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

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