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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2013 May

Hello and Welcome,

This is the climate update for the month of May 2013.

If anything describes the trials and tribulations of growing Pinot Noir it was the month of May. We enjoyed the most amazingly stunning April where we were burnin’ diesel overtime to harness explosive vine growth and condition the vineyard floor for our Spring Cover crop. Ernie got the seeds drilled in and set about the arduous task of waiting for rain, and wait he did. In case you have not met Ernie, this is something he is not very good at.


He just needed a tenth to a quarter inch of precipitation to achieve that magical event called germination. But instead it was wall to wall sunshine and dry for the first half of the month. For everyone who was visiting from somewhere other than here, don’t be fooled. You were simply caught up in a cruel hoax perpetrated on the farming community at large.

To wit: We just burned through our harvest weather. You see, every year we get about the same amount of wind, sun and rain. We like to see rain early in the season, not during harvest, but the thing is we never know just when we are going to get what. It kinda throws a spanner in the works, but hey that’s farmin’.

That is until the evening of the 12th. Ernie had been waiting for nearly 3 weeks for a spot of rain. He had just spent “several” quality hours of his life getting the vineyard floor ready to accept 1,500 pounds of cover crop seeds. You may be interested to learn that it takes about 1,500 seeds of buckwheat to weigh a pound, and we like about 50 pounds to the seeded acre. So that would be 1,500 seeds x 50 pounds per acre x 15 seeded acres gives us a whole lotta buckwheat!

The evening of the 12th provided the proverbial shot across the bow with a brief drizzle. Slug and fungus weather is what that’s called. The remainder of the month delivered the goods, and we had germination! Those last 2 weeks also tallied up the second wettest month of the year at a whopping 2.78 inches. The full month of March was only 2.87 inches.

Looking at the growing season to date, this was a pretty fortuitous event. We have had a very dry spring and that does not bode well for the dry farmed vineyard at Amalie Robert Estate. The warm stretch in April and early May invigorated the grass as well as the vines. Grass, while it doesn’t seem to be doing much, is a voracious consumer of water. The taller it grows, the more rapidly it depletes the available soil moisture. In some parts of the vineyard, grass is a tool we use to eliminate excess soil moisture. In some parts of the country, grass is grown for other purposes.

But here is the thing, available soil moisture leading up to harvest has a very significant impact on wine quality. In the final analysis, a berry is composed of seeds, skin, pulp and water. The most significant contributor to berry weight, and yield expressed as tons per acre, is water. In a perfect year, there is just enough available soil moisture to satisfy the demand from the leaves and allow the vine to partition carbohydrates (send reserves to the roots) as it prepares for the dormant season. This is commonly referred to as “making the vine struggle” to ripen the fruit. But be aware, the leaves can exert a very strong hydraulic pull from the roots to extract the water they need from the soil.

However, you cannot get a refund from a used equipment dealer, so if there is too little available soil moisture the vine dips into the berries for the water it needs. This condition results in a desiccated berry (raisin) with the potential for overdeveloped skin phenolics (bitterness) and aggressive and unresolved tannins. Combined with concentrated sugars, this could lead to the unfortunate crescendo of over extracted and high alcohol port style wines whose best meal pairing may well be with leftovers in the kitchen sink. Or perhaps, the latest wine flash site d’jour.

Fortunately, we had a bit of rain in May.

Along with the cover crop drama, which germinated into a fine stand of young succulent plants, the first set of catch wires are up and clipped into place. The only exception is the rule of block 12. The Viognier shoot growth is once again lagging behind. Ernie set a trap, or is doing an experiment – yeah that’s it, for block 12 this year. Watch this space in the coming months, and the Harvest AAR (After Action Report) for how things work out.

Alas, the part you have all been waiting for, the numbers. And here they are: 8675309

However, if you were a Pinot Noir vine grafted onto, let’s say 44-53M rootstock, May would have seemed more like this:

The month of May accumulated 229.7 degree days, had a high of 84.6 and a low of 35.8 with 2.78 inches of rain. This brings the 2013 growing season up to 281.4 degree days from April 1 through May 31. Rainfall for the growing season is now up to 5.00 inches.



As we head into what appears to be a vey nice summer, please remember olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked (fracked?) pepper is not a substitute for sunscreen. Be sure to “get some onya!”

Here is what we had to say last year:

The month of May accumulated 196.32 degree days, had a high of 88.0 and a low of 31.7 with 2.92 inches of rain. This brings the 2012 growing season up to a very respectable 236.08 degree days from April 1 through May 31. We are significantly warmer than 2011’s heat accumulation of 37.61 degree days by nearly a factor of 10! Rainfall for the growing season is 6.04 inches, which is less than the 2011 ark building rains of 7.71 inches.

Clearly, we are seeing warmer and drier growing conditions than we have experienced in the last couple of vintages. But are the differences really farmin’ significant?

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie