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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Amalie Robert Estate: 2016 Spring Cellar Report "Factotums ad Infinitum"

Hello and welcome to the vast array of Spring toiling that is Amalie Robert Estate. While this Spring missive typically deals entirely with subterranean diurnal activities, we will be delving deep into the breadth and depth of toiling required to keep diesel in the tractors. Please be aware, there may very well be some meandering and not everything is as it appears, certainly not linear. Specious is a fairly well befitted adjective to describe the fully vertically-integrated wine industry, such that it is an industry.

Well, you reap what you sow, and in the world of wine, that means planting grafted vines that you ordered (and paid for) the previous year. Sometimes, you can get “lucky” and there are grafted vines available on the “spot market” the same year you want to plant them (please refer to the law of “supply and demand” for pricing.) These are typically over-runs of vines when a nursery happened to have fewer “exceptions” in the grafting process than they anticipated. On the rare occasion, as is one equal to the frequency of winning the lottery, a nursery will have available the exact wine variety and clone grafted onto the exact rootstock that you are looking for. Planting on principle is a costly and time intensive endeavor.

This is why Ernie has his own rootstock block – nobody ever has any extra of what he is looking for because nobody else seems to grow it. The road less travelled is an altruistic concept, and a befitting one, but Dena simply says, “When I first met Ernie it was clear right off the bat, he didn’t run with the traffic. It almost got him killed in Ireland until he learned how to look on the “left” side of the road for the oncoming bus.” Of course their idea of a highway is called the “Dual Carriageway” and that should also tell you something.

Once you have placed your order, paid your money and waited about a year, your vines (or a portion of them) may, or may not, be ready. Some of you reading this may recall sending in two box tops and a dollar to cover postage and handling. Ordering vines is the adult, agrarian version of this toil. You pay your money and you take your chances.

When the much anticipated nursery truck shows up, you take their manifest and compare it to your order, or at Amalie Robert Estate we use the ubiquitous “Control Sheet.” Despite your best laid plans, this is when you find out what in fact you will be planting on that wonderfully manicured, perfectly positioned “Last Best Place to Grow Pinot Noir ™” hillside.

You point out to the driver the fact that the manifest of vines does not match your order. By the look he gives you, it is clear he has been in this position before. “Ah yeah, so you want for me to put these vines back in the truck, or do you want to go and plant that hillside?” So Ernie took those vines, along with the invaluable lesson he just learned, and planted his own rootstock block so that he was never again put in that unenviable position.

The hardest part about planting vines is everything, like preparing that old cherry orchard to accept vines and then getting the aforementioned correct vines. Then there is layout. This is the never-ending process of getting straight AND parallel lines over the top of a surface that more resembles the topography of your fist than a flat plane. You rely on a 400’ aircraft cable pulled as tight as you can muster and popsicle sticks placed in the uneven soil every 4’ apart. Yeah, Ernie packs them in tight. Then we move over 7.5’ and do it again – 1,452 vines per 43,560 square feet (that’s an acre, folks.) The vineyard is currently 129 rows wide, and still going… Sometimes we can see each other at the end of the rows, and sometimes there is a rise between us. If you wonder where the complexity in our wines comes from, we can tell you it literally starts in the field.

Ernie performs QC with the tractor. That first run through all the rows will reveal just how straight and parallel they are. The tractor rows are 90” wide and the widest tractor Ernie drives is on tracks - at 68” wide. In the “epic fail” scenario, the rows hourglass to the point where the tractor will not pass. Double, double toil and trouble…

But in the ground those plants go, usually during the wind and the rain. This makes for a nice day of toiling. As a dry farmed Estate, we have learned how to plant water with our vines. We use a substance that absorbs water during the rainy season and then releases it to the vines throughout the dry growing season. Watering vines is simply a toil we cannot stand in the least.

Bottling is another way we toil away the New Year. Nearly every bottle of Amalie Robert Estate wine will reveal both Dena’s and Ernie’s fingerprints. We are the factotums - bottling team edition. No fancy bottling truck and “rent-a-crew” here. Oh no, can’t have that. The bottling trucks can do well in excess of the 50 cases an hour we can handle. Ernie fills them two at a time, and Dena squeezes in that 75 cent piece of tree bark, under vacuum, of course. And all of our bottles are shipped with a free cork, which is not always the case with the “rent-a-crew.” “Hey, do you have any more corks? This thing is empty…” But they still look nice with the foil covering the void.

Once the wine has rested comfortably on its cork through the bottle shock phase Dena will order labels. While not as arduous and time consuming of a process as ordering vines, the art department can, and often does, see things differently than you would like. The result is toiling over seemingly endless revisions. You can’t sell a wine without a label, and that is when Fedex “Same Day” service can help, aka Fedex EMERGENCY.

Another seemingly endless toil is labeling and foiling. With the help of a small air compressor and a 220 volt motor, Ernie can apply labels and foils at a rate of about 35 cases per hour. Note:  He does not differentiate between red and white wine. Stack them on a pallet 14 cases per layer and 4 layers later, well that’s a 56 case pallet of wine. Whew, time for a Dog-nose beer! (Cold and wet.)

And then there are wine sales. While we do our best to present a professional image in the marketplace, by the third afternoon things can get a little loose. As is the case in this brief exchange - picture this:

Ernie was sitting at a restaurant bar counter with a tall glass of ice water. The restaurant’s wine buyer had not yet come down from a meeting and the distribution representative who was selling our wine that day (let’s just call him Mike) had run off to the restroom. When Mike returned, the barman asked Mike if wanted anything to drink while we waited.

Mike said “Sure, I’ll just have what Ernie is having.”

“Well Mike,” Ernie informed him, “That’s an awful lot of vodka for someone your size.”

Blending is by far and away the most engaging toil we perform. It is not nearly as cerebral as people might think. We believe wine is a luxury product that should provide you pleasure, and we approach it as such both personally and professionally.

I could toil away the hours, conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain.
And my head I'd be scratchin' while
my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain.

Why just last month we had two Pommard Clone blends we were evaluating. At just two barrels each, not only were they hard to find among the 500 barrels of pure magic we have lurking in the cellar, but both blends were equally stunning. They both displayed the three halves of Pinot Noir, and were great on their own and with dinner, but which blend to choose? After that first blending trial it was clear, we were in for a considerable and extended toil.

We finally chose a blend, albeit after significant toiling. Note: Dena is a whole lot better at “rock-paper-scissors” than she lets on. Typically, a two barrel blend will produce about 50 cases of wine. Well, let’s just say for this blend we will be saving a couple of bucks on glass and corks.

And that leads us right into the growing season. Ernie is just about to strap on a tractor, he has three of them, and get to farmin’! Once again this year, the FLOG will keep you up to date and in good stead with the growing season. As you are enjoying your FLOG, we suggest you “drink ‘em if you got ‘em.” And if you need some, we can help. Just click your red heels together three times and say “Send me some wine, Fedex Emergency!”

If you are not getting FLOG’d, please sign up. If you are getting flogged and would like to receive our FLOG, you can do that too. And be sure to FLOG a friend!

Toiling, we remain, Factotums ad Infinitum,

Dena & Ernie

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