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

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