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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2012 June

Hello and Welcome,
This is the climate update for the month of June 2012.
We were happy to report bloom occurred earlier this month, and now we are paying for it with the “June Gloom.” That’s right, we have been experiencing showers, mostly overcast skies and warm, humid conditions. It’s like taking a shower in the morning and never leaving the bathroom, or walking to work in Seattle. Oh sure there have been sun breaks, but those were in ARIZONA! It kinda puts the “F” in Farming.
With the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) announcing a few big rulings this month, we think a lot of folks got a first hand feel for what it is like to be a farmer. Farmers are always watching the weather. We try and “predict” where Mother Nature is leading us, especially around harvest time. Such was the case this month with some folks “predicting” the rulings from the high court based on a few days of questions and answers.
The result, of course, was predictable. Few, if anyone, predicted the final outcome, but it didn’t stop the pontification leading up to the big news. In growing wine, not only do we have to make it through harvest to determine how well our wines will represent our soils and the climate, we also need to get past wine critics. And that is before the wine is even bottled! The real evaluation of the vintage takes place a few years down the road when a bottle of wine is enjoyed with a meal.
From the “Mother Nature v the law” file, we have this telling story. Patent number 5,968,597 was granted on October 19, 1999 and gave one group sole rights to Broccoli Sprout production. The sale of seed intended to produce Broccoli Sprouts and all Broccoli Sprouts had to be produced by or licensed by the patent holders. (Note: It’s not that “farming difficult”- you get them wet and Mother Nature does the rest.)
The wisdom of that patent finally met with the harsh light of day. Right around Pinot Noir harvest time, October 11, 2001, the patent was ruled invalid. It took a while, but Mother Nature wins again! Much like the 2007 vintage, those wines are just “farming magic” in a bottle.
And speaking of farming, we have been diligent in our field work. Our first set of catch wires has been raised and clipped into place. Well done! We came back around for a second pass, but noticed many of our shoots have not quite made it up to the second set of wires. Just when we thought we were getting ahead - hurry up and wait. At least Ernie gets a chance to change the oil in all 3 of his “farming tractors” while he waits.
What is not waiting is our cover crop. Since Ernie drilled that in last month it has taken off like a rocket. So far we have been able to harvest a few pea tendrils and those are a great addition to a Duck Confit salad. The goal, however, is to harvest healthy and mature flavored grapes to make wine. It looks like it may be a while before we are done “farming around” with this vintage.
Our biggest objective this time of year is to transition from bloom to fruit set without any Powdery Mildew or Botrytis infections. The warm, humid weather is creating great conditions for both of these pathogens to grow and get a foothold on this year’s vintage.
Early in the growing season we combat these two undesirables by applying sulfur to the vines. As the sulfur volatizes, the effect is similar to entering a small room where a million bottle rockets have just been lit off. The sulfur dioxide from the burning fireworks really irritates your soft tissues such as eyes and lungs. If you are familiar with the campfire scene in the movie Blazing Saddles, then you get the drift.
The sulfur we apply to our vines has a very similar effect to the cell walls of Powdery Mildew and Botrytis. They do not die, they just lie in wait until the conditions improve where they can grow again. It is our job to keep them in stasis while the fruit matures.
However, we cannot apply anything to the vines while it is raining. So, we just sit out here and grab another beer. And not just any beer mind you, we are looking to enjoy a tall, cool Phuket beer. By the way, the bird featured on the logo is a Hornbill and a quite nice one at that.
And now the paragraphs you have all been waiting for – the numbers! It’s Ernie’s chance to geek out in a very normal and mature kind of way. Sometimes he is “farming serious” and other times he is just “farming kidding.” And it gives him something to do when it’s raining.
The month of June accumulated 244.2 degree days, had a high of 86.6 and a low of 37.2 with 2.92 inches of rain. This brings the 2012 growing season up to 480.3 degree days since April 1. And yes, we did receive exactly 2.92 inches of rain last month. We would say this is odd, but it is divisible by 2. Was it sampling error? Ah yes, human terroir.
However, we can compare this year to the character building vintage of 2011. We logged about 270 degree days in June (up from 249 degree days in 2010) providing a total of 308 degree days through June of 2011. This is a “big farming deal” early in the season to record about 55% more degree days then the previous year.
So the next time someone asks you if we are ahead or behind this year, you can reply with the utmost “farming confidence.” “We are about 55.8% ahead of last year.” Then wait for the deer caught in the headlights look.
As we turn to the page for July, we are predicting some really beautiful “farming weather.” We can use it too, as harvest is only about 103 days away!
Kindest Regards,
Dena & Ernie

Monday, June 18, 2012

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2012 June Flowers

Hello and Welcome,

We have just received the most definitive sign yet of our upcoming harvest - Flowers! This is a Big Farming Deal (BFD) from the winegrower point of view. As consumers, we can buy wine everyday - except Sunday in some states, and you know who you are. But from our winegrowing point of view, you only get one chance each year to get it right!

The vines have given us a really big clue as to our upcoming harvest window. We first spied flowers on Monday, June 18th, in Block 8. Now, Block 8 is one of our small Dijon Clone blocks planted with 1,063 vines of 115 clone Pinot Noir grafted onto Schwarzmann rootstock. It is also one of the first lots in the winery that Dena seeks out during her blending trials for Amalie's Cuvee.

But hold on here a minute. Before we can start blending, we need to harvest these grapes! This is where we can use our clue. We know that we need about 105 days from the time we see flowers until we get the buckets out and start harvesting. We track these sort of things in our 2012 Julian Calendar. So we have flowering on day 170, and that means we can predict beautifully sunny skies and a nice cool, dry breeze for the 4 week harvest window beginning on day 285. That would be Thursday, October 12th at 7:05 am - very nice.

Of course, the Syrah and Viognier will again be in no hurry this year. We start looking at these vines around Halloween to see if we are going to get tricks or treats. Since our first harvest of these noble grapes in 2006, we can say it's been all good!

Comparatively speaking, we have come back from the lunatic fringe of the 2011 growing season. We saw our first flowers on July 3rd, day 184. Harvest began on October 23rd (day 296) and lasted through November 14th when we snatched the Syrah and Viognier from the jaws of defeat. Then it got really cold - like Montana cold where we were below freezing for several days in December - not nice.

During our previous lives we both expatriated to Europe. Moving to and living in Europe for the first few months was somewhat of a challenge. The hardest part was sharing a language where we used the same words, however they often times had significantly different meanings. This lead to a few occasions where Ernie looks back now and says, "Yeah, been there, had that done to me."

That pretty much sums up the 2011 growing season. For now, let's call 2011 a "Character Building" vintage.

Kindest Regards,
Dena & Ernie