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, June 30, 2017

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2017 June

Hello and Welcome,

This is the Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update for June 2017.

But let's start with an update from the press room. Wine Enthusiast Magazine, October 2017 issue:

2015 Her Silhouette Chardonnay – 91 points, Editors’ Choice
2016 Pinot in Pink Rosé – 90 points, Editors’ Choice

We dedicate this June climate update to the birds, the bugs and the weeds. Wine berries are self pollinating, so we will leave the bees out for this go ‘round. And we will introduce you to our two pet deer – Hanz and Franz. Hanz is the one with the big ears.

Just like people, there are two kinds of bugs - good bugs and bad bugs. Bad bugs survive from eating parts of our grapevines. During the winter, these bugs can bore into the dormant vine and literally eat what would have become next year’s fruit. When all the other vines are waking up and growing wonderfully healthy green shoots and leaves, the victimized vine has stunted and damaged shoots if any shoots at all. In the plant world, this would be known as a “rude awakening.”

Then there are the bugs that feed off the leaves, draining the vine of its essential vascular fluids. This is no way to live. And let’s not forget the jolly little blighters at harvest time that want to eat the wine berries just before they are cluster plucked and sting anyone who gets near them. These bastards simply must go!

Good bugs are the bugs that eat the bad bugs. There are all manner of good bugs, including spiders that make up the front line of defense for the vines. They are out there every day engaged in mortal combat with the sole purpose of protecting the vines that grow our wines. We love these guys, and gals! And the next time you see a ladybug, just remember there are more than just a few notches on her lipstick case.

In the hopeful event that all of the bad bugs have been vanquished by the good bugs, the good bugs still need to eat. And that is where the weeds come in, “cover crop” to the trained eye, but we can go with “specialized weeds” for now. The most vital thing that these specialized weeds can do is flower. Because when these cover crops flower, they produce pollen. And from a good bug point of view pollen is protein. So logically, when the good bugs can’t find any bad bug protein to eat, they can tide themselves over on some Buckwheat and Vetch pollen. And thus each summer we sustain the 24 by 7, 365 day protection for our vines.

And let’s spend just a minute on our insectary. An insectary is a place to propagate bugs. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to set aside a plot of land and plant certain flora to attract the bugs you want. The idea is that those bugs will then go forth into the vineyard and do your bidding against those nasty bad bugs. Or, you could do it the Ernie way, which takes longer and costs more money.

The Ernie way involves planting our insectary right in the vineyard. Every other row is planted to season specific cover crops in the spring and fall that foster populations of good bugs. And since they are right in the vineyard, they don’t have far to go to find the bad bugs to sustain them. That and there are places to hide, pollen to eat and the opportunity to propagate even more good bugs. Honey bees like pollen too, and it is nice to encourage their populations as well. And get this – our insectary covers about 17.5 acres. Technically speaking, that’s a lotta bugs. But wait there’s more! The cover crops get tilled into the soil to feed our vines in the spring and the fall. The Ernie way - maybe he is onto something here after all…

And now on to the birds. Once again, we see two distinct categories of bird - the good birds and bad birds. Bad birds are the ones that are out in the vineyard carrying away this year’s harvest. When it’s bad, it’s very, very bad. In 2011 we estimate about 5 tons, or 300 cases of wine just up and flew out of the vineyard. Being the farming geniuses that we are, we have learned how to net our perfect little Pinot Noir clusters and deny the ravenous air assault our precious bounty. But we also encourage a little proactive assault of our own.

The first specimen of good birds we want to encourage are the insect eating variety. The barn swallow and greenback swallow nest in different habitats but we have them both out on daily patrols during the summer. The fly like mini F-16’s and are always around a moving tractor that creates a “target rich environment.” Sayonara Mr. Yellowjacket!

And lastly, we have the raptors – Good birds that eat bad birds. When the bad birds are getting out of hand, we call in for air support. We go from Kestrels to Sharp Shinned Hawks to some relation of the Peregrine Falcon that is so fast we never get a good look at them and finally the majestic Redtail Hawks. The fact that the wild cherry trees still have ripe cherries on them is an indicator that this is working just fine. And the cherries are really, really good!

Ok, so to put that in a nutshell, we had a very good germination of cover crop, our vines are healthy and we haven’t been bothered by birds or bugs. But, we have been fighting the explosive farming growth in the canopy and are behind in harnessing that growth with our 3 sets of catch wires. As a farmer if you are not complaining about something, then you obviously have no idea what is going on.

Catch wires and the hedger are the way we shift the vine from a vegetative state to a ripening state. Vines are in fact vines and they are first and foremost climbers. If left unchecked they could grow 30 foot shoots. This is the vegetative state – growing long, climbing shoots and leaves to support that growth. Their objective is to grow into a sunny spot so that they can ripen their seeds and reproduce. Flora or fauna, we all seem to be after the same thing…

The roots however are in a deep state, and you can learn all about that by watching the circus that is the modern day media.

Right, we need about 5 feet worth of growth. So as the shoots grow, we try and keep pace by putting up the first catch wire at about 8 inches of growth, the second at about 30 inches of growth and then we top out the trellis at 42 inches of growth. The hedger is then set to a maximum height to remove any growth above 60 inches.

What we want is a canopy that is no taller than 90 inches so that we maximize sunlight collection in our solar array, also known as the canopy. We have 60 inches of leafy green canopy that starts at 30 inches above the vineyard floor and that gets us to 90 inches. The hedger makes sure of that.

And here is why: Our rows are 90 inches apart – exactly (Note: Exactly is a relative term when used in farming parlance.) So any shorter and we are not catching all the light we can and any taller we would be shading the next row.

The clusters of wine berries hang somewhere about 36 to 42 inches off the vineyard floor. Right where Hanz and Franz can find them. Now, trust us we have tried to liberate them from our farm, but they will have none of it. One day they are out, and then the next day they are back as if transported by the Enterprise herself. So, we have agreed to adopt them. They are both young bucks and their antlers are still in velvet. They look very cute as they munch on a shoot that eluded the near certain cut of the hedger.

Once the wires are up and the hedger has made its first pass, the season is about half over. We will hedge again, probably twice, and then assess the amount of fruit Mother Nature has bestowed upon us. Of course we have ordered barrels for the new vintage, but really don’t know if we will have the right amount until October…

The next thought process involves determining what the second half of the season will bring and how much fruit we will leave on the vine. If we leave too much, we can’t ripen it all. Leave too little and it will ripen too fast with high alcohol and little aroma or flavor. And then there are the fall rains to ponder. This is usually done over a period of several days and often results in a nap, or an Adult Recreational Beverage (ARB.)

So after much ado, here is what the first half of the growing season looks like. The vines are not as far along as the last few vintages due to cooler temperatures, but unfortunately we are no farther ahead in arresting their growth. While this is an unfortunate set of circumstances, it is not uncommon. It is farming.

We recorded 334.9 degree days for the month of June, providing a vintage to date total of 560.5     degree days. Our high temperature was 99.3 degrees and our low temperature was 44.4 degrees Fahrenheit. We received no measurable rainfall during June.

Comparatively speaking, the 2016 vintage recorded 363.1 degree days for a vintage to date total of a blistering 805.1 degree days.

Future Note: The vineyard will experience a full eclipse on August 21, 2017. This seems to have the humans in a dither, but we are confident that Hanz, Franz and the vines will pull through just fine. Maybe we will have a “Full Eclipse” bottling this year, where the artwork will be black on black.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2017 Flowers

Hello and Welcome, 

As the spring and fall like weather continued to vacillate before the first day of summer arrived on June 20th, we had some intrepid little Chardonnay flowers emerge on Sunday, June 11th – alone and unafraid. 

And then the weather got really bad, as in, “Why The Farm is this inch of rain falling out of the sky in mid-June?” Cool temperatures and gusty winds are, of course, obligatory and they make the field work of putting up catch wires just about as miserable an experience as anyone could ask for.

But the Pommard clone Pinot Noir was holding tight. As in, “Are you farming crazy? We are not going to start blooming in this weather!” And so they waited, but they too have a schedule to keep and so they began to bloom at the transition to nicer weather on June 16th. Somewhat of a fair weather clone, it would seem.

So there, it is. We take mid-June (Julian calendar day 166) and add 105 days to wine berry maturation (more or less) and a harvest window appears in the not too distant future on September 28th (Julian calendar day 271.) We use the Julian calendar for calculating farming dates for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it is easy math and we don’t have that many fingers and toes between us.

While this may (or may not) be the most exciting news you are likely to read today, please note there are a few keen observers of this event who are counting down the days.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie