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, September 30, 2014

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2014 September

Hello and Welcome,

This is the second and final part of the September Climate Update.

Yes it is true; we open a little something special the night before all the hoopla begins at daybreak. It usually has been around a long while and always has a cage that requires 6 twists to the left. Flutes are involved. While we don’t produce any, we do grow all the components - Champagne Deconstructed. Say what you will, but we call it inspiration.

We held out as long as we could and began harvest operations on Monday, September 29, 2014. The Walnut tree gave us a subtle but recognizable signal that the time had come to pluck those ripe wineberries from the vine. And pluck we did that day with a beautiful 15 ton harvest. That’s 1,500 buckets of hand harvested love!

It was a bittersweet moment that quickly gave way to euphoria. Being the farmers we are, let’s dwell on the bittersweet. The euphoria will have to wait. Our goal is to harvest wineberries when they are at their peak of flavor maturity. We employ several techniques to determine when this azimuth has occurred. Some are technical, some are sensory and some are from the weatherman, which is the least reliable of all three.

Once the decision is made to harvest, you cannot look back. You make the plan the night before of which blocks are going to be picked and in what order. The tractor routes are laid out so that we can always have empty bins ready for the cluster pluckers. (Note: we are referring to the ones on foot, not on wing.)

And then about 3:35 AM you hear that little voice in your head saying that, while it is all good, the weather is going to hold and you could wait a few more days. You must resist this Siren’s song! You don’t want premature vinification, but it gets the wheels turning and the cogs are set in motion. Are we going to miss out on great aromas and flavors if we start plucking away in just about 4 hours?

HA! If you have ever tried to time trades in the stock market, you know exactly what that voice sounds like. That is when we lean back on 15 years of experience here, with this piece of dirt, and say “Farm it!” We are taking that fruit when it’s ready and according to plan. And besides, once the grapes are removed from the vine, there is no going back. You own that decision for the rest of your life, therefore it was the right one – by definition.

Now the euphoria can proceed in full regalia! There is nothing quite like seeing 15 tons of perfectly ripe Pinot Noir laid out in tote bins ready to become wine. Each and every action that we took, and weather event that occurred, is reflected in that fruit. It will make the vintage what it is in the forthcoming wine. And that is how we get to “Winemaking: The Continuation of Terroir by Other Means”®

Let’s have a quick look at the numbers and then we need to get back to do punchdown. Yeah, if the shoe fits, it is a long day for you.

We recorded 180.2 degree days for the second half of September providing a total of 445.6 degree days for the month. Rainfall totaled 1.17 inches beginning on September 18th with the biggest measurement of 1.00 inch on the 24th. The astute reader will note we waited for a little shot of rain before we took our first wineberries. We round out the growing season to date with 2,331.6 degree days and 7.96 inches of rain.

But wait, there is October yet to go and we are still hanging about 60 tons of fruit! Will there be more rain? Maybe some rot? How about the birds, are they early this year? Yeah, it’s going to be a full on Cluster Pluck…

Our final FLOG will be the 2014 Harvest After Action Report where all will be revealed, well mostly. During harvest, Ernie posted daily updates on Twitter. Click here if you want to read the tweets and follow along: Amalie Robert on Twitter.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2014 Mid-September Premature Vinification

Hello and Welcome,

The first half of September is “in the sack,” so to speak. While we have had a warm growing season, we remain vigilant in waiting for our wines to “come of age” on the vine before we take them for our own. Chaste we remain.

Others just could not hold back and released their crews into the fertile fields. They harvested early, certainly in respect to the last several vintages. And why not? The vines were bearing bare, voluptuous clusters sweet with sugar and alluring to the eye. Their firm and youthful berries yielding just slightly to the touch.

Basking in the sun’s morning glow, but before they reached their full zenith, they were plucked from the vine. Maturation Interruptus! On those warm, early September afternoons the clusters with berries just yearning to burst were sent into fermenters for a cold “soak.” People will find out, they always do - it’s going to come out, it always does. There was premature vinification.

It’s OK, really, and quite understandable. Wine is only made once a year, and that is a long dry spell for anyone to not practice their craft. Skills and abilities, as well as a sense of timing, can atrophy without robust exercise and discipline.

So why wait to harvest? What is to be gained by delaying the gratification of denuding the vine and surrendering yourself to all of that wonderful Pinot Noir? If you watch closely in the vineyard, you will see the birds and the bees partaking of this sublime nectar. Why not the humans? We know, this is an argument as old as time. And sometimes we all do the wrong thing for selfish reasons. We’re humans. That’s what we do. Some, more than others…

But Pinot Noir accepts no excuses and in fact will tell on you. Maybe not today or next week, or even in the barrel, but rest assured the day will come when someone smells an underdeveloped expression of Pinot Noir. The discussion will turn to hang time, and that’s when it will come out. As much fun as it was to get them off early, you may be faced with a comment like this from one of your better customers:

“Maturation interruptus leading to premature vinification resulting in an unfinished expression of The Joy of Pinot Noir.”

That’s the main reason we are holding firm – the sugar development is ahead of the aroma and flavor development. The risk we take in waiting is substantial. We could continue to build sugars resulting in high alcohol wines, the birds could ravage the vineyard and we could get unprecedented rain. Well, that just described the last 3 vintages, so no big deal. Been there, had that done to us.

The rewards, on the other hand, are immeasurable. You know that feeling when it is just right. The world is spinning in greased grooves and everything is humming along. A time for everything and everything right on time. That’s what we are bearing down on.

And as you might well expect, we have the numbers to support our voluptuous clusters.

Let’s start with 105. That’s a pretty good number for growing Pinot Noir in Oregon. We know that it takes about 105 days from the time we flower until we develop those striking Oregon aromas and flavors in the skins of our grapes. And 105 days for us is Julian calendar day 262, aka September 19.

We can also factor in 265.4. This represents the Degree Days for the first half of September. While this does not tell the whole story of the vintage, adding it to the tally from August does. We are sitting at 2,151.4 degree days.

Rain for the month of August was 0.11 inches and rain for the first half of September was 0.05 inches. While August had a better showing in the rain department, it ain’t over until the red haired lady lets go. And that’s where we are placing our bets – she can’t hold out much longer.

The next week is calling for some precipitation. We are looking at it like the Ski Resorts do – you don’t know when you are going to get it, or how much you are going to get, but you will be grateful when it happens.

We were in a similar situation in 2012 and 2013 – both warm vintages. Things got a little out of hand in 2013 when we were surprised with 9’’ of rain, but we handled it just fine. Ernie is thinking just an inch or so will do. Dena is thinking a bit more.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie