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

Copyright

© 2005 – 2017 Amalie Robert Estate, LLC

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2017 August

Hello and Welcome, 

This is the Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update for August 2017. A FLOG communication

Well, it came and went. The full solar eclipse cast its shadow of totality right across the vineyard. Some people wondered what that event would do to the wine berries, so we have posted before and after images that allow you to assess the full impact - in its totality. Say what you will, but the vines seemed quite oblivious to the whole event. 

Pinot Noir Clusters Before Eclipse



Pinot Noir Clusters After Eclipse

But what should really be consuming those brain cycles is the impact that leap year has on all of us in conjunction with those parts of the world that observe daylight savings time, in particular those that adjust in 30 minute increments. So do we harvest a day later every 4 years or just 6 hours earlier 3 years out of 4? Maybe a minute should just be 59 seconds and that would do away with this whole leaping year thing every 1 in 4.

While you ponder that range of possibilities, here is what the path of totality looked like through a welding helmet as captured on a cell phone.

Photo by Vincent Cantwell

Right. Back to the wine berries and vintage 2017. As we look at the vintage from our unique perspective, it appears that our “Sweet 16” harvest is laid out before us in perfectly straight rows that are 7.5 feet apart and about 400 feet long, mostly. That seems like easy pickin’s until you realize they are just 30 inches off the vineyard floor. We will bring in about 100 tons of delectable wine berries, packaged in about 800,000 clusters, more or less. And that’s when it hits us (in the lower back) – we didn’t used to be this old!

So, things were going pretty good thus far and we were reminiscing about the great, cool climate vintages of 2005, 2007 and 2010. Then August made its way onto the platform. Without any ado whatsoever, the first week brought us record breaking temperatures topping out at 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the following week we were topping out in the 70s, and then back in the 90s. The month vacillated so, and even gave us a wee little drizzle.

But the vines, those rascals, were holding on to all the available soil moisture from the incredible soaking we took last winter. We took in over 50 inches of rain during the 6 month dormant period which is equal to what an entire year would bring us. And God bless Texas. And through the month of August anyway, the vines are holding their own with a lush green canopy and a leisurely ripening period.


We, however, are on the move. Crop estimation is that quasi-scientific thing we do to maximize the aroma, flavor and taste of our wine berries during the remainder of the ripening period until The Great Cluster Pluck visits itself upon us. We make a very exacting calculation of how many pounds of wine berries each plant has bedangled itself with. We look to the growing season to date, as documented on the FLOG, to see how far along the ripening curve we are as based on our tried and true 104.5 day ripening average from flowering to Cluster Plucking. We apply a little Kentucky Windage to that based on the factual degree day accumulation to date, the functional condition of the canopy, and the gut feel for the upcoming rain patterns and amounts. We have experience at this, and it is worth reminding everyone that experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

It’s all fairly academic and left brained until you are standing in front of a vine and start cutting off fruit, watching it drop to the ground. Some vines need it more than others. Syrah is the vine that takes it the hardest. That vine can set 10 tons of wine berries per acre. Ernie can ripen about 2 to 3 of them. The difference hits the ground as compost. And we have finally got the Viognier program figured out after 16 years - maybe.

So at about 70 seconds per vine (10 year average) we are thinning the crop load down, removing the late to ripen wings, and snipping off anything that looks to be a bit suspect. The result is some pretty farming fine looking clusters that are awaiting The Great Cluster Pluck of 2017. Of course, not everyone does it this way. Your mileage may vary.

So, just how hot was August 2017 in the last, best place to grow wine? Seek below and ye shall find!

The month of August 2017 recorded 688.7 degree days with a high temperature of 104.5 and a low temperature of 47.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This brings the 2017 growing season to date to 1,782.7 Degree Days.

The 4 prior vintage Degree Day accumulations are as follows 1,822 (2016), 1,997 (2015), 1,886 (2014) and 1,737 (2013.) Tack on another 300 Degree Days for September and we top out just under 2,100 Degree Days for the vintage and that is just about as farming fine as it gets.


We received 0.24 inches of measurable precipitation during the month bringing the growing season to date total up to 6.27 inches. We received no measurable precipitation during June and July. It looks like September will give us something. Hopefully enough to rinse the dust of the wine berries and quell some forest fires. They are getting out of hand, time for Mother Nature to start putting out.

Kindest Regards,


Dena & Ernie

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2017 Pinot Noir In Flagrante!

Hello and Welcome, 

We just saw our first legitimate “Blazing” pink wine berries that signal The Great Cluster Pluck of 2017 is no longer just an abstract notion, it’s really gonna happen! Sure they are small, but there are enough ¼ pound clusters out there to make up about 75 tons. Yeah, that’s about 600,000 clusters of wine berries. So, ah, what are you doing the first couple weeks of Octo-Vember?

But there was also some “Fake News.” Every once in a while some mauve colored wine berries catch your eye and you think, wow they are really starting to color up quick. Of course we are talking about Pinot Noir, not Chardonnay. Mauve colored Chardonnay is what we see at the end of the season with just a Mother’s touch of Botrytis.

These dark wine berries are “push outs” or in today’s vernacular “Fake News.” This is how it happens. As the wine berries on the cluster start to increase in size, there is just not enough room on the stem to hold them all. Eventually, a set of 5 or 6 wine berries get pushed away from the stem by the other wine berries and they break the vascular connection to the stem. When that happens, they desiccate and turn purple. Their development is arrested at that point and they will never ripen. While this is an unfortunate event, it is not uncommon. Nothing personal, just farming.

Now consider that other vine fruit that everyone who doesn’t read our FLOG thinks is a vegetable. The ubiquitous tomato can be separated from the mother vine and the fruit will ripen up just fine. Not so with wine berries. Once you cut them, you own them and they will not continue to develop aroma and flavor or sugar for that matter. So we invest a little extra time to be sure. Think twice and cut once.

The first real blazing wine berry was spotted on Julian Calendar day 218 in block 25, which is Dijon clone 777 grafted onto 44-53 rootstock (August 6th, 2017.) This is a couple weeks later than the past three inferno-like vintages. However, August 2017 has crossed the 104 degree line more than once. We think this was the coaxing these wine berries needed to show “a little skin.”

Kindest Regards,


Dena & Ernie