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

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 CuveƩ. 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 CuveƩ?

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2011 July Hedging Update

Hello and Welcome,

The 2010 vintage continues to buck us around like a prize rodeo bull. In response, Ernie has put a serious hedge on the vineyard. This is not our first rodeo.

Ernie completed the first vineyard hedge on Saturday, July 16, at bout 10 am. This is just moments before we recorded about 0.75 inches of rain for the following 24 hour period. The rain event coincides with the tail end of bloom.

Hedging is most effective if it is done like voting - early and often. Ernie will make a second pass in about 10 days and most likely a third pass to catch any late shoot tips that will divert energy from ripening fruit.

Hold on, it's just starting to get fun!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2011 July Flowers Update

Hello and Welcome,

I am happy to report that I scouted the first and only Pinot Noir flowers of the 2011 vintage on Sunday, July 3rd. You know where they were? Yep, they were right there in Block 10 - that wonderful Wadenswil cone grafted onto 5C rootstock. What a block!

July 3rd is day 184 of the Julian Calendar. We add the requisite 105 days to develop nice flavors and aromas, and our harvest window opens on day 289.

Now the little 289 was quite popular in the early Mustangs. Lee Iacocca must have been quite proud, except he wanted the car to be called the Panther. But the little 289 soon gave way to the more powerful Boss 302 Mustang in the early 1970s. Today's modern version for 2012 sports a whopping 444 horsepower and an estimate cost of $43,000. That's just about $100 per pony. Giddy-up!

Back on point, this is the latest we have seen flowering at Amalie Robert Estate, and is pretty close to 1991. The harvest window opens on Saturday, October 16th. Yes, we will have the usual suspects in the aviary, bouts of showers and our ever present adversary Botrytis.

However, we have the advantage. We have seen the mid to late October harvests in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Not that this is old hat to us, but we know what is coming, albeit not when. A quick reality check before this gets too far out of hand, own rooted Pinot Noir vines in the Willamette Valley are typically harvested starting the 3rd week of October. For those pining for the good old days, well they are here again!

So how did we do in 2010? We predicted a harvest window of Tuesday, October 13th. We began harvest on October 17th and finished just as the rains arrived on October 23rd when the harvest window abruptly closed. We hung it out there a little, and got lucky. Luck, it seems, does favor the prepared mind.

This year, even more so than usual, we will be thinking very positive thoughts about late October. What about the Syrah and Viognier? Well, they are built to take a little rain and I don't think they are going to be disappointed.