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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2014 July

Hello and Welcome,

The Dog Days of summer appear to be upon us. Sunny warm days and cool crisp nights are the reason Pinot Noir ripens so exceptionally well in the Willamette Valley. It’s nice to see the Pinot Noir leaves being gently caressed by the afternoon breeze. And ya know the resident humans like it too. Yep, it’s pretty farmin’ nice!

A well groomed vineyard is a beautiful thing. We spend much of the month of July tending to the vines’ every need with an eye toward harvest. Our first battle is getting their shoots tucked into the trellis and then clipped into place. They put up a pretty good fight, but at the end of the day we lock them in. This activity alone takes about 2 minutes of hand labor per vine over the course of 3 visits – repeat 45,000 times.

Then Ernie wheels out the hedger for a whole lotta “tough love.” He runs though the vineyard with the sole purpose of removing the growing tips from the shoots. The goal here is to get the vine to redirect its energy into ripening its seeds. At first they don’t get it and just produce more shoots and leaves. Fine.

A second pass starts to bend the curve, but they just keep on pushing. Now the third pass, that one can achieve the result we are looking for. And so it goes, by the end of July the vines have mostly stopped producing new foliage and have begun to direct more energy into ripening their wineberries. And we like it like that!

July is also the time of the growing season when we can impact the “tannin structure,” “mid-palate texture” or “phenolic profile” of our wines. This is all just crazy wine talk for how the wine feels in your mouth. But you can use real words like smooth, elegant, pure, very nice, and yum! The “yum factor” is a real thing and sometimes that’s all you need to say. People may give you the “confused dog look” but we know what you mean: “Amalie’s CuvĂ©e – Yum!”

We get the yum factor in our Pinot Noirs by leaving most of the leaves around the little wineberries attached to the plant. Sure we take some of the bigger leaves off to allow for air circulation and some sun exposure, but not very many. These well positioned leaves also protect our developing wineberries from harsh heat spikes that can come and go depending on Mama’s mood. And if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy…

The alternative is to strip the leaves out of the fruit zone to maximize the sun exposure and “phenolic development” in the wineberries’ skin The resulting wine can be more harsh, bitter and less pleasant to be around. This is kind of like you falling asleep at the beach and not noticing that the umbrella you were napping under was horked by some passing kid. And the dog got your bottoms. Doggone it…

This is part of the “Enhanced Extraction Technique” school of viticulture. And how do you handle those harsh flavors in the winery? Get out the toasty oak barrels, aka burn cream. The oak’s sweetness will temper the wine’s harshness and if done well, this approach can make a very exciting Syrah. May the yum factor be with you.

You can never tell for sure ‘til it’s over, but 2014 is shaping up to be building on the 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2013 warm July vintages. We’ll do the numbers, and then you can do the math.

We logged 624 degree days for the month of July, 2014, with a high of 98.1 and a low of 44.8 degrees Fahrenheit with 0.80 inches of rain. The total degree days for the 2014 growing season now stand at 1,271 with total rainfall at 6.68 inches (that was close!)

Have a look at this Degree Day comparison (which way does the hockey stick go?):

YTD - July
* To Be Farming Determined

Lots and lots of ways to look at this. 2014 has one of the warmer Springs on record at Amalie Robert Estate at 1,271 degree days, and holds the top spot for July at 624 degree days. However, at this point in the growing season, we look a lot like 2006, 2009 and a bit like 2013. Also interesting to note 2007 was ahead of 2008 in July, but that didn’t hold through harvest.

Further detailed analytical and subjective analysis is an exercise left for the reader. If you are missing exemplars of a particular vintage, please contact Dena to secure your specimens. If you are not sure which wine you need, check out the Amalie Robert Estate Scorecard.

And what about 2010? That vintage was so farming cold that the birds got here ahead of schedule - and they stayed. Yep, they feasted on wineberries while we waited for them to ripen. Every day a few more vines were denuded. We estimate our loss to be about 300 cases of wine that just flew right out of the vineyard. Others were hit harder and everyone lost some. But we saved a bunch of money on bottles and corks!

The growing season was a rollercoaster ride with a very nice October. Here is what we said in our 2010 “Harvest After Action Report.”

“The challenge we faced was bringing in 65 tons in short order. While the harvest window looked really nice, it was not going to last forever. There is a funny story about someone who made a substantial sum in the stock market. He was asked how he did it; what was his "secret?" He replied "I sold too soon!"

And so it was as harvest began. People wanted to pick, but they thought it was too soon. The sugars were rising (Brix) and the acids were falling. The planets were beginning to align. The cold 2010 vintage was being redeemed! The weather was stunning and Ernie understood the temptation to wait. But Ernie has lived through the "Dot.Com" bust, and the thought of waiting was never seriously considered. He learned the hard way that those "gains" are not yours until you bring them home.”

You can read the full 2010 “Harvest After Action Report” on our FLOG (Farming bLOG) right here:

So, did we make the right call starting harvest “too soon?” Well, we think it worked out just fine. As most of you know, we like to hold our wines until we think they are drinking well, and providing a substantial “yum factor.” The latest reviews from our most respected Pinot Noir reviewer, Josh Raynolds for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, were published at the beginning of July. (All reviews: ©2014 WineAccess. All Rights Reserved.) Whaddya think?

2010 Pinot Noir The Reserve Willamette Valley Light, bright red.  Highly perfumed aromas of fresh red berries, potpourri, cinnamon and sandalwood are complemented by deeper-pitched notes of cola and black cardamom.  Shows excellent clarity and lift on the palate, offering spicy raspberry and bitter rhubarb flavors that gain sweetness with air.  Distinctly pure and focused pinot with silky tannins coming on late and adding grip to the long finish. 93

2010 Pinot Noir Amalie's Cuvee Willamette Valley Bright ruby-red.  A complex, expressive bouquet evokes fresh red berries, Asian spices and potpourri, with a hint of smoky minerals emerging with aeration.  Offers juicy, incisive black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that stretch out and deepen with air while picking up a suave rose pastille nuance.  Shows excellent clarity and drive on the persistent finish, which is firmed by dusty, harmonious tannins and a jolt of blood orange. 93

2010 Pinot Noir Pommard Clone Willamette Valley Bright red.  Vibrant mineral- and spice-laced red berry and floral pastille scents are given depth by notes of licorice and cola.  Lithe and sharply focused on the palate, offering gently sweet strawberry and cherry flavors that put on weight and gain spiciness with aeration.  Pure, focused and lively on the strikingly long finish, which is framed by silky tannins and brightened by a tangy blood orange note. 93

2010 Pinot Noir Estate Selection Willamette Valley Bright red.  Expressive spicy, floral bouquet evokes fresh rose, red berries and incense, with a subtle orange zest note adding lift.  Silky, tangy and precise, offering nervy redcurrant and raspberry flavors that slowly flesh out with air.  Shows outstanding clarity and lift on the long, spicy finish, which betrays just a hint of fine-grained tannins. 92

2010 Pinot Noir Dijon Clones Willamette Valley Bright red.  Heady, exotic aromas of fresh red berries, Asian spices and potpourri, with subtle smoke and mineral nuances adding complexity.  Silky, expansive and appealingly sweet, offering intense raspberry and rose pastille flavors and a strong spicecake quality that builds on the back half.  Pure, focused and strikingly persistent on the finish, which is firmed by fine-grained, harmonious tannins. 92

2010 Ipinot Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Light, bright red.  High-pitched redcurrant, strawberry and orange zest aromas, along with suggestions of dusty minerals and white pepper.  Shows very good clarity and lift to its light-bodied bitter cherry and red berry flavors.  Closes with lingering spiciness, a touch of rose pastille and silky, fine-grained tannins that stay hidden in the background. 91

2012 Pinot Meunier Willamette Valley Vivid red.  Musky red berries and cherry on the fragrant nose, with subtle herbal and floral qualities adding complexity.  Chewy bitter cherry and licorice flavors become sweeter with air while picking up a peppery nuance.  Closes with very good energy, grip and length, leaving a note of white pepper behind.  Shows good delineation for the vintage, with no excess fat. 90

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie