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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Amalie Robert Estate: Culinary Inclinations from the Kitchen at Amalie Robert Estate

Culinary Inclinations from the Kitchen
at Amalie Robert Estate
Pre-Spring 2015
Aka “How to Eat Like a Winemaker”

Welcome to “Pre-Spring” from the Kitchen at Amalie Robert Estate!

Waiting for Spring in the Pacific Northwest is a time for contemplation and planning. The sun is seen from time to time punctuating the rain and on very special occasions lighting up the Willamette Valley with the most impressive of rainbows. The vineyard is sleeping now while it is being meticulously groomed for the upcoming growing season - sure to be the vintage of the year, how can it not? Blending and bottling continue apace in the winery, always more to do, and hoping the white wines complete their persnickety fermentations.

In December we noticed the evening hours approach earlier and more boldly in the late afternoons. The primal urges of hunger and thirst awaken from their midday slumber. Foragers and hunters unite in their common struggle to satiate a never ending desire adjoined with a glass of poetry to nourish their body and soul.

The theme for these first few months of the budding New Year is comfort food. Aromas that fill the kitchen with memories of meals long past that seemed to take all day to prepare. Braised meats, cassoulet, lasagna and poultry on a spit are the makings of legendary culinary experiences. There were no microwaves. There was a wood burning cook stove and wood from a fallen cherry tree.

First Course: The lack of planning is the key to flexibility
We like to begin with a properly chilled glass of 2012 Her Silhouette Chardonnay or Our Muse Viognier. If we have been in the winery all day, this makes our fingers match the sensation in our toes – that of being cold and wet. However, not too cold, a stainless steel fermented wine still needs to be warm enough to lure you to her seductive charms while being cold enough to send a shiver of cleansing acidity up your backside. You expend a lot more than a little effort keeping this contained to your right brain; all the while your left brain is trying to figure out the next course…

Oysters are a great place to start and we like the firmness of the bivalves this time of year. Depending on how your domestic relationship has evolved, you may find that opening oysters together is a very relaxing way to share the day’s triumphs, despite their level of completion. Or, you may find that you are the submissive in the relationship. Green Tabasco can help.

Another seasonally delectable gift from the Pacific Ocean this time of year is Dungeness crab. We like to call cracking and eating Dungeness crab more of a conversational course than a real food course. We always seem to spend a good deal of time on the cracking and very little time on the eating. The wine consumption adjusts accordingly.

Trading up to the BFC. The BFC is our colloquial term for the Heirloom Cameo - Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. As you can plainly see, the BFC does not stand for Big Farming Chardonnay, thank you very much. The Heirloom Cameo offers more intrigue and texture to the Chardonnay experience, surpassing the binary reptilian brain and permeating the limbic system. The pinnacle of this style has often been the white wines of Burgundy based upon the same Chardonnay grape.

Perhaps it is the weekend, as defined by your attitude and not some silly manmade construct of a calendar, and you have the luxury of time to burn. Then a preparation of Dungeness crab cakes sautéed in clarified butter served atop a bed of winter greens or a warm brioche may satiate. The richness of this dish pairs beautifully with the layered texture and cleansing acidity of the 2012 Heirloom Cameo Chardonnay.

For those more adventurous, and living somewhere other than vinetopia, we would also recommend Burgundy snails sautéed in garlic, parsley and butter. Once you have experienced this dish properly prepared and served with a glass of slightly chilled Heirloom Cameo, it is hard to believe that snails were not invented singularly for this purpose.

Second Course: Putting the duck confit into your green leafiness
Weeds. The green leafy plants that help everything go ‘round and come out properly. While they can also be served toward the end of the meal, we find that they lose the battle to the cheese course and are sadly left wanting.

So buck up and get out the duck confit and 2013 Pinot Meunier! Duck confit is widely available at better meat purveyors and online. If you are interested in making your own you certainly can. But just remember that you don’t need to go build your own solar array just because you want some light in your home, but you could. And while we are all about growing your own, please be aware that it takes a while to go from hatching your own duckling to…

If this is a “dress to impress” affair, we highly recommend slowly warming the duck confit for at least an hour so that the entire room has the rich aroma hanging heavy as your guests arrive. You will have them at “Can I take your coat?”

Start with a bowl of fresh green leafiness. Consider adding a little fresh dill frond or pea tendrils (Ernie planted winter peas for cover crop last fall, and we have about 20 acres worth of pea tendrils to source from.) Toss around some toasted hazelnuts and dried cherries, adorn with crumbles of blue cheese or goat cheese, drizzle with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette and top with warm shredded duck confit. Keep in mind people eat with their eyes, another contribution from the reptilian brain, so a few extra minutes on plating can really pay dividends.

It is entirely permissible, and often part of a strict quality control program to sample the Pinot Meunier with the duck confit prior to plating. It is important to factor this into your planning, as you do not want to under serve the duck confit due to excessive quality control sampling. Ditto the Pinot Meunier.

Variations on a theme here include smoked or poached salmon, braised rabbit or thinly sliced venison loin. Be prepared to have your guests compliment you on the lovely green garnish at the bottom of their bowls. Don’t take it personally; it’s the reptilian brain talking.

Third Course: “Pinot Noir is the most exciting wine to pair with food.” – Ernie Pink
While we don’t often quote ourselves, we do find that it adds complexity to the conversation. The reason Pinot Noir can excel at so many culinary challenges is its natural proclivity for acid. Acidity is that cleansing experience that enlivens and invigorates the palate. Acidity cuts through the bravado of rich dishes to reveal balanced flavors and an exponential culmination of the food and wine experience. It stimulates and we salivate, and who couldn’t use more of that, Pavlov?

As our theme this time is comfort food, we are going to go with a cassoulet of braised rabbit. To be sure there is no confusion as to where our journey is headed, let’s define cassoulet as a slow cooked dish of braised, often fatty or tough cuts of meat, or poultry with white beans and sausages steeped in wine.

Our choice of naturally lean rabbit can easily be replaced by lamb shanks, duck legs, or pork shoulder. All are very good choices and pair well with Pinot Noir. However, Ernie’s annual physical is in January, so he likes to clean up the pipes before he sees the doc.

Contact your purveyor of fine meats well in advance to secure a rabbit. You can raise your own, but before doing so please see the reference to ducklings above. Rabbit is a very lean meat that has virtually no fat. If you have ever flown into Charles de Gaulle airport during the daylight hours, those little brown fur balls on the tarmac are rabbits. While most rabbits have a very keen sense of hearing, those do not.

The first task will be to braise the rabbit in a large, well oiled skillet. To do this we recommend separating the rabbit into the following pieces: 2 front quarters (what little fat that is on a rabbit is located here); the saddle; 2 hind quarters. This can easily be accomplished by a competent butcher. If you plan to handle this task in the future, you may want to ask the butcher to wait until you arrive before the dismemberment begins.

If this is to be a DIY, you will most likely need a large, sturdy cutting board, a sharp meat cleaver, towels and a hammer. A first aid kit and an assistant with a driver’s license and car would also be prudent.

Preheat your horno (Spanish for oven) to about 350 and set a large baking dish inside to come up to temperature. Open the Pinot Noir and apply the obligatory quality control procedures. Add the rabbit carefully to your preheated and oiled skillet. Season with fracked (fresh cracked) pepper, thyme and a little powdered ginger. These pieces will not take long to develop a nice patina. Your mission is to seal the meat to retain its juices for the next phase of cooking. Turn repeatedly to sear without deep heat penetration, which will come later.

Carefully remove the preheated baking dish, add the rabbit pieces and return it to the horno. Take a moment to compliment yourself on the beautiful patina with a sip of Pinot Noir.  In the still warm skillet, add equal parts chopped orange bell pepper, sweet yellow onion, julienned carrots (rabbits just love carrots,) a couple minced cloves of garlic, a few small foraged morels and a very little bit of finely chopped Anaheim pepper. Thank your submissive sous chef for the hard work with a glass of Amalie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir, vintage of your choice, but to really make a statement pour the 2008. Note: if you are not intending to see your physician you may consider adding some sausage to the dish at this juncture.

Stir these vegetables occasionally until softened and beginning to brown. Add one to two cups of your favorite white beans. Stir occasionally over medium heat and add about a cup of that left over white wine that is still in the refrigerator from last year. Testing for quality is a must do.

At this point you will have about ten minutes to either a) clean up the kitchen or b) enjoy a glass of that wildly delicious 2008 Amalie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir with your submissive sous chef who has been cleaning up the kitchen as you have been plowing straight through. Clearly, the 2008 was the right call.

When the ten minute timer escorts you back to reality, remove the braised rabbit from your horno and add the skillet mixture. Cover with a glass lid or wrap loosely with foil and return to your horno. Spend about 30 to 45 quality minutes with your submissive sous chef. At the time of your choosing, secure a bottle of 2009 Estate Selection Pinot Noir for the main event and apply the obligatory quality control procedures.

Before plating, you may add any of the following to the bottom of the service dishes: creamed polenta with garlic, smashed skin on red potatoes with thyme and rosemary, parsnip and turnip hash with a wee little bit of rabbit sausage. Garnish with shaved Manchego cheese and chopped cilantro or Italian parsley.

Fourth Course: Something for Her
Sometimes you just know when it’s right. Sometimes you are not sure, but never let on. Other times you haven’t a clue, but you want to find out what will happen. While this may describe a lot of things, like nuclear physics, it also describes the Syrah program at Amalie Robert Estate.

Long story short is that Ernie wanted to satiate his desire for cool climate Côte Rôtie style Syrah on his vineyard site that had never before grown Syrah. “It’s a doddle,” he would say, knowingly. Well, 2006 brought with it our gravity flow winery and the first ever harvest of Ernie’s Syrah. We were about to find out, knowingly.

That first year turned out a fine barrel of wine. Next up was that horrible, nasty 2007 vintage that earned us the title of “Best Domestic Syrah of the Year” from Wine & Spirits Magazine. Some doddle indeed. As the vines age and respond to the vagaries of each passing vintage, Dena sometimes wonders how much was really at risk, how much was known and just how much was “a doddle.” She also knows that in farming, it is often better to be lucky than good.

What she doesn’t wonder about is what pairs well with our 2011 Satisfaction Syrah. The hands down dish of the winter months is roast rack of lamb with creamy Brussels sprouts and julienned parsnips. While the preparation is fairly straightforward there are variations on a theme, as you might expect…

The most functional preparation involves a Frenched rack of lamb with all the excess fat removed. Season with fracked pepper, cumin, thyme, rosemary, smoked paprika, then convection roast at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, turning twice. Let stand for at least 5 minutes, slice between each bone and serve “bones up.”

The next preparation is mustard encrusted and a bit more involved, but allows for some creative dissidence. Begin with a Frenched lamb rack as alluded to above. Mix up a medium consistency paste based on Dijon mustard by adding fracked black pepper, sesame oil, dried thyme, ginger and cumin. Whip this into a frenzy and spread lengthwise on the loin using a small fork leaving the ridges in place. Season with black sesame seeds and sprinkle with smoked paprika.

Convection roast at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes without turning. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes to cool. The crust will retain much more of the meat’s natural juices and prevent it from cooling quickly.

Note: You may use any combination of ingredients in the mustard preparation, including none at all. You are only limited in the ingredients you use by the natural conflict that occurs between the left brain, right brain and the time allotted by our timeless companion, the reptilian brain.

For all you daredevils out there we conclude with a Beef Wellington preparation substituting lamb loin, or what we call “Lamb Wellies.” You will need two lamb loins removed from the bones and tied together. This will closely resemble a beef loin to which Beef Wellington is based. Do not over cook. You will want to be sure the music is turned way down low when you slice these open diagonally so that you may fully appreciate the “ooh’s and aah’s.” I say, “Well done old man, well done!”

Note: If lamb is not readily available, beef, buffalo, elk or venison will due in a pinch. White Pekin duck breast is an equally challenging and appreciated preparation “à la Wellies.”

Fifth Course: The Cheese Board and Pabuk’s Gift
This is the part of the program where you are craving a little something sweet or sticky or both. The wonderful world of cheese is one where you can find all manor of flavors, textures and more to the point, very unique and pungent aromas. “Époisses de Bourgogne” or Époisses is rumored to be Napolean’s favorite cheese. It is also rumored to be banned from being carried on all forms of public transportation in France.  It’s that “wonderful.”

Your selection may include local or imported cheeses. We recommend your tour of the cheese world include cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheeses in textures from creamy to firm concluding with an exciting streak of blue. If in doubt, ask the “fromagier” to recommend and then try a sample.

Often times our cheese board will also include exciting little accoutrements such as toasted Willamette Valley hazelnuts, local organic honey, quince paste and thanks to some creative bakers, gluten free breads.

Red wines typically can pair with a wide variety of cheeses, white wines seem a bit more specific, and sweet wines seem to have a strong desire for blue cheeses in particular. But with the exception of Cool Whip and pineapple, few of these pairings can be applied topically and removed orally. It is in this realm of wine that Pabuk’s Gift reigns supreme.

Pabuk’s Gift is our naturally botritized Chardonnay. A gift left behind from Typhoon Pabuk that rained on Oregon’s harvest parade in 2013. Made in the Trockenbeerenauslese style, this wine is extremely concentrated and unctuous. In addition to some wonderful blue cheeses, Crème Brûlée and New York style cheesecake are great pairings - and easily applied.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie