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

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