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