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
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
This is a brief harvest update covering the last half of October. The weather the last two weeks of October was just as nice as the day is long - we even picked up a few degree days! Harvest began as it always does, in earnest, on Sunday, October 23rd. Once harvest is finished, we will publish a complete harvest "After Action Report" (AAR.)
As we began harvest, our soils had mostly dried out from the early October rains. This was key not only for better concentration of the fruit, but tractor safety. Ernie hauls our hand harvested grapes to the winery using a three "tote bin" trailer. Each tote bin weighs in at about 900 pounds, add the trailer and you are at just about 2 tons. Imagine pulling that load across a 15% side slope on two small trailer tires. Now imagine rainy wet conditions that turn our clay based soils into luge runs. Yeah, it's a long way to the top if you got some grapes to haul...
The 2011 "Cluster Pluck" is winding down. We finished picking all of our Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir on November 2, 2011 (11/02/2011.) The Chardonnay was taken from the vine today, and the Syrah and Viognier, well Ernie just went and bought some bird netting to augment our bird callers. Those grapes are holding tight.
The aroma in the winery is just stunning! We ferment our Pinot Noir in 1.5 ton "Macrobin" fermenters. We sort our fruit in the field and then again when we are loading it into the fermenters. The first portion is the whole clusters, and then we destem the rest of the fruit on top. We add a little Sulfur Dioxide to keep the bad bugs out of the race until our native yeast can dominate the fermentation.
The first week or so is pretty boring, all of the action is at the microbial level. But after that, we can start to smell the sweet perfumed aromas of Pinot Noir. This is unadulterated juice fermented by Amalie Robert Estate native yeast not complicated by oak barrels. We try very hard to steward these aromas through the barrel maturation time and into the bottle. We realize that some folks highly regard the extracted style of Pinot Noir, but we prefer this elegant elixir hands down.
Here are some numbers to chew on - 3.14. This is what we like to start with in the morning. A nice warm slice of peach 3.14. Then there are Brix numbers. Brix is a measure of fermentable sugars. We are seeing Brix levels range from about 20.5 to 22.5. We estimate a 60% conversion rate to alcohol. So lets say we average 21.5 brix for the vintage, then we should see final alcohols in the 12.9% range. Nice.
Next is pH. This is a measure, actually more of a guide at this point, of the juice acidity. This is made up of 2 parts - Malic Acid and Tartaric Acid. We are seeing pH levels in the 3.14 to 3.25 range measured at the end of the day. This is a very nice place to be for several reasons.
The first and most important is for microbial stability in a native fermentation. High pH juice (think sweeter) is easier for spoilage organisms to grow. At Amalie Robert Estate, we like to "tart it up" a bit.
Another benefit of these low pH's is that we are not adding much, if any, Tartaric Acid back to the juice to lower the pH. This should appeal to the so called "Natural Wine" movement.
And finally, the finished wines will benefit from this natural acidity providing the potential for extended bottle development and maturation.
Distill all of this down with another number - 17. That is the number of days we have extended the 2011 harvest window. The longer those grape skins are out in the field, the more interesting flavors and aromas they develop.
We have extended the 2011 harvest window by 2 1/2 weeks. This additional time has been accumulated in the skins, and if handled gently and not over extracted in a hot fermentation or over oaked in the cellar (Parkerized?), will show as layered and nuanced aromas in the finished wines.
Hang time does not in and of itself create bigger wines, but perhaps, just maybe, contributes a bit more complexity and sophistication. We are smelling that now, but you will have to wait a couple of years. On a related note, have you enjoyed any 2007 Pinots lately?
All the best,
Dena and Ernie
Note: The Wine Advocate has just released their review of the latest crop of Oregon Pinot Noirs. This video, while not at all associated with The Wine Advocate (and we didn't make it), may provide some backlighting on the whole "Parker" issue.
Downfall of a Cult Californian Winery
Monday, October 17, 2011
This year marks our 10th harvest. Certainly we have not seen it all, but we have seen enough to know that in farming "It is better to be lucky than good!"
Friday, September 30, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
2. A competitor or candidate who has little chance of winning, or who wins against expectations.
However, if you are not bearing witness to the unfolding events of the vintage then please hold the birds at your location and I will give you the update.
The last half of August and the first half of September have been warm. However, not in the way you might want. August brought warm daytime temperatures and moderate nighttime temperatures. We had sunny days and clear evenings. It almost felt like summer! This period of great weather was largely responsible for the initial color change we witnessed in the vineyard. Not much of a start, but certainly trending the right direction.
Now the first part of September followed the trend and winemakers here began to sport smiles on their faces. Some went to their doctor while others began self medication regimes. By the second week of September we had heavy cloud cover, things returned to "normal" and the smiles disappeared. What to do with all of these meds???
Well, September’s cloudy days brought a blessing and a curse. The blessing is warm nighttime temperatures. This helps the vine ripen fruit by allowing the energy from photosynthesis to "translocate" throughout the vine instead of being trapped in the leaf due to a cold night. This has markedly improved the rate of color change we see in the vineyard and we like it!
The down side is that the heavy cloud cover responsible for the warm nighttime temperatures and high humidity is conducive to Botrytis. This fungi likes movies and long walks on the beach. Wait, that is a different boy. Botrytis (aka Edelfäule in German for you Christof) likes warm humid conditions that allow it to grow on unprotected grapes creating Laccase and other unmentionables that will compromise our fruit. Mother Nature, she is such a cutie!
After 4 vintages of this pattern, we are prepared. We continue to make preparations for a down to the wire, photo-finish harvest. Why just the other day, the faulty temperature gauge in the tractor was fixed - Thanks Tom! The clusters that remain are being de-winged and the canopy is still looking very healthy. The fall cover crop of Oats and Peas is in the barn waiting for some soil moisture before Ernie drills it into the vineyard, or the mice to find it and eat it - whichever comes first.
The numbers through the first half of September are looking good. Mostly even and not too many of them are prime. The rain number is the "highlight" at ZERO.
We have recorded about 265 degree days through the 15th of September, providing a total of 1,536 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. During this period, our highest high was 98.6 and our lowest high was 90.9. Our lowest low was 47.6 and our highest low was 50.4 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no rainfall. The average monthly humidity was 59.20% and the average dew point was 51.37 degrees. Comparative data will return with the full September climate update.
Even though the data supports no conclusions, we are seeing a weather pattern favoring a trend to accelerated ripening and the ever present risk of bunch rot. And don't ignore the desire for the vines to ripen their seeds and reproduce. They need to make those berries attractive to passing fauna. Sounds like high school and if you are old enough to enjoy fine Pinot Noir, you know how that works.