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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2012 September

Hello and Welcome,

This is the climate update for the month of September 2012.

We seem to be hurtling quite uncontrollably through the most incredible growing season - EVER! The tail end of September has been a continuation of warm sunny days and cool nights with virtually no threat of rain. In fact, we are not worried about the birds and the deer, we are looking for cold bier! And that brings us to the thirstiest of months – Okto-Vember.

The last few nights have brought out a beautiful harvest moon. It is a wondrous ending to a perfect day, which fosters yet another stunning sunrise. Our 45,144 little winemakers are basking in this luxurious pre-harvest lull. They have ripened their seeds some time ago, so the pressure is off. Now, they enjoy the gentle breeze caressing their leaves in the afternoon sun, quite oblivious to all of the work they have created for us.

We seem to be about 1 week away from the controlled chaos of harvest. That is plenty of time to wash all of the bins and buckets and get the tractors and harvest trailers ready to go. Ernie went cruising the vineyard this weekend to sample a few clusters and get a read on how we are progressing. It is just a little “test fire” before we get going.

We grow 5 varieties of wine and each of them has a different program. In fact, our Chardonnay “swings both ways” with a barrel and stainless steel fermentation. Woody Allen said something about how to double your chances for a date on Saturday night, but it is not quite the same thing.

At this time of year we are looking at a few factors to help determine where we are on the harvest timeline. These factors include:

Sugars and Acids – This is very analytical and the easiest to measure, but usually the least important. The fermentable sugar content in grapes is measured in a scale called Brix – it is both singular and plural (note the Woody Allen reference above.)

We like to harvest our wine within the range of 21 to 24 Brix because we know that each Brix converts to about 0.6 percent alcohol. This harvest range will give us final alcohol in the 12.5 to 14.4 percent range. Our hope is that the flavors in the skins develop before we reach 24 Brix. Viognier is the one to watch here, as it likes to build sugars much earlier than developing flavors.

Our acids are measured by a pH meter and this gives us a rough guide to the maturity of the fruit. A low pH such as 3.0 tells us there is plenty of acid in the juice and we are looking for more hang time. A high pH such as 3.7 is of concern due to over ripeness and potential for spoilage organisms in the fermenters.

However, this is the one area where we can influence the fruit’s development. If needed in a moderate to warm vintage, we can add back the grapes’ natural acid, Tartaric acid. Note, this was not much of a concern in the past 2 vintages. But there is a catch, as the acids we are measuring now include both Malic and Tartaric. As part of the winemaking process, Malic acid (think green apples) is usually converted by a few industrious little bacteria into Lactic acid (think milk.) This is a “softer” acid and will lessen the perception of acidity. The only wine we produce where we block this conversion is our stainless steel fermented Chardonnay. We like it a little tart, and we know you do too.

Seeds – You can learn a lot from a seed. The first thing we look for is how much “jelly” or pulp is left around the seeds. A few weeks before harvest, the pulp has the perception of jelly that encapsulates the seeds. As the berries mature, the pulp around the seeds begins to break down. As we approach ripeness in the skins, this perception of jelly is all but gone.

The seeds themselves also tell a tale. Early in the year the seeds start off white and very soft. Then comes lag phase where the seeds begin to develop a “woody” exterior and start to turn bright green. As the season progresses, the bright green turns to Martini olive green and eventually to brown. A very mature seed will look like grape nuts cereal and be very crunchy.

Seed ripeness is important as the exterior coating of the seed protects it from the intestinal tract of the animal that is helping to propagate the vine in a remote location. This seed coating also helps to prevent the bitter tannin of the seed from being extracted into the hot alcohol of fermentation. Excessive seed tannin in your wine will not get you a second date.

Juice color – That’s right. We worry about color before we harvest, but not in the final wine and here is why. Hidden deep in the skins are color pigments that are held in vacuoles. As the berries mature, they are actually breaking down cell walls and making it easier for the pigment to escape into the juice. If the berries are not very mature, you get less color in the juice. As the season progresses, more cell walls break down and the color is more easily extracted from the skins.

Skin flavor, texture and aroma – This is the most telling of all the factors we employ. Once we see the numbers align and the seeds ripen, we rely on flavors and textures in the skins to make the final call. That call results in about 20 people equipped with 5 gallon buckets and clippers to descend upon the vineyard at first light. It is a beautiful thing, and you can see for yourself by watching our own harvest video right here! You can also have a look at these harvest criteria through the eyes and blog of Pam Spettel of Sticks Forks and Fingers.

While all of the factors listed above are indicators of ripeness, being able resist the temptation to pick too early is the ultimate sign of maturity in growing your own wine. It’s gonna rain eventually, it just has to. But we can be confident in our farming techniques and prowess to hold firm when we need to, and get on it when the time is right.

Speaking of the right time, let’s look back upon September from Okto-vember’s vantage point. It almost seems like too much of a good thing. 2012 is the first vintage we can remember with such a beautiful summer. It has been warm, but not too hot with a nice breeze and no rain. If anything, we could be running up against conditions that give us too much sugar, but not enough flavors. So, we look for Mother Nature to back off the throttles a little bit and take inspiration from Yosemite Sam.

When I say whoa, I mean WHOA!

 The last half of September gave us 206 Degree Days that, when added to the 244 from the first half of the month, yield 450 Degree Days for the entire month and 1,924 Degree Days for the growing season to date. That puts us on par with 2008, and about 100 Degree Days shy of 2009 and almost right where 2005 ended up.

Our highest high for the first half of the month was 97.1 and 91.7 was the high for the second half. Yes, we verified the numbers, but have a second look if you need to. The low for the first half of the month was 41.0 and 44.7 for the latter half. Maybe a little less on offense, but the defense picked up the slack. And no rain, which leaves us with a growing season total of 8.96 inches.

As we look forward and “lean into it,” we see a couple more really nice ripening weeks with temps ranging from the 70’s to the 30’s and then it will be all hands on deck. There will be the occasional shower, or downpour. Hopefully, the peanut gallery will be a little pre-occupied with the quadru-annual circus that has descended upon most of the country and we will get this harvest in with minimal fanfare. Either way, here is what we will be listening to in a couple of weeks:

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
But for the grace of God, this could be you

Sung to the tune of "Ghost Riders in the Sky"

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2012 Mid-September

Hello and Welcome,

This is the climate update for Mid-September 2012.

We are pleased to report that we are experiencing perhaps the best growing season - ever. At least from the winegrower point of view, this year is turning out to be a real stunner.

Consider these facts:
  • We have not recorded any measurable precipitation since June, that’s over 75 sunny, dry days.
  • Our Degree Days are accumulating steadily without major heat spikes that can lead to sunburned fruit.
  • The high temperatures coming into the last 4 weeks of ripening are in the mid to upper 80s helping to develop ripe flavors and scintillating aromas. Check out this Meteogram for the full picture!
  • And the real clincher is that our evening temperatures are heading down to the low 40s and that, my friends, will lock in the spine tingling acidity we need for yet another well balanced and age worthy vintage. Note: After blending the 2010 vintage, our spines are tingling all the time!

As Dick Erath likes to say, "The planets are coming into alignment." In fact, the only concerning thing that Ernie sees is that this lack of rain is delaying his fall cover crop seeding. He needs to open up the soil, and right now it is as hard and dry as concrete. Of all of the problems we could be facing this time of year, dry soil is one he can live with.

Harvest is looking to be just about 4 weeks away. Our canopy is holding up remarkably well, especially after Ernie administered a third pass of "tough love" with the hedger. The leaves are still a lush, dark green and have not shown much sign of senescing yet. They must be waiting for a little rain.

Of course our standard bearer, the Walnut tree is also holding out. Ernie thinks those 7 big trunks are from an abandoned squirrel's nest. It has been the case each and every year at Amalie Robert Estate that we look to the yellowing leaves on this volunteer before we harvest any "wine berries." Last year, there was only one leaf holding on when we harvested our Syrah and Viognier - very Feng Shui.The next four weeks will find us in the winery cleaning and scrubbing, getting ready to haul in some 70 tons worth of 2012 vintage Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Viognier. And in a year or two there just may be a little Gew├╝rztraminer in our harvest buckets. More on that project next year.

Ah, the numbers. We take a reading mid month in September because we can. It is just another data point along the way and helps us to understand our fruit development coming down the home stretch. Through the 15th of September, we have accumulated 244 Degree Days, for a growing season to date total of 1,718. We are only 4 Degree Days short of the entire 2010 growing season of 1,722! But wait, there's more.

Our high temperature was 97.1 and our low temperature for the month was a brisk 41.0 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no rainfall in the first 15 days of September. Rainfall since April 1st through September 15th remains 8.96 inches. A full and comparative report will be provided at month end.

But heat units aren't the whole story. We need time for the berries to ripen their seeds and ultimately develop stunning flavors and aromas while maintaining vibrant acidity. Besides, the birds aren't here yet. The real excitement begins in the second half of September. We expect a little precipitation, but who knows when.

In the past few cool vintages, it has been the latter half of September and the first half of October that Mother Nature decided to send a little love our way. Then there was 2011, where September felt like April and we burned through all of October to finish our Pinot Noir harvest the first week of November! That tingling sensation originated just below our spines. We think of the 2011 vintage often, but not fondly.

"Lean into it" they say. Yep, that's what’s next - Okto-vember. More than any other time during the year, this 61 day period is when we switch from wine to bier. It's a Germanic thing. See you next month!

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie