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

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