Introduction

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!

Rusty

"This is one of the Willamette Valley’s most distinguished wineries, but not one that is widely known."

- Rusty Gaffney, PinotFile - September 2016

Josh

"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

David

"...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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2011 June

Hello and Welcome,

Well, it seems like Déjà vu all over again. Another cool wet spring followed by a delayed summer resulting in a great appreciation for sunny days ahead!

Just to be on the safe side though, we went ahead and starting farming the vineyard anyway. The Spring cover crop of Buckwheat and Vetch is moving along nicely. This will be the fertilizer for the vines when we 'till it back into the soil in late September. This is how we avoid using chemical fertilizers in the vineyard - we grow our own nutrients and fix nitrogen right out of thin air!

We are also keeping the permanent grass cover between the rows mowed down. It is kind of a Brazilian wax for the vineyard. The goal here is to generate a little more heat from the vineyard floor, like from Brazil, by keeping the vegetation short. This also may contribute to opening the harvest window a day or so early.

In an attempt to help focus the vines in this cool Spring, we have removed all of the waterspouts, aka "suckers," from the base of the vines. Every year these vines grow suckers as an act of self preservation. If the top of the vine were to be destroyed somehow, perhaps by a kinetic chainsaw insurgence, the suckers would carry on and the vine would survive.

We use the suckers as a tool to manage the vines' vigor, or growth habit. In the Spring, the vine is naturally in quite a hurry to develop a full canopy that will support the ripening of fruit. In a warm year, we divert some of this energy to the suckers to slow things down. But not this year, we want that energy into the canopy with NFD* to see if we can advance the harvest window.

The first set of catch wires are up and clipped into place. This is where the canopy management battle for Pinot Noir is won or lost. All of these shoots are positioned and tucked by hand. This year we have about 41,779 fruiting vines, with about 14 shoots apiece. Yeah, it is quite a multiplier. We follow this process through with 2 more sets of wires and then we bring out the hedger.

Hedging is most likely the best tool we can use to advance ripening. As the vines grow, each shoot tip is looking for the optimal place to ripen fruit. The shoot will continue to grow, and delay ripening fruit, until one of two things happen. First, the vine could run out of soil moisture. Not likely this spring after the cool wet weather we have had.

Second, we may employ a kinetic activity that separates the shoot tip from the shoot - hedging. Believe it or not, this does not require an act of Congress. Once the shoot tip is removed several things happen in the vine. The first is that the "lateral" buds along the shoot all start to push and produce their own shoots. This is good in that these laterals will create more leaves that will provide energy for the vine.

This is bad in that we have now encouraged about 15 times as many new shoot tips as we had before. We let these laterals grow until they extend beyond the canopy "safe" zone. Then Ernie runs the hedger back through to perform a second kinetic activity. By this time the vine is starting to get the message - "NO NEW SHOOTS." This is how we encourage the vines to focus their limited energy on ripening fruit and hopefully advance the harvest window, which is our theme for today.

Have you noticed that there is very little talk of "hang time" these days? Hang time is those extra few days that help develop flavors and aromas in the skins, and we all want that to a point. However, the talk these days is avoiding diluted or rotted fruit and excessive bird damage. As humans we seem to seek the avoidance of pain over the desire for pleasure. Finally, a point about harvest - it's not that hard. We know where the grapes are. We just have to go get them.

And now a little something for the number crunchers.

The month of June logged about 270 degree days providing a total of 308 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1st. This compares with 249 degree days last June and a comparative total of 334 degree days. During June, our highest high was 85.1 and our lowest high was 83.7. Our lowest low was 40.2 and our highest low was 42.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The rainfall for June was 0.66 inches and was about 4.31 inches less than last June's rain of 4.97. Rainfall since April 1st through June 30th was 5.62 inches, and is 7.31 inches less than last year's Q2 accumulation of 12.93 inches. Every inch of rain is about 27,000 gallons of water per acre, or about 18.6 gallons per vine. The average monthly humidity was 70.11% and the average dew point was 48.95 degrees.

Clearly a cool start to the year, but with a warmer and dryer June than last year. The implication is that our soil moisture is a little more depleted than last year and this may begin flavor development a bit early due to water stress. Or, it could just start to rain with NFD in mid-September and we would be done with the whole damn affair.

Until next month, think sunny warm thoughts...


Ernie

* NFD - Technical farming term "No Further Delay."