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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2014 June

Hello and Welcome,


Happy 4th of July!



Say hello to our little friends!! Wines true to the soil, wines true to the vintage®. We grow ‘em from the ground up.


And to think, we were concerned we wouldn’t get any rain for those seeds to germinate. Well, not to worry, June has blessed us with an abundance of moisture. This has also had a positive impact on the new Wadenswil planting. Ernie has not had to go out and water those new little vines. Yep, Mother Nature is adding a little natural irrigation.

But if you are in the business of growing wine instead of cover crop, this June rain has not been a welcome chain of events. You see the vines flowered during June. The idea here is if the weather is warm and dry, the flowers will pollinate and turn into little wineberries. This is called “fruit set” and makes the wine grower very happy.

If the weather is cool and rainy, fewer of these flowers will become berries. The aborted flowers will fall off the stem. This is called “shatter.” If it is severe enough, like 2005, we may see just a few wineberries on a cluster where we normally see about 85-100 wineberries. Then we will have “a bad set” and this is why farming is not for the faint of heart.

Well, we’ve had both conditions and a whole lotta things in between. This means we will have some wineberries that pollinated early in the month and others that pollinated late in the month – all on the same cluster. What’s a winegrower to do? The cover crop sure looks nice…

As harvest approaches like a wrecking ball headed to Detroit, we will want to remember the weather conditions in June and how the vines flowered. It could very well be that while we are seeing sugars in the right range for harvest, the acids and flavors may not be commensurate. Or maybe they will. Either way, our job is to wait until they are the best they can be and then compete with the birds, deer, rain, and botrytis to steward them into a fermenter to release those wonderful aromas and flavors.

The sudden cloudbursts of rain have not gone unnoticed by the vines. Sometimes at night, when we are sleeping, the vines are taking up the newfound soil moisture. There’s probably even a rainbow (in UV of course) if the moon is right. During the day, the warm sun encourages their growth. They like this and grow like the vines they are.

This is all well and good and we couldn’t stop them anyway, so we concede the point. But it does provide focus and a sense of urgency in getting that third set of catch wires up and clipped into place. If we let them grow too far beyond the top of the posts, they have leverage on us and it is hard to get them in the trellis wires. We endeavor to persevere.

But once the ever growing shoots are in the top wires and they are clipped in, Ernie brings out “The Enforcer.” We will have discipline. We will have order. And we will have it right farming now!






Dena says the vineyard is the most stunning right after the first hedge. The vines are all trimmed up and the grassed rows are mowed on the same pass. Everything looks so orderly and contained. Ernie says take your pictures now, as it ain’t gonna last long.


The first hedge of the season does several things. The most important of which is setting the schedule for the second hedge. Kinetically speaking, the hedger is 10 blades of “whup-ass” spinning at about 15,000 rpm trimming off shoot tips from both sides of the canopy and the top in a single pass. It is of French design and manufacture. Yeah, these guys have come a long way since the guillotine. But still, an effective piece of equipment by any standard.

As the vines grow, not all the shoots reach the top wire at the same time (this is especially true with that little miscreant vine Viognier.) The shoots that do make it get a little taken off the top. Over the next two weeks, all of the shorter shoots will have the opportunity to grow into the “shoot tip removal zone.” The shoots that were topped will begin to push laterals, and this is where the show gets interesting.


The laterals are just newly formed shoots all along the main shoot. They will grow rapidly and produce more leaf surface. In cool vintages like 2010 and 2011, we needed all the leaf surface we could get. Ernie set the hedger high and wide to take just the tips, leaving as much leaf surface as possible.

By the time Ernie makes the second hedging pass, the laterals will be out in full regalia. The short shoots will be short no more and will be topped so they too can produce laterals. And if the equipment keeps working, we will be on this schedule through August. It’s like herding cats, you do it until you get tired and start again the next day - with a different set of cats...

Until one day, the vines get it – “maybe we should start to ripen our seeds, because this joker is just going to keep cutting off our shoot tips!” And why are ripening seeds so important you ask? Well step right into the vineyard vestibule and we can pipe off on that for a moment. Ripe seeds are an indicator that the aromas and flavors are coming on. The vine (while somewhat indiscriminate in this relationship) wants some bird, raccoon or deer to smell that wonderful aroma, eat those flavorful berries and deposit the seeds in an undisclosed location.

We, of course, do not. However, we do want those wonderful aromas and flavors in our wine. And since the vine is somewhat ho-hum on who gets the fruit, we take proactive counter measures to stack the odds in favor of the humans. Either way, us or the birds, the vine has completed its yearly reproductive task and then goes dormant. Remind you of anyone?

Now just as soon as farming possible after the first hedging pass, we approach the vines from the east and take some leaves out of the fruit zone. That’s right, we open up the canopy to let in a little sunlight and promote air circulation around the fruit.

There is always some internal debate (left brain v right brain) about how many leaves we need to pull. The more leaves we take from the vine, the more stately and masculine the wine will be. The fewer leaves we remove the more sublime and silky the wine, much more like the velvet glove of persuasion. Not all of our wines are grown the same way, so we vacillate between the velvet glove and S&M.

So what’s next? July brings with it an evaluation of fruit set and more hedging (we also take a few minutes to back up our hard drives, especially our E-mail.) This means we get to see how many of those zillions of flowers actually will produce a berry, a wineberry. Depending on what we see and calculate, we will begin thinning operations to reduce the crop to a manageable size. In other words, we cut off some of the clusters to lighten the load to what we think we can ripen.

This is not necessary in many other crops, such as Perciatelli. Follow this link to learn more about the Swiss Spaghetti harvest.

Well, look at the time. Let’s run down the numbers, shall we?

It seems that climate change (and carbon taxes) continues to be the “hot” topic again this month. We closed out the month of June with a blistering 84.60 degrees. If we were to sneak a peak into the first day of July, it would look a lot like 98 degrees! But the vines are good with the heat up to about 100 degrees. But once it tops the century mark, the vines redirect the leaves away from the sun and they shutdown photosynthesis. Hot weather can help advance ripening, but if it is too hot, it can delay ripening. (Farming Humor Alert: What did the vine say to the onion? Don’t sweat it…)

The split month of June accumulated 154.12 v 180.98 for a total 335.1 degree days providing an accumulation of 647.2 degree days since the beginning of the growing season on April 1, 2014. This is a 21.6 degree day decrease from the 2013 growing season. But you wouldn’t know it based on the advanced wineberry development.



And it rained. We received 0.47 inches during the first half of June and 0.63 inches during the latter half of the month for a total of 1.10 inches and 5.88 inches since the beginning of the growing season on April 1, 2014. The showers were well spaced to give the new Wadenswil vines a little drink from time to time.

It could very well be that we do not see any more of the liquid sunshine until we experience that magical moment of Harvest (more aptly known as the Big Cluster Pluck.) And based on all that we see here swaying in the summer breeze, it could be in September. This is similar to 2012 and 2013 where we were “runnin’ with the shovel” throughout the summer, only to be cooled off by some September rains. Not to put too fine a point on the subject, but Mother Nature used a Typhoon in 2013 to slow us down. You just never can tell what she’s gonna come up with next.

A Note from the 2103 Vintage:
The month of June accumulated a whopping 387.4 degree days, had a high of 95.2 (recorded June 30 at 3:40 pm) and a low of 43.0 (recorded June 14 at 3:20 am) with 1.24 inches of rain. This brings the 2013 growing season up to 668.8 degree days from April 1 through June 30. Rainfall for the growing season is now up to 6.24 inches. Well now, we may just have a “contender” vintage on our hands here.

Check back in July to see how the wineberries are progressing. July is also equipment maintenance month here at Amalie Robert Estate. Ernie does most of the routine work like oil changes, checking the tires and greasing the implements. But no matter how diligent, there always seems to be another zerk out there that needs a grease…


Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie


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Friday, June 6, 2014

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2014 June Flowers IRS (Inflorescence Reconnaissance Status)

Hello and Welcome,

We have flowers! The first sign of a potential harvest window appeared on June 6, 2014 – Day 157 of the Julian Calendar. And get this; it is the same Julian Calendar date as 2013. While this is a fun factoid, it certainly guarantees that harvest will not be the same!


Typically, we are asking for about 105 days from flowering to harvest. So we will be looking to open the harvest window on day 262, or September 19.  Someone once remarked that this is just like clockwork, but when you are in business with Mother Nature, nothing you set out to do is as simple as that.

The part of the plant that is flowering (or “in bloom”) is called an inflorescence. When we are looking for flowers in the vineyard we are doing reconnaissance. Once our work is complete, we issue a status. Ergo, our IRS is RFN (Right Farming Now!)

Weather during bloom this year is about as perfect as anything in agriculture can be – thanks Mom. We are seeing highs hit the high 70s and we are cooling off into the 50s at night. A refreshing breeze blows by from time to time and a few wispy clouds add texture to an otherwise endless sunny blue sky. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, consider this: Wine grapes are self pollinating!

If we continue on our current trajectory, we could have a bountiful crop, ready to harvest in late September. But there’s a lotta “c’s” there to consider, and there has been some issue with the c(3)’s or is it the c(4)’s?

But today the sun is on our backs and the breeze is lifting our spirits. The world, for now anyway, seems to be spinning in greased grooves.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie