" harvest? No big deal. The Syrah and Viognier however, are going to be a November pick.

My extended forecast calls for cooler days and nights, with some fits and starts of rain. There will be sunny days (like today!), and some cloudy days. Oh, and the wind will blow. I haven't quite worked out the timing or duration yet, but you will know it when you see it. The vines however, are a determined bunch. They are focused on ripening their seeds and calling it a vintage. As my architect likes to say, they are "dedicated to a purpose", as are we.

It is said that 80% of life is just showing up and we continue to do our part each and every day. The vineyard received a third hedge again this year. The purpose of this last hedge is to remove as many actively growing shoot tips as possible. These shoot tips are in competition with the grapes for the energy of the vine. By removing these energy "sinks" we are directing more of the vine's energy to the fruit. Also, it just looks nicer. Maybe Ernie was a shrubber in a previous movie.

We have dialed in our crop load and are finishing up our thinning. The wings on Pinot Noir this year are big and green - they are the first to go. From there we start thinning the remaining fruit to hedge our bets toward full flavor development. Based on Mr. Erath's wisdom and experience, backed up with actual vineyard trials, we thin our vines so that if we need to leave a little extra fruit, we do so at the end of the cane. He thinks it's better quality fruit, and I trust him.

Now we wait just as quickly as we can. Not so easy for the "A" type, but Dena helps provide balance this time of year. So, let's overanalyze the numbers. We have recorded about 466 degree days for the month of August, providing a total of 1,265 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 534 degree days last August and a comparative total of 1,634 degree days for 2009.

Let me say that another way, we are about 370 degree days short of last year at this time. Now the astute reader will know that 370 degree days equals a typical June. It seems we have this global warming thing back to front.

Note the cool growing season may benefit the wines in a way we all have been waiting for, lower alcohols. With reduced degree days, we may see harvest conditions that show ripe seeds and fully developed flavors at lower sugar levels. This converts directly to lower alcohols. You will be interested in following this vintage if you are enjoying how pretty the 2007 Pinots are becoming. As we like to say: PFNA - Pretty Fruit, Nice Acid ®.

During August, our highest high was 97.9 and our lowest high was 94.8; we missed the century mark this year. Our lowest low was 43.2 and our highest low was 46.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for August came in a single 48 hour period and 0.75 inches and was 0.40 inches above last August's rain of 0.35. Rainfall since April 1st through August 30th was 13.78 inches, and is 5.50 inches greater than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 8.28 inches.

Here is a weather website that gets a lot of traffic in September and October. Ernie checks it about as often as E-mail. http://wxmaps.org/pix/pdxgfs.png

Kindest Regards,

Ernie

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2010 August Veraison

Hello,

It seems the Pinot Noir just needed a nice weekend in the sun. Sure enough, we spied the first "Pink" berries of the season on Monday morning, August 23rd. Yeah, Ernie likes that. Typically, we see the first color change or “Veraison” by the 15th of August. In the grand scheme of things we appear to still be behind the "average" (a mediocre word at best), but are making up a little lost time.  

Even though we see the encouraging signs of harvest coming our way, there is No Financial Way (NFW) that these vines can ripen this much fruit. So we thin them down to a reasonable crop load, and for us that is about one bottle of wine per vine. It is tough love.

Here we are looking at Syrah, and we are leaving just about 6 clusters per vine. That means we are cutting off the other 18 clusters, and the wings from the hearty souls that remain. That's a pretty tough selection process.

The Pinot Noir harvest is still on track to begin in mid-October, day 285 to be exact. Regarding the Syrah and Viognier, well they might make nice Christmas gifts this year.

Kindest Regards,

Ernie

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2010 July

Hello,

After 12 years years of doing this, I have come to the conclusion that Pinot Noir vines are diurnal and Mother Nature is bipolar. And as a Pinot Noir grower, I am fairly confident she is a redhead. Yeah, she's that kinda girl. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_hair


But it's all good, and we will take what we have been offered until we run out of growing season. The canopy is finally up and the third wires are clipped into place. I have been able to make a single hedging/mowing pass in July and now await for the newfound shoot tips to stick their heads out for a second pass. The suckers are all gone and so are some of the leaves. We will finish leaf pull promptly and await lag phase.

Contrary to the name, lag phase is a very busy time. This is the point of the berry development where the seed "hardens off." We know this is happening when we try and push through the berry with a thumbnail, and find the seed will not easily split. When we find this condition in the vineyard, Ernie gets out the scale, green eyeshade and a calculator. He is dialing in the crop load, block by block, for 34 blocks. It's working so far. Please follow this link for our latest reviews from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar: Amalie Robert Estate Earns Top Score for 2007 Pinot Noir!

Lag phase provides an early warning mechanism to determine the final cluster weights and tons available for harvest. Not that we get to harvest it all. The birds, deer and other nefarious creatures all take their cut. We know that most blocks in the vineyard will see the cluster weight double in weight from lag phase to harvest. This is a multiplier of 2.0. Some blocks, due to clone, rootstock or available soil moisture, have a multiplier closer to 2.2, and others as low as 1.8. Note: this is not to be confused with the current experiment going on in Washington DC regarding the Keynesian multiplier.

Ernie takes a representative sample from each and every block. He counts the number of clusters on the vine, and then takes one cluster for a sample. He cuts the wings off and weighs the de-winged clusters to determine our current "tons per acre." His goal is to make one bottle of wine per vine. When the dust settles, Ernie has a plan by block for the number of clusters to cut off each vine. It is a bittersweet moment.

The idea is that each cluster that is left will be better able to survive the winter and reproduce in the Spring. No wait, that is survival of the fittest - sorry. What we are really doing is concentrating our Pinot flavors in the vineyard. The removal of wings is also a standard practice that keeps the green/unripe flavors out of our wines.

That is just about enough drivel. Where are the numbers?! Paint me a picture, give me the data!


We have recorded about 464 degree days for the month of July, providing a total of 798 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 532 degree days last July and a comparative total of 1,100 degree days for 2009 (a bit light in the loafers we are this year), 993 degree days in 2008, and 1,054 degree days for 2007. In 2006 we had accumulated 1,246 degree days through the end of July.

Hmmm, that is 798 this year, 1,100, 993, 1,054 and 1,246 degree days for July the last 4 years. That can only mean one thing. As Mother Nature winds down the growing season we will see a very warm August, temperate September, and a long, dry, cool October. Yeah, that's my kinda girl. http://www.amalierobert.com/winery_soil_profile.htm

During July, our highest high was 99.4 and our lowest high was 93.2. Our lowest low was 42.5 and our highest low was 44.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for July was a meager 0.10 inches and was 0.83 inches below last July's rain of 0.93. Rainfall since April 1st through July 31st was 13.03, and is 5.10 inches more than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 7.93 inches.

So, there it is. We are older, colder, and gonna be late. I think I will start looking for a new hat.

Kindest Regards,

Ernie


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2010 June

Hello,


The big news is that we welcome the 4th of July weekend with Pinot Noir flowers!! Providing Mother Nature gives us a bit of sun and warm weather, these little flowers will turn into grapes. We are hopefully optimistic.


Yes, the Redtail hawks are back and we do have another pair of juvenile raptors to report. However, the overabundance of ground squirrels seems to be too much for them to control. Enter the Bobcats. Yes, we seem to have attracted the attention of a pair of Bobcats. From a distance, and with binoculars, their facial markings remind us of Bengal tigers. So we sit on the deck of the winery and observe these "cats" do their best to help control an out of control population of ground squirrels. A biological control that seeks balance.


Here are the numbers. The month of June continued in May's footsteps providing us with cool temperatures and more rain. We have recorded about 249 degree days for the month of June, providing a total of 334 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 369 degree days last June and a comparative total of 568 degree days. During June, our highest high was 88.7 and our lowest high was 83.0. Our lowest low was 40.2 and our highest low was 41.0 degrees Fahrenheit. From a heat summation point of view, we are nearly a month short from last year.

The rainfall for June was 4.97 inches and was about 3.52 inches more than last June's rain of 1.45. Rainfall since April 1st through June 30th was 12.93 inches, and is 5.93 inches more than last year's Q2 accumulation of 7.00 inches. Every inch of rain is about 27,000 gallons of water per acre, or about 18.6 gallons per vine.

The vineyard work is progressing nicely as we wait for our shoot growth to reach the second wire position, block by block. The usual suspects are ready to go, but the cooler sections of the vineyard, and those on 44-53 rootstock seem to be holding out for better weather. I can't say I blame them.

In light of the Independence Day weekend, I would like to recognize our founding fathers who have created a concept that has survived the test of time - 234 years to be precise. Imagine their surprise if they were to learn that some of our best allies are the Brits!

For those of you interested, here is a link to the Declaration of Independence. You can see the original document and read the transcript.
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_zoom_2.html

Kindest Regards,


Ernie

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2010 June Flowers

Hello,


Well, it looks like they are back for more, finally...


We detected the first vineyard flowers on the 180th day of the growing season. This corresponds to June 29th. The first block of Pinot Noir to show flowers this year was a neat little block of 113 clone on 5C rootstock. And what a wonderful 3 days of weather it was, before a nice wet cooling off period retuned us to early Spring like weather.


We are behind the historical curve folks. Typically the average date of flowering is the 15th of June. Not that any year has recorded flowers on that date, it is just the average. Flowering is a significant event in the vineyard because it gives us an idea of our potential harvest dates.


The harvest window for Pinot Noir generally opens 105 days after flowering. Again, it is not a "hard coded" date, but an average. For 2009, we will be looking at about the 285th day of the year to commence harvest. The 285th day of the year is a Tuesday, October 13th.


The reason it is 105 days after flowering is that we are looking for the grapes to develop flavors. Sugars are less important, in fact a cooler growing season may mean less sugars resulting in lower alcohol. But we need the day count for the flavors to develop. Hence the grower's plight - "hurry up and wait."

Not that this is bad, or good for that matter, it just is. However, in the world of probability theory we have just discovered a fact that replaces an assumption. This newfound fact tells us that we will be harvesting late this year. The later the harvest, the greater chance of deteriorating weather patterns and conflicting with the schedule of marauding flocks of starlings. These conditions also favor the gift of botrytis (aka bunch rot) for the unprepared.

It is good to bear in mind that in 2008 we did not flower until the 171st day, and look how well that vintage is regarded. Follow this link to view our 2010 Vineyard Flowers Photo Gallery.

Kindest Regards,

Ernie

Monday, May 31, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2010 May

Hello and Welcome,

This is the climate update for the month of May 2010. "What a long, cool Spring it's been..." Or something like that.


Despite having an earlier bud break on April 16, as compared to April 22nd in 2009, we have had a cold and wet month of May. The result is "Cabin Fever" and a late bloom period. Bloom is also known as fruit set (hopefully), and that is when the clock to harvest starts ticking. Typically, we need about 105 days from fruit set until we are getting busy in the winery. The longer we wait for bloom, the later the harvest will be. From a farmer's point of view this translates into higher risk of fall rains, bird damage and bunch rot. But it is still early, and June looks to be quite nice. Hope springs eternal.

Here are the numbers. We have recorded about 85 degree days from April 1 through May 31. This is significantly less than the 200+/- degree days for the same period in 2007 thru 2009. During May, our highest high was 82.3 and our lowest high was 77.4 Our lowest low was 31.7 (brrrr) and our highest low was 32.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall for May was 2.64 inches and was about 1.60 inches less than last May's rainfall of 4.24 inches. Year to date rainfall is 25.51 inches compared with last year's 18.96 inches.

It's what makes the grass grow - rain that is, and we have had plenty of that. As luck would have it, Ernie was able to recycle last year's cover crop including the pruning's and drill in the new summer cover crop blend of Buckwheat and hairy vetch before most of the late May rains arrived. The result is a pretty nice stand of cover crop that will provide cover for beneficial insects over the summer.

Our next key event is bloom, aka fruit set, and that is typically around the 15th of June. Based on the weather so far, it seems that bloom is about as far away as the next global warming summit. But just in case it sneaks up on us, we are raising our first set of catch wires and clipping the shoots in place. When the heat wave hits, the vines will explode with growth. It is not uncommon to see nearly an inch of growth a day under hot conditions with adequate soil moisture.

If anyone needs a few minutes of "office vacation" time why not tour the erma? http://www.ermunch.com/projects/winery.html Outstanding content and a hip new design await your visit. A mouse click away will LEED you there, and NO carbon footprints left behind for the Green Police to track you down!

Kindest Regards,

Ernie

Friday, April 30, 2010

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2010 April

Hello and Welcome back!!

After a long, seemingly endless winter’s respite, we are back in the vineyard business. We know this because we saw bud break in the vineyard on April 16th! This is about 6 days earlier than last year. The key point about bud break is to check the tender new growth for winter freeze injury or mite damage. Fortunately, we are free of both of these blights. The real key vineyard date is flowering, usually in mid-June. Stay tuned.

The vineyard has wintered over well. The fall cover crop of Oats and Peas took nicely. This combination helps us in many ways including holding the soil on the hill in spite of the 35.87 inches of rain we received from October 2009 through March 2010. For those of you new to this report, each inch of rain represents about 27,500 gallons of water per acre.

This fall we received about 986,425 gallons of rainfall per acre and a stunning 29.35 million gallons of water for the entire vineyard. This turns out to be about 680 gallons of water per vine. These winter rains also leach the nitrogen from the soil. Read on to learn how we replenish this vital nutrient.

The Oats and Peas cover crop combination also helps us feed the vines by fixing nitrogen in the soil. Peas are a legume and are the primary source of nitrogen. They "fix" nitrogen right out of the air and it is seen as small nodules on the roots. However, Peas will only fix nitrogen in the soil where there is a deficiency. Here is where the Oats come into play. The Oats take up nitrogen from the soil as they grow, creating a deficit for the Peas to replenish. This cycle is similar to a solar panel and a battery. The solar panel can create energy, but needs a battery to store it. And of course, nicely drilled vineyard cover crop looks nice. Who knew agronomy could be so exciting?!

But alas, all good things must come to an end. The winter cover crop has been turned into the soil. Now the real work begins. All of the nitrogen rich plant material and fibrous roots will be composted "in situ" between the vine rows. As many of you know, Ernie thinks of the soil as the plant’s stomach, and this is his way of feeding our vines.

But wait, there's more! If you take a closer look, you will see a new Spring cover crop beginning to emerge. It is the summer special of Buckwheat and Vetch. This combination is also a helpful blend to help the vines uptake of phosphorus (a macronutrient along with nitrogen and potassium), as well as nitrogen from the Vetch. Check for new photos in the May report.

Now, onto the details of the first period of the growing season. April 1st is the start of the growing season and this is day 91 for the Julian calendar year 2010. We have accumulated 5.32 inches of rain since the 1st of April and that is 4.01 inches more than the 1.31 inches during the same period in 2009. Q1 2010 rainfall was 17.55 inches and was 4.14 inches more than the 13.41 inches of rain for Q1 2009. The historical 30 year average for Q1 is 19.72 inches of rain, or 536,384 gallons per acre.

We have recorded 2.72 degree days for April 2010. Our highest high was 73.9 and our lowest high was 70.4. Our lowest low was 29.3 and our highest low was 30.9 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, we did record 10 degree days in 2009, but no degree days for April 2008 or April 2007; about 25 degree days for April 2006 and 49 degree days for April 2005.

Well, that pretty much puts a wrap around April, 2010. In what is seeming to be a year of change and uncertainty, (this describes every year if you farm the land), we are reminded of the immortal words (and illustrations by Norman Mingo) of Alfred E. Neuwman: "What, me worry?"

You may not know, Mr. Neuwman has also run for the office of the President several times under write-in candidate status (with his name misspelled) with the slogan "You could do worse... and you always have!" http://madcoversite.com/mad218.html

For more inspiration, and a tip on how to remove gum from a shag carpet, you can follow this link: http://www.dccomics.com/mad/?action=faq

Kindest Regards,

Ernie