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, September 30, 2017

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2017 September

This is the September 2017 Climate Update from Amalie Robert Estate. A FLOG communication.

And since the holidays are just up ahead of us, we would like to share an early Christmas gift with everyone.

Once again, Amalie Robert Estate finds itself on a Top 100 list. This year we have earned the top Pinot Noir spot with 93 points for the 2012 The Uncarved Block from Wine & Spirits “Top 100 Best Buys of the Year!”

The Master Farmer (MF) exam is scheduled to begin in October, and Ernie has been preparing for it since he drilled in the winter cover crop last fall.

Every year about this time, winegrowers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley take this exam. Unlike other wine accreditations such as MW, MS, WSET et al, the MF must achieve a passing grade each year. It’s really quite a Cluster Pluck when you get right down to it.

A MF must deliver healthy, mature wine berries that have stunning aromas and flavors regardless of the degree day accumulations, expected or unexpected rainfall, and be pristine exemplars of the variety with balanced acids (malic and tartaric) and sugars (glucose and fructose.) This is a pretty tall order to fill each year at Amalie Robert Estate that includes 6 varieties of wine berries covering 35 acres represented by about 55,000 vines. That’s roughly 800,000 clusters to be plucked, all by hand. Yeah, it’s a long way to the top if you got some grapes to haul.

At first light of the first morning of The Great Cluster Pluck, the MF’s plan is revealed for all to see. Well maintained tractors sporting fully inflated tires and full tanks of diesel are hitched to harvest trailers containing clean harvest bins with lids (to keep the rain and yellow jackets out) and buckets and extra buckets. Humans from all walks of life descend upon the vineyard with harvest shears at the ready. Clipboards with color coded control sheets and extra pens are clearly evident. The First Aid and water stations are mobile and always very close by. We are about to get it on, or get them off. Either is acceptable nomenclature.

The MF knows each block’s clone and rootstock combination and he is familiar with the soils they are planted into. He knows which blocks mature early. He knows if given the opportunity, which blocks to let hang a little longer. He knows a mug of steaming morning accelerant with dark chocolate is the best way to quietly watch the sunrise.

And so it goes, each day the MF has a new harvest target package identifying the blocks to be Cluster Plucked and in what order. When it is time to take the Chardonnay, the MF knows to start with the white wine berries while the buckets are clean before moving to the red wine berries. However, the interplanted Viognier is co-plucked with the Syrah. He knows that too and he knows why.

After the wine berries are delivered for the day, the MF collects the harvest buckets and does not let them be stacked. The juice will dry and permanently adhere the buckets into a 20 foot column of useless plastic. Tires are checked with more than just a swift kick, fuel tanks are filled and walk around inspections detect any loss of vital fluids, such as brake fluid. The MF likes a Dog Nose Beer (cold and wet) to celebrate the bounty of the harvest and skating past the pitfalls Mother Nature has set for him.

The MF is more than just connected with the land – it owns him. He is the steward of the mental construct that he has implemented to the best of his ability. The MF does not understand irrigation; he leaves that duty to Mother Nature. He does his best to preserve available soil moisture to keep the vine canopy functioning with the goal of achieving optimal aroma and flavor development for each variety of wine he grows. However, the MF understands erosion and erosion control with nutrient fixing cover crops. The MF performs tractor maintenance, knows when something should be fixed and when it should be replaced. Everything he drives runs on diesel.

The Master Farmer exam is administered over approximately 6 weeks (24x7) and concludes with the Syrah planted in lucky block 13. Then preparations begin for the 2018 Master Farmer exam with pruning.

The MF understands numbers. The MF knows they can be a guide, rules of the road that in some cases must be adhered to and in other cases, such as the speed limit, are more subject to interpretation. The MF knows to never pass on the opportunity to utilize the facilities.

We accumulated 426.4 degree days for September, which is “just fine.” The high temperature was 98.6 and the low temperature was 41.0. This brings the 2017 growing season to date degree days to 2,209.1. And that is right in the Master Farmer’s wheel house.

However, the big news is the lashing rain we received around midmonth. This was a variable rain event in that the rain received varied by the location. We were fortunate to receive about 2.7 inches over the course of 5 days. This rain event allowed the vines to rehydrate and lower the sugar concentration in the wine berries. The net effect was to allow more hang time to fully develop aromas and flavors without excess alcohol potential. Total rain for the month of September was 3.13 inches and the growing season to date total is 9.40 inches.

Then, as if pre-ordained, sunny, breezy and dry conditions prevailed as we began the Master Farmer exam aka The Great Cluster Pluck of 2017. Drama ensued forthwith in the form of a terminal well pump, loss of power at the winery and a broken clutch return spring on the tractor. All par for the course and fair game for the Master Farmer exam.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie