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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2016 Pinot Noir In Flagrante!

Hello and Welcome,


If farm equipment could talk:

“Torque my lugs, change my oil, lube my chain, grease my zerk!” or “Hey, does the lack of air pressure make my tire look fat?” or “You know, that little red light on the fuel gauge means time for more diesel and can save you from a very long walk.” or “It’s just a dipstick, nothing to be afraid of” and “Winegrower? Oh really…”

But it can’t. What it can do is stop working. And that is a language that everyone understands. As in “No coffee, no workee!”

This is why Ernie takes advantage of the small breaks in the farming schedule to perform maintenance. And for the “non-farmers” reading this we would like to point out the two types of farm maintenance. Regularly scheduled maintenance is usually based on hours driven for tractors (think miles for cars and trucks) or a specific period of time such as annually.

Percussive maintenance is just what you think it is and can be performed at any point in the farming cycle. It is usually performed as a response to operating a piece of equipment outside of its designed operating parameters. Or it could be the case that the last regularly scheduled maintenance was performed…never. The result however, is always quite binary:

1) The act of repeatedly applying force (and or heat) over a brief (or extended) period of time has enabled the equipment (or implement) to function, in at least some capacity for a limited amount of time such that farming operations may resume. Pain relievers (and perhaps an ARB) are in your immediate future. OR

0) It has become painfully obvious that the equipment (or implement) has (possibly prematurely) reached the end of its useful life and no amount of percussive maintenance is going to change that sad (and about to get expensive) fact. Fully depreciated, if you will, or just plain old worn out, the only thing you have going for you now is trade in value. In retrospect, you could have done without that bigger hammer. Time to go shopping for farm equipment…

But not today! Today we see another blazing indicator that harvest is on its way. Those little pink wine berries are telling us that it is time to get the harvest equipment “properly” maintained, or replaced, as the case may be.


In your mind’s eye, just imagine how the likes of Dick Erath or David Lett or Dick and Nancy Ponzi or Bruce Weber felt when they saw the very first pink wine berry on their very own vines representing their very first harvest. And you know, it wasn’t all that long ago. We take it for granted now in the Willamette Valley, but it wasn’t always so.


The other thing that we are paying attention to at Amalie Robert Estate is the trending manifestation of this event year over year. This year, we saw the very first wine berries blaze on July 22nd (but it is a leap year.) The 2015 growing season showed its colors on July 23rd. The historical average vacillates around August 15th. Also of note is the comparative degree days from April though June: 2016 has logged 805.1 degree days and 2015 had logged 799.1 degree days.

Pardon us while we bring the elephant into the room. We see the same summer weather pattern that we have seen since 2012. We thought 2012 was a hot year until we farmed each successive vintage afterwards. The humans will most likely notice the high temperatures and marvel at the number of days above 90 degrees. Meh…


The vines will take all of that heat and sun exposure and turn it into energy to ripen their seeds, allowing them to reproduce and then nod off for a 6 month nap. And they will be doing it all night long.

That is the farming difference we see from the most recent vintages compared to say 2007, 2010 and 2011. The cooler vintages are “more cool” because the nighttime temperatures keep the vines’ ripening curve in check. All of that photosynthesis does no good to the vine until it translocates the energy from the leaf. And that translocation slows down significantly when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.

So, the nighttime temperatures are once again telling the story of the vintage. Cool nights mean slower sugar accumulation and more time on the vine to develop aroma and flavor. Warm temperatures speed things along until we find widespread premature fermentation due to harvest decisions being based on sugars to keep the alcohols below 15%. Yeast die at 15.6% alcohol and will leave you with sweet wine – Good to know.

And the most fascinating thing to consider is why does a corkscrew, when inserted properly into a cork, turn in a clockwise manner. From a physics point of view, it could have been made to work just the opposite. Lefty Loosy, Righty Tighty.

And if that cork just won’t give it up, Port Tongs could be in your “percussive maintenance” future. Add fire, and you are going old school now. Note: gloves will be a useful thing to have at the beginning of this process. Welcome to our world.

Blaze on you crazy wine berry.


Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

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