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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2011 Harvest After Action Report (AAR)

Hello and Welcome,

This is the final climate update for the 2011 growing season.

The best way we can think to describe this growing season is “It ain’t over, ‘til it’s over.” And now, it’s over. The delayed, protracted and extended 2011 cluster pluck officially concluded on day 318, November 14th, 2011. The last of the best was our Estate Grown Syrah and Viognier. Love you guys!

Why so long? Well, we got a late start. Let’s fast forward to mid-October. We were seeing some dark and rainy days during the first couple of weeks of October. But right around the 14th, Mother Nature must have gotten a little depressed and let the sun shine. We may not have been the first, but we rushed right outside to get some on us.

Ernie kept a log of each day in case he was called to refute some misguided wine writer. There was an (un)fair bit of that going on in early October. Reminded Ernie of a certain kind of sandwich that benefits from some extra bread. You don’t need to be a farmer to know where he’s coming from. Here is the brief (and family friendly) version of his log:

Friday, October 14th – Sunny! Look the Orb has returned!

Saturday & Sunday, October 15th & 16th – Partly sunny and overcast, must be the weekend

Monday, October 17th – Sunny and Dry

Tuesday, October 18th – Sunny and Dry and 79

Wednesday, October 19th – Partly cloudy, good thing as I used all of my sunscreen

Thursday, October 20th – Mostly sunny, looking for my big hat

Friday, October 21st – Sunny and 70, WTF (wow the flavors) are really coming on!!

Saturday, October 22nd – Sunny, breezy and dry, just another day in paradise, 72

Sunday, October 23rd – Harvest Day 1, let’s bring some of those grapes in and see what we’ve got to work with

Monday, October 24th – Start the coffee, it’s 34 degrees, clear as a bell and cold, as well

Tuesday, October 25th – GORGEOUS!

Wednesday, October 26th - A little spittle and some clouds

Thursday, October 27th – GORGEOUS! Part II

Friday, October 28th – A little spittle and a lotta sun, nice

Saturday, October 29th – Dry, a few clouds and another day of hang time

Sunday, October 30th – Mostly sunny, dry and a little breeze, what planet am I on?

Monday, October 31st – Halfway point of Ockto-vember, and I am just about out of bier

That, in a detailed and irrefutable format, is how the last half of October looked and felt. But we weren’t finished yet. Just like last year, our biggest Pinot Noir harvest day was on the day before the big deluge of rain and it was a BFD (Big Farming Day.)

November 02, 2011 (11/02/2011), was our last scheduled Pinot Noir harvest day. Selecting harvest dates seems a bit like triage. The first fruit we bring in is from our warmest areas of the field. They have had enough and if we wait too long, we see the flavors go from elegant red fruit to dried prunes. Not nice. We prefer the elegant side of Pinot Noir.

The next sets of blocks are the ones we prize the most – mostly. These are the clones and rootstocks that are in the running for The Reserve, Amalie’s Cuvée and Estate Selection. Even though we may think they could benefit from another day or two in the field, we would be devastated if we lost them to a major rain event. This, by the way, is how to make too much money in the stock market – sell too soon.

Then, there are the bonus blocks. Here is where Ernie is willing to hang it out there if he thinks he can take his dearest Wadenswil clone at the exact last second before disaster hits. Once again, he was not disappointed as Block 10 got a few extra days and put up some very impressive Brix and pH numbers. But the real prize here is the Wadenswil aroma. It needs time to develop in the skins and those extra days will pay off in the bottle.

Last are the blocks that have proven to benefit from all the hang time they can get. We know where they are and we wait just as patiently as we can. It’s like playing chicken with Mother Nature. If we wait, we could lose them, but if we don’t wait we miss out on the great flavors and aromas these blocks can contribute. By the way, this is how to make too little money in the stock market – sell after the crash.

November 03, 2011, is when Miss Thing returned to the office to find the rain controls had been turned off. She saw to that in short order. And rain it did, and then some more for good measure. But to little avail, we had ALL of the Pinot Noir from the vine. We felt a little “neener neener” coming on, but it was third down and we still had the Syrah and Viognier to go.

Bear in mind that our harvest window, because of the cool spring, was supposed to start on day 289, October 15th. We blew right past that and didn’t start until 8 days later. Then we kept the harvest window open for another 10 days through November 2nd. While this is just about as good as it gets for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Ernie’s thoughts were closing in on “old Rhône week” and wondering just which week that might be.

Ernie has a story that he occasionally tells about turning back time – it’s been long enough that any impacted person will have forgotten, except maybe you, Sean. He was in Ireland running the European Operation Centre (EOC) Licensing Business. This was how Microsoft did business with very large Multinational companies – they licensed the use of their software.

Each quarter these companies would report “usage” of new licenses and Ernie was supposed to send them a bill. Easy enough, until the marketing folk (ilk) got involved. They wanted to be sure a reseller was involved in the middle. Often times these resellers would prepare the reports for the companies. Of course, Microsoft required a signed report by the company, regardless. A man with two watches is never really sure of the time. This was the case with competing usage reports.

The real fun came at the end of every quarter when the invoices went out. Note, the Irish are big on tea (and Guinness), not coffee. When Ernie first arrived on the scene, each of these reports had to be entered individually, by hand, to generate an invoice. This is when Ernie started to think he was working for the greatest marketing company on earth. In short order he had the IT folks create an interface that allowed spreadsheets to be uploaded directly into the so called “system.” So clever, he thought.

At quarter end when the big day arrived, everyone crowded around one desk and began uploading their reports. It was good fun, but Ernie could not help but wonder why this was being done at one desk. He was told it was for “control” purposes. Upon further examination, Ernie found that the process IT had designed was serial, not parallel. Each person, one usage report at a time, would upload, then the next person, one at a time and so on.

After a brief “That is what you asked for” countered with “Does this look like a reasonable implementation to you?” Ernie knew he would run out of time to get all of them time stamped by quarter end. This was important, as this revenue figured into each GM’s quarterly bonus. No licensing revenue, no bonus. Even the IT people figured that one out. Besides, the pubs were closing at 11:30 – we were never going to make it.

After a few gyrations, there was only one thing Ernie could come up with. It was the nuclear option, but there were no other options, not even bad ones. Ernie reasoned that Microsoft was an American company based in Redmond, Washington. Redmond is where the “system” was located. Redmond was also 8 hours behind Dublin. Ernie found the Chief Bit Twiddler and asked him to reset the local system clock to Redmond, Washington time.

“I can’t,” he casually replied. “You can’t or you won’t?” Ernie asked for clarification. “It can’t be done,” he clarified. At that point, Ernie went to his PC and reset the time. “Can’t or won’t?” Ernie re-queried. Within minutes, Ernie had 8 more system hours and the time stamp issue was resolved.

Now, he was confronted with a different problem set - how to bring the Syrah and Viognier harvest forward? Fate would take a hand.

Late Thursday afternoon November 10th, Ernie found himself in a very well tended acre of Syrah. He walked the field with the winemaker who had decided not to take the fruit. Ernie was familiar with all of the clones and had tasted previous vintages of the wine.
“We decided not to take it this year. Do you want it?” he was asked.

Ernie was aghast. This was like seeing a pile of money laying on 48th and Lexington. This fruit was amazing in flavor and aroma development. The Brix were low to assure moderate alcohol and the acids were high. This was cool climate Syrah just waiting to be plucked. And the stems, oh the stems, they were perfect for whole cluster fermentation.

“We have turned off the bird cannons so there won’t be much left by tomorrow afternoon. You will have to pick it, though.”

Ernie had one empty fermenter left. That was only because he borrowed two from a friend the week before. The planets had appeared to align. Ferengi Rule of Acquisition, number 44: “Never confuse wisdom with luck.” Ernie’s corollary: “Luck favors the prepared mind.”

“Yes, I would like to pick about one fermenter’s worth,” Ernie stammered.

With that, the Syrah harvest moved forward to, you got it, November 11, 2011 (11/11/11.) Feels like an Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” type designation. We concluded with our Estate Syrah and Viognier the following Monday, November 14th, 2011. People frequently ask us if we co-ferment our Syrah with Viognier. Not only do we co-ferment, we co-grow and co-harvest as well - co-cool!!

Here are the numbers for October, in case you were concerned we were getting soft.

We have recorded about 52 degree days for the month of October, providing a total of 1,794 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 160 degree days last October and a comparative total of 1,722 degree days for 2010.

During October, our highest high was 78.1 and our lowest high was 74.6. Our lowest low was 28.4 and our highest low was 33.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

There was significant rainfall (2.54 inches) in the first half of October, then relatively dry the second half with a few drops recorded on the 29th and 30th (0.22 inches.) Total rainfall for October is 2.76 inches and is 2.54 inches less than last October’s rainfall of 6.22 inches.

Rainfall since April 1st through October 31st is 12.15 inches, and is 9.71 inches less than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 21.86 inches. The average monthly humidity was 79.09% and the average dew point was 42.04 degrees; Dog nose weather – cold and wet.

Kindest Regards,

Dena and Ernie

Monday, October 31, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2011 Harvest Brief

Hello and Welcome,

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

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2011 Mid-October

"Harvest - the final act of farming. Our mission is to boldly wait out the rains and harvest later than anyone has before." (William Shantner voiceover leads to futuristic orchestra score.)

Hello and welcome to uncharted territory,

This is the 2011 mid-October climate update, our first ever. This year we find ourselves on the verge of an unprecedented opportunity. As of October 15th, we have not harvested a single grape. Sure we have plucked a few cluster samples (more on that later), but the winery still longs for the first of the 2011 vintage.

There is good news to report! Ernie saw his shadow on Saturday afternoon, and for that to happen the sun had to shine. Also, we have minimal bird damage to report, the cover crop is germinating and we have logged a few more degree days for the first half of October.

The signs of harvest are certainly on their way. The Walnut tree is starting to senesce and will eventually turn a brilliant sunburst yellow. Follow this link to learn more about "Why Leaves Change Color." The main harvest tractor is slow to turn over, which means the timing is perfect for having to replace the battery mid-harvest. And the grapes themselves are starting to show the character of the vintage. Yes, we have been sampling.

Sampling is one of the more structured ways we determine when to harvest. The other way is less scientific; we just look outside at the weather. Now there are a couple of ways to go about cluster sampling. Ernie relies on his CPA experience in performing audits. Under this approach, he selects one representative cluster from about every 50 plants which is a 2% sample. If a block has 1,000 vines, he has 20 clusters. Our biggest block is about 2,463 vines, so he has closer to 50 clusters.

The other way to go about this selection process is just to walk a few rows and snip a cluster here or there, but that is really more of a cluster pluck than a randomized sample.

When we get our sample clusters back to the winery we remove the juice from the berries by crushing them in a mesh bag. Right away we take note of the color of the juice. Like most wine grapes the color is held in the vacuoles of the skins. The degree to how easy these vacuoles break open and allow the color pigments to escape is a sign of how ripe the fruit is. Insiders note: Some folks believe color is an indicator of great Pinot Noir. We believe color, like irrigation, is Mother Nature's department and we don't mess with it. But some folks do and they "cold soak" with dry ice (frozen CO2) for a few days to burst these vacuoles and release more color from the skins. The result is a darker hued wine.

Then we smell the juice. It should have a heady aroma, while hard to describe, you know it when you smell it. Then we look at the seeds. Bright green seeds mean you did not trim off the wings. Martini olive green means you are getting close and "Grape nuts" cereal brown means get the buckets, let's harvest!

The next thing we should do is run the numbers, but we are usually a little excited by now and we just taste the juice. Hard to believe Ernie would deviate from his structured approach, but harvest (like the Great Pumpkin), only comes around once a year. The taste of the juice will reveal more about the condition of the vintage than any other factor. We look for sweetness and balancing acidity, but more important are the aromas, flavors and textures on the palate.

The longer those skins can hang, the more interesting and complex the aromas and flavors in the juice and resulting wine will be. This holds true as long as the weather is not too hot, nor the soil too dry, otherwise those flavors can shift over to raisins and prunes. Not too much risk of that this year. Also our evening temperatures have not been so cold as to completely shut down the vine. So we look to the second half of October for a little more sunshine to build some sugars and hopefully desiccate the fruit a little bit.

Here is a quick peak at the numbers. First of all, note that our estimated harvest window was to open on day 289. Day 289 was Sunday the 16th of October and was 105 days past flowering. This is typically the amount of time needed for our flavors and aromas to develop. Good news, we have entered the harvest window.

We have recorded about 53 degree days for the first 15 days of October, providing a total of 1,795 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. While we may accumulate more degree days this year, we have exceeded the 2010 growing season degree days of 1,722 by a grand total of 73 degree days. I am told that is not the case in the Dundee Hills where they are lagging last year's degree days.

During the first 15 days of October, our highest high was 73.2 and our lowest high was 68.4. Our lowest low was 41.7 and our highest low was 43.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

There was a significant amount of rainfall during the first 15 days of October. We have logged 2.54 inches of rain so far this month. However, that is well short of the 6.22 inches of rain logged in October 2010. This is either a blessing in disguise or something more to look forward to.

Rainfall since April 1st through October 15th is 11.93 inches, and is 11.16 inches less than last year's growing season rainfall of 23.09 inches. The average monthly humidity was 79.61% and the average dew point was 47.87 degrees.

In summary, the 2011 vintage is one of those rare years where we are getting some really nice aroma and flavor development in the skins with unprecedented hang time. Through September the summer was moderate and dry. The weather, while cool and damp during the first part of October, is holding the botrytis at bay and allowing the fruit to continue to develop. We are seeing lower sugar levels that will result in lower alcohol wines. We think 2011 defines "Cool Climate" viticulture and is the reason why we selected the Willamette Valley to grow Pinot Noir. With all of the "press" surrounding this vintage, has anyone really done the investigative journalism necessary to interpret the epic potential we are experiencing? Well, maybe Dana Tims is onto something here.

Moving right along, how does this translate into wine? The first thing to understand is that each and every one of our roughly 600,000 Estate grown clusters is a little bit different - Mother Nature wouldn't have it any other way. We do the best we can all year long to care for them and then make a selection of which ones to thin off the vine so that the rest will ripen their seeds and mature.

As harvest approaches we see that some of the clusters are not going to make the final trip to the winery. For whatever reason, and there are several, some clusters will get left behind. Last year, the birds took a few of our most prized berries and the deer can also have an impact. But the main reason we leave some of the fruit behind is botrytis, aka "bunch rot."

When we see a cluster that looks a little furry, it is rejected at the harvest bin. This is where our first sort has always taken place. The rule is sheer simplicity - "If you are not willing to put it in your mouth, get it out of the harvest bin." It's just that easy!

We think of our entire vineyard as our super set and the clusters we accept into the winery as our subset. The difference is the fruit that is cluster plucked out. At the end of the day, they will decompose providing nutrition to the vines for next year. What we are left with is our selection of the best fruit from the vintage.

Once in the winery, we take another look to insure we are bringing in clean, healthy and mature fruit. We are diligent in reading the ripeness of the stems for our whole cluster fermentations and, as always, we let the yeast from the vineyard ferment our Pinot Noir. We believe our job is to preserve the character of the vintage so when you open a bottle years from now, you can say, "Oh yeah, I remember 2011. Nice!"

In closing, we think back to how we found our vineyard. It was covered with cherry trees in bloom. Ernie said, "Well Bob, it looks like you have your orchard on top of my vineyard." Our definition of luck was, "When opportunity meets a prepared mind."

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!"

Thank you all for the positive comments and a special nod to everyone who has been doing the "sun dance."

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Friday, September 30, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2011 September

Hello and Welcome,

Where to begin? On the sunny side of life there was September. The last great bastion of freedom before the autumn of 2011 set upon us. The vineyard was all hedged up, the shoots were tucked in, the grapes were turning color and starting to ripen. Ernie said "My work here is done." So we took off for a little sales work on the Eastern Seaboard and it reminded us of, dare we say, "vacation."

We participated in our first portfolio tasting where distilled spirits were also being sampled. This was an eye opening experience. When we show our Pinot Noirs we discuss the vineyard, our soils, the vintage and general winemaking philosophy. Enough said, you like the wine or you don't. But with distilled spirits, those brands come alive - literally. Most brands were represented by what seemed to be "professionals doing a job" and they were dressed to bring their brand image to life! Some fun up there in Bean town.

On the road as the brand owner, your job is to assist the local sales folks in educating their wine shop or restaurant accounts on who you are and what you do. These folks are also keenly interested in knowing if anyone else likes your wines, like some certain publications that will remain unnamed. But the real test comes when you pour wine at their account and their patrons are very excited to try the wines. So excited in fact that they deplete the inventory. Which brings us to the "re-order" that completes the sustainability circle of life.

Not that we will get credit for this, but while in DC we "drained the swamp!" Our nations capital is truly an awe inspiring experience. Here Dena is posed with "Honest Abe" as he looks out toward the Washington Monument, which just happens to obscure his view of the Capital. The Capital is where Congress convenes to do "the business of the people" - or "gives the people the business" take your pick. But between The Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument was the reflecting pool - not anymore. That body of water has been drained and all the slippery, slimy inhabitants have been vacated! As you may imagine, no considerable expense was spared in this effort.

The numbers for September were just great. The first half of the month was fine, but the second half really brought it home. Step into the vineyard vestibule and lets have a look see.

We have recorded about 471 degree days for the month of September, providing a total of 1,742 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 298 degree days last September and a comparative total of 1,562 degree days for 2010. We may submit this to Wikipedia as the definition of "A Really Nice September."

During September, our highest high was 98.6 and our lowest high was 86.6. Our lowest low was 41.7 and our highest low was 50.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

There was no rainfall in September - this is significant. Rainfall last September was 1.86 inches. Rainfall since April 1st through September 30th remains 9.39 inches, and is 6.25 inches less than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 15.64 inches. The average monthly humidity was 64.43% and the average dew point was 51.08 degrees.

All in all, September was a very fine month for ripening Pinot Noir. We made up some lost ground in the degree day department and the rainfall held off. Note below that the early October weather we are receiving seems to match the late September weather of 2010. As with the earlier part of the growing season, everything seems to have slipped a couple of weeks. This is not unlike software releases, of which we know something about.

Now we turn into the wind and set a course for Octo-vember. This is the period beginning on day 274 of the growing season and lasting (hopefully) through harvest to day 334. Much German bier will be consumed and there will be the defining moment of harvest for most. Not all vineyard sites are created equal and this has been a tough year as it is for powdery mildew. And now, the threat of Botrytis has turned to reality.

Beginning on Saturday night, October 1st through the 9th we have logged just about 1.43 inches of rain. While we normally get a little rainfall around the end of September (1.86 inches last year) to wash the dust off the fruit, this is a little more than most folks were looking for. Fortunately the temperatures have been very cool. This is good because for Botrytis to grow, it needs warmth to go with this moisture. We like to think of this wet period at the end of September as the "cooling off period", lest we get too excited and try and pick our fruit too soon.

The good news is that on Friday and Saturday, we did have dry days and Ernie was able to drill in the fall cover crop of Oats and Peas. This mix will be the cover crop that holds our soil onto the hillside over the winter rains and provides nutrients for our vines in the Spring. The vineyard canopy still looks healthy and green which means photosynthesis can continue. We believe our "High, Wide and Handsome" canopy management style provides increased leaf surface area to help us ripen fruit in challenging vintages. An initial sampling of the vineyard revealed 19.1 Brix and the flavors are starting to come on. Near as we can tell, we could use another 2 weeks of growing season.

Up until now, no real bird damage to speak of and the cold weather is keeping the yellow jackets subdued. The only real vineyard pests to have shown up so far are those from the media. It seems the peanut gallery is now quite active. The first week of October brought cool rains and a very vociferous chorus of gloom and doom. We even have an Oregon State Extension agent questioning whether the grapes will "survive." We are not sure what that means, but we think these folks need to pull their heads out of their hats and talk to some real winegrowers who depend upon their skills and abilities to survive in the wine industry. So, if you find yourself tuned into WTFO Radio and hear these pontifications, look for some hard data in what is being said.

Before we simply abandon our vineyards and start burning our furniture, let's take a rational look at what lies ahead of us. To do that, we can look at the last time the media got too far ahead of the facts. Yeah, we have been here before. From the 2007 Vintage Primer:

"...keep in mind the following harvest criteria that most winemakers use in determining when to harvest.

1. Are the grapes in the range of sugars and acids to make commercially viable wine?

2. Have the grapes developed aromas and flavors that showcase the soils and the vintage?

3. Will the extra hang time be offset by water logging or rot if we wait to harvest?

4. Of course, if you are buying fruit, the winegrower has an opinion on when to harvest."

So, what we do know for sure?

1) We will take whatever final measures we can to ward off Botrytis. We have been very diligent in the vineyard this year knowing we had gotten off to a late start. Also the last few vintages have given us the "experience we needed*" in dealing with these types of harvest conditions. *This is akin to eating liver at a young age so that for the rest of your life you will know you don't like it.

2) The grapes will continue to develop flavors and aromas in the skins and build sugars slowly producing perfumed, elegant and lower alcohol wines. The vines are designed to ripen their seeds in all kinds of weather - that's what they do come rain or shine. And at Amalie Robert Estate, they are not taking the weekends off!

3) It will rain - maybe a little, maybe a lot more than a little. Our role is to be ready when the harvest windows open to bring in clean and mature fruit. We are small and nimble when it comes to harvesting our Estate grown fruit. Again we see in 2011, growing your own wine has its advantages.

4) Contrary to what you may have heard, the sun will come up each and every day. Sometimes we will feel the warm embrace on our bright smiling faces and other times we will be to busy to notice the cloud cover.

In closing, we look up to a man who seemed larger than life and was always a pillar of inspiration. It was John Wayne who said "Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." We are looking forward to the opportunity to prove our mettle.

We will see you on the other side of harvest with stories to tell and wines to share!

In the mean time, we just can't get this song out of our heads:

Amalie Robert Estate

Winegrowers You Must Try

(To the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky)

Now we're at the seasons end with winds and rain, you bet
We've got to pick those grapes, but they aint ready yet
It seems like forever that we wait for this one day
Detailed plans we make, but Mother Nature leads the way

Yipie Meunier, Yipie Pinot
Satisfaction Syrah and Amalie's Cuvee

Kindest Regards from the "Wine and Spirits Top 100 Wineries of 2011" tasting in San Francisco,


Last minute addendum (as if there is any other kind): Today Tuesday October 12th, after a nasty lashing of rain last night, we see the weather turning our direction. The sun is out, a drying breeze has picked up and forecast calls for more of the same. Dena even counted 5 rainbows today including a double! This harvest is going to be as complex as it is long - just like the finish of a very fine Pinot Noir.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2011 Mid-September

Hello and Welcome,

This is a special mid-September climate update.
If you live in the Willamette Valley and are Pinot Noir fans, you don't need me to tell you that 2011 is turning into a "dark horse" vintage. It is our intention to saddle up and ride this pony the final furlong into a fortnight of harvest.
To wit (Reminds us of the 2007 vintage):
1. A person about whom little is known, esp. someone whose abilities and potential for success are concealed: "a dark-horse candidate".

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.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2011 August

“With the advent of color change in the vineyard, it looks like we are going to have a harvest after all. After all of the rain, birds and bunch rot have their way with us.”

- Excerpt from the upcoming new release "The Grumpy Farmer" printed on recycled bath tissue. Yep, he's on a roll.

Hello and Welcome,

But here at Amalie Robert Estate, harvest is starting to come into focus. We do have little pink berries that are focusing our little grey cells on the approximate 70 ton fruit extravaganza known as harvest. Really, it is pretty cool and better than Christmas because we already know what we are getting!

Let's pick up from last month and cover some leaf removal and crop estimation. As avid readers of this space, you know the mouth feel of a wine is greatly influenced by how the grapes are tended in the field.

Leaf pull is one of those key levers we gently pull to expose some of our fruit to the morning sun. Through our highly evolved, continuous improvement feedback loop, we have determined that too much exposure is not a good thing in the finished wine. With partial shading of our fruit, we can develop nuance and elegance in our finished wines. Too much exposure and we find very harsh and bitter tannins await us in the wine’s finish – as if taunting us to take another sip. It’s not attractive in Pinot Noir. In fact, that is what Ca-"bern"-et is for.

Now, if you see some vineyards that have stripped leaves on both sides of the canopy and about halfway up the trellis, this usually means the vineyard was planted where it does not belong. The leaves have been removed in hopes of drying off the morning dew before Botrytis (aka bunch rot) can take hold and compromise the fruit. Often times you can see these vines growing on flat land with little chance for the cold, damp air to "drain" off. Cold air shares two main characteristics with water - it flows downhill and it pools.

Up here on the hillside, the cold, damp air runs off to the lowest elevation, leaving our fruit to dry in the morning sun - denying the botrytis the moisture it needs to grow. However, the cold damp air runs downhill and eventually pools on the valley floor. If that is where your vineyard is, maybe it is time to think about rotating into soybeans or wheat. The damp, cool air supplies moisture for botrytis and can ruin the fruit before it is ripe.

So that is why those vineyards have scant few leaves. They are hoping more sun exposure will help save them from botrytis. If not, the grower must pick the fruit before it is fully ripe or risk losing the crop altogether. Rosé anyone?

Conversely, if Mother Nature keeps us dry and sunny, those overexposed berries may overdevelop skin tannins that become very bitter in the wine. The point here is that a marginal vineyard site dictates what the grower must do in order to continue producing grapes.

Vineyard site selection is a very strategic decision. We would like to think we have a vineyard site that allows us the opportunity to hang our fruit into the fall and provide the shading we need to develop interest and complexity in our Pinot Noirs.

The crop estimation this year was not what an analytical mind was hoping for. The numbers were just a mess! We saw some samples where the average cluster weights were supposed to be 200 grams, where we typically expect about 100 to 125 grams. There is No Financial Way (NFW) these clusters are going to finish up that big. Mother Nature was throwing us a curve ball and here's why.

To estimate the crop load, we need to catch these berries at seed hardening and then we figure they will about double in weight at harvest. The month of July gave us a huge shot of rain that soaked into the soil. The vines, being the opportunistic plants that they are, took full advantage of this event and pumped all that water into the berries. That is why the clusters weighed in so heavy this year.

With the berries being so bloated, we thought there was more going on and we had to switch over to new math. First of all, we think that the clusters are so tight that they will have "push-outs." This is where the cluster has more berries than it can fit on the stem. As the berries continue to swell, some will get forced off the stem, or be "pushed out." If you are the last berry at the end of the stem, you are the first to go as the other berries swell up. Just like trying to out run a lion. You don't need to be the fastest person if you can trip the guy next to you.

So, push-outs will help reduce the cluster weights. Also, the vineyard has a pretty nice stand of permanent grass in every other row. This Tall Fescue has some fairly deep roots and can be quite the competitor for soil moisture. With Ernie's unprecedented 4th hedge, he quit mowing the grass. The vines look good, but the vineyard floor is starting to look disheveled. Now that is not all bad because taller grass uses up more water. The sooner we can dry out the soil profile, the sooner we can see the fruit develop our signature sedimentary soil aromas and flavors.

And speaking of drying out the soil, September is where it all comes together. With the Labor Day weekend upon us, we are expecting to see 90 degree days, warm nighttime temperatures and a dry breeze. This follows on from our late August weather quite nicely. We think of this weather pattern often - and fondly.

We typically refer to our canopy as a solar array, and it is. But it is also the primary way we deplete our soil moisture. While we need enough soil moisture to keep our leaves functioning, excess soil moisture holds us back.

Warm sunny days with a warm dry breeze helps to trans-locate water from the soil profile up to the leaves and out the stomata. The stomata are on the underside of the leaves and provide a cooling effect when they open to allow water to escape and evaporate. The more leaves you grow per acre, the faster you are drying out your soil profile.

The final cluster weights are in large part determined by the available soil moisture which is a function of direct sunlight and a warm dry breeze. If there is abundant soil moisture, the berries will compensate. If not they will begin to desiccate. Also, the vine is programmed to survive in perpetuity. It does this by partitioning nutrients in the fall for the upcoming spring growth. If the vine needs water to help this process, and can’t get it from the roots, it takes from the fruit.

Of course, there is the kinetic activity of removing some berries from the vine aka thinning. For the berries, this is called tough love and it just depends on which cluster you are attached to. If you are unfortunate enough to be located on the wing, there is absolutely no hope for you. Hasta la Vista baby!

On September 21st the earth's orbit will impact the vines by reducing their Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR) light source to less than 12 hours a day. The vines will notice this and it is another stimulus that helps to (hopefully) turn the vines’ focus to ripening their seeds so we can make wine.

To summarize, we are betting on much lower levels of soil moisture between our cluster weight estimation and harvest. We have set the stage to create this condition by hedging only the shoot tips and stimulating as much leaf growth as possible. We are also encouraging our grass to grow to help deplete the available soil moisture. We are removing excess fruit and thinning of the late to ripen wings. Mother Nature is on the case with warm temperatures and a dry breeze. But Mother Nature is a fair weather friend and not to be taken for granted.

Here are the numbers:

We have recorded about 582 degree days for the month of August, providing a total of 1,271 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 466 degree days last August and a comparative total of 1,265 degree days for 2010. Statistically speaking, the growing season to-date difference is insignificant, however, from a farming point of view we say "Oh, Yeah!"

During August, our highest high was 96.3 and our lowest high was 89.5. Our lowest low was a brisk 40.2 and our highest low was 45.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

There was no rainfall in August. Rainfall last August was 0.75 inches. Rainfall since April 1st through August 30th remains 9.39 inches, and is 4.40 inches less than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 13.78 inches.

The average monthly humidity was 64.69% and the average dew point was 53.23 degrees.

Lastly, in light of Labor Day, we would like to report on a condition that may afflict you without you even knowing about it.

CDC Medical Alert

The Centre for Disease Control has issued a medical alert about a highly contagious, potentially dangerous virus that is transmitted orally, by hand, and even electronically. This virus is called Weekly Overload Recreational Killer (WORK).

If you receive WORK from your boss, any of your colleagues or anyone else via any means whatsoever - DO NOT TOUCH IT!!! This virus will wipe out your private life entirely. If you should come into contact with WORK you should immediately leave the premises.

 Take two good friends to the nearest fine wine retailer and purchase one or both of the antidotes - Work Isolating Neutralizer Extract (WINE) and Bothersome Employer Elimination Rebooter (BEER). Take the antidote repeatedly until WORK has been completely eliminated from your system.

You should immediately forward this medical alert to five friends. If you do not have five friends, you have already been infected and WORK is, sadly, controlling your life. Get help immediately!

Kindest Regards,


Friday, August 26, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2011 August Pinot Noir In Flagrante Update

Hello and Welcome to the unfolding drama that is the 2011 growing season!

The 2011 vintage is starting to show its true color. The first blush of the vintage occurred on day 237 of the growing season - August 25th, 2011. For comparative purposes only, the 2010 vintage gave us a "blazing pink" berry on day 235.

The favored block was another of the select few Wadenswil clone blocks, and it is grafted onto 5C rootstock. Block 21 has an east facing aspect at about 500 foot elevation and is being meticulously tended for the discerning folks at Cristom Vineyards.

It looks like we are making up some lost time. The reason is the warm days and even warmer than typical nights. Why just last night, our midnight vineyard temperature was 68.4 degrees F! You don’t need Paris Hilton to tell you that’s hot. The past week has seen this weather pattern and we expect the same for at least another few days to conclude the month of August. So far so good.

We cannot say if this will significantly impact the harvest window but we see it as a first sign that harvest is on its way. Growing wine (aka wineberries) is not significantly different from growing other berries in the Willamette Valley, except for the fact we are the last crop to be harvested in the fall. So we share about the same set of circumstances faced by all fruit growers - getting the crop off before the rains, rot and winged rodents set upon us.

This is what the entire year's worth of work boils down to. Ripening up a few tons of fruit and getting it off.

All the best,

Dena and Ernie

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2011 July

Hello and Welcome!

July was a busy month with events, visitors and farming. We would like to thank everyone who took a moment to provide feedback on our climate updates and those who wanted to. We think by now, you know who we are. But please bear in mind, you are just encouraging Ernie’s habit!

The 25th International Pinot Noir Celebration was held this July in McMinnville and there were plenty of hijinks and hoopla to go around, including Ernie Munch plating-up at the grand dinner! Case in point was the Friday vineyard lunch hosted by Cristom. Before lunch, all 60 attendees had to determine the origins of 6 Pinot Noirs. Most everyone nailed the Kosta Browne, Cristom and both Burgundies, but the drama came when trying to identify the Amalie Robert and Brickhouse wines. Dena and Ernie were seated together with some new friends from Canada, and we were pretty sure we knew our own wine - the elegant and perfumed 2007 Amalie's Cuveé. Yes, that mind blowing 2007 vintage.

We were the last table to "stand and deliver" our results. Every table before us had marked what they thought was the Amalie Robert wine as the Brickhouse wine, including the panel of New York Sommeliers and the winemaker from Brickhouse. The notable exception was our host table at Cristom, but they had the advantage, as they have been buying Amalie Robert grapes since 2002. Ernie said with no small bit of confidence what the table decided and the tent fell quiet. However, when the wines were revealed, we had identified our own wine and were deemed worthy of staying on for lunch. For those not local to the area, it's a long walk back to McMinnville.

Here is a photo of Ernie at the IPNC Passport to Pinot tasting on Sunday afternoon. Next to Ernie is a winemaker from Burgundy. This fine French fellow is trying to extract the secrets of growing highly perfumed and elegant Pinot Noir - and Ernie is having none of it. Actually, his wines were quite outstanding.

You can learn a lot about Burgundy at the IPNC, and it saves you the trouble of the "enhanced airport screening techniques." Follow this link to register for next year:

From the "You don't see that everyday." file, here is an image of the most interesting tasting appointment we have had to date (Will, you and Mr. Nolan are a close second.) Dena looks after most of the guests who visit us at the winery. Usually the hardest part of the tasting appointment is deciding which glass to taste from. But this guest presented her with a unique challenge. It seems the eyedropper is the preferred vessel for sampling - if you are a hummingbird named Ruby. Is that Amalie's Cuveé?

And then there is the vineyard. We used to think we owned the land, but this time of year it is painfully obvious that the land owns us and Mother Nature is a demanding taskmaster. The vines lie in wait, dormant most of the year, storing up energy. They are waiting for us to slack off and then BAM! We are set upon. We are hedging, spraying, mowing, moving catch wires and tucking shoots RFN*. Hedging off some leaves gives us a little sense of social justice, but then they just grow right back.

So here we are at the end of July. All three sets of catch wires are up and clipped into place. Ernie has miraculously turned vine chaos into neatly hedged (3 passes) and manicured order. (Note the manicuring device is of French design and pre-dates the BORG by several centuries.)

We are also removing some leaves from the fruit zone (more on that next month.) The summer cover crop of Buckwheat continues to flower providing pollen protein for our beneficial carnivorous insects and our nitrogen fixing vetch is growing right along. 

During the brief respite that is August, all of the tractors, and the truck, are looking to Ernie for an oil change. Lastly, the truck has a new windshield thanks to a straw hauling semi that needed a shoulder to lean on. There is something to be said when you are in the wrong place at the right time, and Ernie said it.

Now let's delve into the 2011 vintage that is currently "on the vine." Recently someone suggested that we were having a bad year for wine. Ernie thought that most of the wine we have had this year has been pretty good. But he said it had been cool this spring and the vines have responded in kind - as they do. They have no choice really. It's not like they can go to Hawaii for a week and get some sun.

The clusters are filling in with ever growing berries. Things look just like they should at this stage of the fruit's development. As is true with most fruit growers here in the Willamette Valley, we would like to see just a little more development. Next up is seed hardening, crop estimation and thinning. What that means is we will be cutting of most of the berries on the vine. Yeah, that's gonna be a lot of fun.

All of the berries here in the Willamette Valley have been late this year and that will be true of the wineberries. That doesn't mean they are bad. Quite the contrary. Thanks to our good friend Star we enjoyed some July Tayberries, which were immediately turned into cobbler and were spectacular!

Now, if you find yourself down undah, you can look for Jackfruit – the biggest of which reach 80 pounds! Imagine what Sir Isaac Newton might have come up with if he were sitting under one of those trees instead of an apple tree. What if it were only a cherry tree? With all of this diversity to manage, Mother Nature must have one helluva day planner.

Here are the numbers. We have added a few blank lines before and after this section so you may read ahead if you feel this information may be inappropriate for a successful vintage. We think by now, we know who you are.

We have recorded about 381 degree days for the month of July, providing a total of 689 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 464 degree days last July and a comparative total of 798 degree days for 2010. During July, our highest high was 90.9 (finally) and our lowest high was 87.3. Our lowest low was 44.7 and our highest low was 47.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Much like the economy, the last few years have brought a new normal.

As a reminder, our method for calculating degree days relies on multiple temperature loggers from several parts of the vineyard which take a reading every 20 minutes. This allows us to capture not only the highs and lows of each day, but a weighted average of the daily temperature. Also, our highest highs and lowest lows respectively, are recorded within a 24 hour period. We believe this is more representative of what the vines experience. However, after repeated and replicated tasting trials, this method does not make the wine taste any better. Your mileage may vary.

The rainfall for July was an astounding 1.02 inches and was 0.92 inches above last July's rain of 0.10 inches. This rainfall effectively ended our extended bloom weather, however not before we experienced an excellent fruit set. These are just rough numbers, and Ernie will do the exact calculations, but it seems we have set about 10 tons of grapes per acre. We may be able to ripen 2 tons per acre - if we are lucky and good. Rainfall since April 1st through July 31st was 9.39, and is 3.64 inches less than last year's growing season to date rainfall of 13.03 inches. The average monthly humidity was 65.65% and the average dew point was 51.72 degrees.

This concludes the numbers section.

At the IPNC Ernie learned that the folks in Burgundy will be having one of their earliest harvests ever, while here in Oregon we are looking at one of our latest harvest windows in about 20 years. How can this be? The answer is warm nighttime temperatures.

You see France is a relatively small country with over 62 million people (and a AAA credit rating.) The 2005 Paris city statistics show a population of about 2.2 million (not counting the dogs) covering 86.9 square kilometers. This provides a population density of 24,783 people per square kilometer. This includes multilevel apartment buildings known as “flats.”

Now a square kilometer is 100 hectares. So this means we have about 248 French persons per hectare or about 113 said persons per acre. This compares with about 10,000 Pinot Noir vines per hectare in Burgundy, but they are only using a single level. Think about that for a minute while you go get another glass of Pinot then try your mind at 3D chess.

Due to global economic conditions, many of the residents (including the dogs), and all of the politicians in France, are putting out a lot of greenhouse gases and generating an astounding amount of hot air. This warms the vineyards in Burgundy and helps to keep the vines warm at night. That is the key to advancing the harvest window for Pinot Noir in the summer. The warm summer nighttime temperatures allow the vine to fully export all of the photosynthetic energy from the leaves. This means the next morning the leaves are fully "discharged" and are able to store a full measure of photosynthetic energy. This energy is what can advance the vines maturity throughout the growing season and bring the harvest window closer - or not.

Conversely, if you are located in Dallas, Oregon, away from a political epicenter and the nighttime temperatures are cool, say around 50 degrees F, the vascular tissue in the vine cannot transport energy out of the leaves very quickly. This means the leaves start the next morning with a diminished capacity to store energy - they are still holding yesterday's energy. The leaf can create much more energy than it can store and needs the evening hours to fully discharge.

Reduced leaf efficacy is another reason Ernie is so keen on growing as many leaves as he can get the vines to produce. The three hedging passes were each different and designed to just take the shoot tips and encourage the vines to produce more leaf surface area. Leaves may not be our best friends, but when it comes to maturing wine on the vine, they are our only friends.

This is the situation we find ourselves in for the 2011 vintage. We have had a late start to the growing season, and we remain unseasonably cool, especially at night. So to move the harvest window closer, we would advocate for warmer evenings over windbag farms.

Lastly, it seems Ernie has a new friend - sort of. The folks who own the gopher ranch across the road have put a horse in their field adjacent to the vineyard. Every time Ernie goes by he lets out a "Whinny!" The horse's response is about the same as when he tries to get the cat's attention.

Maybe they are related.

Kindest Regards,

Dena and Ernie

* Repeat Fieldwork Now