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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: 2018 April

Hello and Welcome, 
This is the 2018 April Climate Update from Amalie Robert Estate. A FLOG communication. 
Springtime in Wine Country is almost as exciting as harvest. There are sunny days and rainy days. Warm temperatures and cool temperatures. Hail is mostly a Springtime event, however we are sure that with all of the uncertainty in the world, that it may very well become a fall event. As in “What the hail!?”

 End posts, they're not just for wires.
Click on the image to see our vineyard floor overseer in action.

And then there is budbreak. This is the sign we are looking for from Mother Nature. It shows us that the vines have wintered over from last year’s Cluster Pluck and they are ready for the growing season. As the first couple of leaves unfurl, the vines look like they are sporting a line of little green butterflies. This lasts about 14.7 seconds, and then they start growing like the fruit bearing vines they are. Raising catch wires is the next task on the horizon and approaching rapidly.

But wait, let’s enjoy the moment. Springtime in wine country also gives us a wonderful palate of blooms on all sorts of plants. Mother Nature really puts on a show! Colors, textures and aromas from all sorts of flora attract the ever busy bee and the cycle of pollination is carried out dutifully.

And Ernie has his own cycle this time of year. His job is to feed our vines. Sounds quite simple, and it is, really. But just like everything in farming, the devil is in the details. Let’s review, shall we?

His first job is to incorporate the cover crops he drilled in last fall. Note this pre-supposes that the cover crop got drilled in last Fall. And it did. Last fall the vineyard was treated to a cover crop blend of Austrian winter peas and barley. The idea here is to have the peas set Nitrogen in the soil and the barley to take it up and hold it until the spring.

Nitrogen is mobile in the soil. That means the winter rains will wash it away if there is not some plant to take it up from the soil. Just think of the peas as a solar panel generating electricity and the barley as the battery that holds that energy until the spring. That’s when Ernie comes along and turns the soil so that the Nitrogen is released into the soil and the vine roots can pick it up. That’s the goal, feeding our vines without the use of chemical fertilizers. These cover crop plants also hold the soil on the hill in the face of daunting winter rains. Ha, it’s a twofer!

So, Ernie’s first pass is with the virtually indestructible chisel plow. What a great piece of farming equipment. It is relatively inexpensive, does not require power from the tractor and is really hard, but not impossible, to break. This implement attaches to the crawler and Ernie drives it about 2 miles per hour through every other row. Ideally these are the rows with the cover crop and not the rows with the permanent grass.

Click on the image to see Ernie and the chisel plow in action.

The chisel plow also performs double duty. The primary objective is to open our silty clay loam Bellpine soil to make it easy for the (easy to break) rototiller pass. Seven shanks go down about 8 to 10 inches and open up the soil.

While those shanks are down there, they also perform a little root pruning. Vines are always trying to find soil moisture and the shallow roots pick up the easy soil moisture during the spring and fall. Ernie is having none of it. He wants deep roots to help the vines find soil moisture during the dry months of August and September. Ernie schedules his annual trip to the dentist after this pass to restore any loose fillings that may have gone missing.

Right, now it is on to the rototiller pass. The first step is to inspect and replace any broken tines from the fall cover crop regime. If he is lucky, he can skate by without having to replace any clutch disks. But this is farming, and usually if not for bad luck, there is no luck at all.

Click on the image to see Ernie and the rototiller in action.

The rototiller, for all its agrarian vagaries, does a very good job of incorporating the nitrogen rich cover crop plants into the soil where all manner of microbes, worms and other no-see-ums are waiting for them. It’s dinner time on the vineyard floor!

And it looks nice, all fluffed up like that. It is important to have a little air exchange in the soil. Most microbes are aerobic and they need oxygen to function properly. The rototiller does this at no extra charge. And it helps to level the rows and our side hills. Ernie had to terrace some parts of the vineyard due to the steep side slopes. The rototiller helps move the soil from the uphill side to the downhill side, making a level surface to drive on. The rototiller is not such a bad implement after all.

Next Ernie hooks up the Schmeiser seed drill! Woohoo! We are going to drill some cover crop now! This is the third and final pass in the cover crop rows, putting down the new summer cover crop seeds.

Click on the image to see Ernie and the Schmeiser in action.

Amalie Robert Estate is a dry farmed vineyard, we are “True to the soil and True to the vintage. ®” So the summer cover crops have to get by on the morning dew we receive from our on-shore flows coming in from the Pacific Ocean. These cover crops also have to provide nutrition for the voracious, carnivorous insects that roam the vineyard.

Lady bugs, earwigs, mites and all other manner of insects are on guard against cane borers and parasitic mites that feed on our vines. These good bugs are the front line of defense in keeping our vines healthy and producing world class wines.
And when they can’t find bad bugs to eat, you still have to feed them. That’s one reason we use Buckwheat and Vetch for our summer cover crop blend. These plants need very little water, produce pollen (which is protein) for our army of good bugs and will set Nitrogen to feed our vines in the fall.

When it is all said and done, Ernie makes 3 passes in every other row to set our vineyard floor straight for the growing season. It’s about 18 acres worth of land, or 20 lineal miles that he is cycling through. Those 3 passes combine to make a total of about 60 lineal miles, at about 2 miles per hour. This saves him from having to use chemical fertilizers to feed our vines, and that is a good thing. And he has to mow the permanent rows, twice, at 3 miles an hours - go speed racer! If you sent Ernie an e-mail in April and did not get a response, now you know why. What a Springtime workload this man has!

Ernie, right in the middle of it.

Now before we get onto the task of shoot positioning, raising catchwires, and harnessing all of the vine’s Springtime growth, let’s do the numbers while we still have time.

The high temperature for April was 82.90 degrees recorded on the 24th at 3:24 pm. The low temperature was 31.50 degrees recorded on the 3rd at midnight. After gently massaging 3,600 data points, we find an April degree day accumulation of 110.10 degree days. The second half of the month was responsible for 71% of the heat accumulation, logging 78.65 degree days.

And we start the 2018 growing season with our soils holding a good amount of moisture. Rainfall for April totaled 5.80 inches. As a dry farmed vineyard, our objective is to manage the available soil moisture through the summer growing season.

If we can make it to September, we usually can get a little rainfall to extend our ripening period into October. As we are all painfully aware after these last few vintages, sugar accumulation is a function of heat, and aroma and flavor are a function of time on the vine.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Friday, April 20, 2018

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: 2018 Bud Break and Breaking News!

Hello and Welcome to Vintage 2018!

This is an Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update for 2018. A FLOG communication.

The vines are awake and thanks to a blast of near 90-degree heat in mid-April, they are on the move! And they need to be. They only have about 6 months to ripen aromatically stunning and wonderfully expressive aromas and flavors. No time to waste!

And Ernie was right out there in the middle of it. Can you see him in there? His job this time of year is to change out about 18 acres of vineyard floor – about 20 lineal miles worth - at 2 miles per hour. Out with the old Winter cover crop and in with the brand spanking new Spring cover crop.

Farmers do it in the rain!

The purpose is to provide Springtime nutrition to the vines by incorporating the plants we grew over the winter, so we do not need to add chemical fertilizers to our soil. More on that when we FLOG you with the April Climate Update.

Yes, of course, there are numbers involved. We saw the first buds breaking just before Earth Day in the newest Wadenswil Blocks. We are officially calling April 20th the first day of the 2018 growing season. For everyone who wears tin foil hats and pocket protectors like Ernie, that is Julian Calendar day 110.

Breaking News: Côte Rôtie from Oregon
And speaking of numbers we have some breaking news. It seems that impressive 94-point review for Ernie’s 2012 Top Barrel Syrah has even more meaning than we were aware of.

Having not only the highest score, but the first and only 94-point review for an Estate Grown Willamette Valley Syrah was pretty heartwarming, but there is more to the story. A little spelunking in the Vinous Media database revealed something quite stunning. Maybe the Special Counsel should be looking in there…

Ernie’s cool climate Estate Grown Syrah program is styled after his interpretation of Côte Rôtie. The Syrah grown in that part of the Northern Rhône valley is what really trips his trigger. Guigal and Chapoutier were early influencers that have left an indelible mark on his mind, and maybe some brain damage too. And so Dena let him have an acre to see what he could do.

Well, first things first. He called his friend Dick Erath to come walk the property in 2000 after the cherry trees were pulled and the soil was ready for planting. That was early March and Ernie had Dick up on the hill standing where he wanted to plant his Syrah block. Oddly enough, that exact spot is where Ernie would plant his Chardonnay block and Dick would return in 2013 to conspire with Ernie to make Pabuk’s Gift late harvest Chardonnay. Right, back to the main story.

Dick, standing in 20 miles per hour wind gusts with one hand firmly grasping the hat on his head, was not convinced. “What about down there by your house? See those trees down there are not really being affected by this wind.” Dick shouted. “That area is more protected and will be warmer. You will have a better chance of ripening Syrah down there. Not that you will ripen it, but you will have a better chance.” Dick Erath has made a significant impact on the Oregon Wine industry, and at least at Amalie Robert Estate, continues to do so.

Right, so now we know where Ernie’s little Côte Rôtie from Oregon block is going to be planted, but what to plant? Ah, off to France where he would fortuitously meet Marcel Guigal. And so, there we were, tasting the La Turque from barrel in the Guigal cellars. Ernie looked at Dena and said, “Let’s just make this.”

While it is illegal to take cuttings from France and bring them back to Oregon, knowledge transfer is not so encumbered. Clearly Clone 95 (another Dick Erath contribution to the Oregon Wine Industry) is the exception to the rule. You can read the full story at Rusty Gaffney’s PinotFile site. By the way: our Clone 95 block is bearing fruit this year.

At the end of the day, Ernie left the Guigal facility in Ampuis with a bit of a buzz. Clearly from the wine, but also from the time spent with Marcel Guigal where they talked clones. Northern Rhône clones. Ernie settled on the 4 clones most likely suited to make exceptional Côte Rôtie.

The similarities of Côte Rôtie, in the Northern Rhône valley of France and Dallas, Oregon in the great Pacific Northwest of the United States include the relative proximation to the 45th parallel. While Dallas, Oregon is just below the 45th parallel at 44.9193 degrees, Ampuis, at the heart of Côte Rôtie, is at 45.4890 degrees.

We share a cool climate growing season, but the similarities end there. Our sedimentary Bellpine series soil in the Willamette Valley tends to contribute more floral aromatics and is geologically unrelated to the granite and schist soils found in Côte Rôtie. Yeah, no schist.

Back in Oregon, the hunt was on to find these 4 clones. It turned out two were easily sourced from longtime friend Steve Doerner at Cristom. So, Ernie got two clones in the ground straight away. And two were not so easily sourced. Syrah - Why be difficult, with just a little more effort, you can be impossible?

The next two clones took a couple of years to source. “Don’t give up on your dream” was the encouragement offered by the late Witness Tree winemaker Bryce Bagnall. And so, Ernie persevered, holding open a half acre of land destined for 2 more clones of Syrah.

And when he finally got them, he ended up with a little more than he bargained for. The clonally correct Syrah vines he picked up had a few Viognier vines mixed in. The nursery man told him that they had made a mistake when grafting and some Viognier was in the mix.

Ernie was in shock. He had waited, literally, years for this hair brained scheme to hatch and now this. What to do? Well, he reasoned, they have Viognier interplanted in Côte Rôtie, so maybe this is a good thing. It was certainly looking more and more like Côte Rôtie from Oregon. He collected his plants and drove back to the vineyard.

It took three years, but those vines finally produced the fruit he was so eagerly awaiting. And just like the nursery man had foretold, some of those Syrah vines produced white grapes. Ernie doesn’t call it Viognier, he calls it white Syrah. So, you could say he not only co-ferments with Viognier, he co-grows it as well. He won’t say that, but you could.

Nothing is inherently good or bad, except a snakebite, until it gets a name. Our first bottling of Syrah from the 2006 vintage was without a fanciful name. The 2007 vintage (2007? Really? Yes, 2007. Really.) was featured as “Best Domestic Syrah of the Year” by Wine & Spirits Magazine and answered one of our neighbor’s questions. He said, “Yeah, you should plant Syrah and let us know how it works out for you.”

And that is the reason, beginning with the 2008 vintage, that wine has a fanciful name. We call it Satisfaction, because that is how it worked out for us.

So, what about this Top Barrel bottling? The Top Barrel is that moment in the cellar when you thief out a barrel sample and are immediately taken back to the same experience tasting La Turque from barrel at Guigal. Aromas are powerful things and can trigger very vivid memories. The first one of these moments came with the cool and protracted 2010 vintage.

Ernie said, “No Farmin’ Way am I going to blend this barrel away! We are going to bottle this separately. This is World Class, the Real Deal, Côte Rôtie from Oregon!” And it just so happened that the barrel was on the top row of barrels. So, the name became self-evident – Top Barrel.

After making several tractor passes to incorporate the Winter cover crop, prepare the soil for the Spring cover crop and then finally drill in the Spring cover crop, Ernie had some time on his hands. That and it started to rain, so the tractor work was put on hold.

He queried the Vinous Media database for 2012 wines from the Northern Rhône to see how his top scoring and first ever Estate Grown, Willamette Valley 94-point Top Barrel Syrah would stack up. The neat thing about Vinous Media, is that the same reviewer, Josh Raynolds, covers both Oregon and the Northern Rhône. That removes the key variable in comparing and contrasting wines.

Here is what he found out. The top scoring 2012 vintage wine from Côte Rôtie was a 95-point review, and there were 3 of them. Ok, so that told him that his 94-point review was in the ballpark. And it turns out that Guigal had one of those 95-point reviews. It was La Landonne at a stunning $525 (per bottle) release price.

But he also found out that the other two “La La” bottlings, La Mouline and La Turque, each earned a 94-point review from the same reviewer that rated the Top Barrel with a 94-point review.

Here are the Guigal Côte Rôtie from France reviews along with the Amalie Robert Côte Rôtie from Oregon review:

Guigal La Mouline:
Lurid ruby. Heady, intensely perfumed aromas of red fruit preserves, incense, smoky minerals and lavender, accompanied by an Asian spice flourish that builds as the wine opens up. Stains the palate with sweet, seamless raspberry liqueur, spicecake and floral pastille flavors that are lifted and given spine by core of juicy acidity. Puts on weight and spreads out slowly on the strikingly long and precise finish, which features resonating mineral and floral notes. - 94 points, Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media

Guigal La Turque:
Youthful violet. Powerful, smoke- and mineral-accented black and blue fruits and incense on the explosively perfumed nose. Stains the palate with sweet blueberry, cherry, violet pastille and spicecake flavors that show superb depth as well as vivacity. Seamless and alluringly sweet; a core of juicy acidity adds lift and spine. Supple tannins build steadily on an extremely long, focused finish that leaves suave floral and Moroccan spice notes behind. - 94 points, Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media

Amalie Robert Top Barrel:
Brilliant violet. A complex, expansive bouquet evokes ripe black and blue fruits, smoky Indian spices and potpourri, backed by subtle olive and cola nuances. Sweet, sappy and penetrating on the palate, offering intense blueberry, cassis, bitter chocolate and spicecake flavors and a strong suggestion of candied violet. Strongly channels the savory qualities of the northern Rhône and finishes extremely long, smooth and spicy, with subtle tannins building slowly. - 94 points, Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media

“Amalie Robert, whose vineyard is in the western part of the Willamette Valley, makes a very strong case for Syrah, but production of their two graceful wines is painfully small, as in just a few barrels of wine per vintage.” - Josh Raynolds, Oregon’s Expanding Palate of Wines, February 2018, Vinous Media

While it is too soon to make any substantive predictions about vintage 2018, we are hopeful that the crews arrive on time, the tractors all start, the sun shines and the rains fall at the appropriate times and in the correct amounts. That would be the vintage of the year!

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Amalie Robert Estate: 2016 Wadenswil Selection at the Willamette Valley Winery Association Pinot Noir Auction

Hello and Welcome, 

The 2018 Willamette Valley Winery Association Pinot Noir Auction is this weekend. The pre-event festivities begin Friday, April 6th and the auction takes place Saturday, April 7th. Note: Wine flies free on Alaska Airlines. Just saying... 

Amalie Robert Estate has contributed a very special 10 case lot of Wadenswil clone 2A as our inaugural auction offering. The wine is a single barrel selection from a one acre block of estate grown Wadenswil clone 2A planted at the turn of the century and fermented with indigenous yeast and whole clusters. 

Wadenswil, yeah we do that. And we have been doing it for some time now. Our sedimentary soil series is called Bellpine, a well drained silty clay loam. Wadenswil clone 2A is a Swiss selection of Pinot Noir. Some things just work, and some things are just farming marvelous! This is one of those things.

Where the Wadenswil grows – Ernie and his Bellpine soil

We present the following links, helpful information and Amalie Robert Estate Wadenswil history to fully prepare you for the Wadenswil experience.

What is Wadenswil clone 2A? Read the Amalie Robert Estate: Interview with a Clone - Wadenswil 2A

Tell me more about the Amalie Robert Estate Auction Lot: 2016 Vintage Wadenswil Selection Pinot Noir

Planning to attend? We look forward to sharing our Wadenswil clone 2A with you. And maybe some delicious Chardonnay and top rated cool climate Syrah.

Can't attend, but you simply must have this wine? Please contact Dena at for information on submitting a proxy bid.

Follow this link to learn more about the Willamette Valley Winery Association Pinot Noir Auction: Willamette - The Pinot NoirAuction

Now the good stuff: A historical vertical of Wadenswil clone 2A from Amalie Robert Estate 2007 - 2014 as reviewed by Josh Raynolds.

2014: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir Wadenswil Clone Willamette Valley
Limpid ruby-red. Highly perfumed aromas of black raspberry, cherry cola, exotic spices and sandalwood pick up a floral overtone as the wine stretches out. Palate-staining red berry preserve, blood orange, rose pastille and spicecake flavors become deeper with air while maintaining vivacity. Finishes on a suave floral note, displaying superb clarity, lingering spiciness and silky tannins that merge smoothly into the energetic fruit. 93 Points, Vinous.

2013: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir Wadenswil Clone Willamette Valley
Brilliant red. Spicy and brisk on the nose, displaying lively red fruit, floral and succulent herb character and a hint of vanilla. Juicy, focused and light on its feet, offering energetic raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that take a sweeter turn as the wine opens up. Shows very good depth for the vintage, with no rough edges and a long, subtly tannic finish that leaves notes of cherry pit and star anise behind. 91 Points, Vinous.

2012: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir Wadenswil Clone Willamette Valley
Brilliant red. Potent mineral-tinged aromas of black raspberry, cherry-cola and smoky Indian spices, with a hint of lavender in the background. Concentrated yet lithe on the palate, offering intense dark berry compote and bitter cherry flavors that slowly become sweeter with aeration. Chewy tannins come on late, adding grip to the very long, penetrating, fruit-driven finish. 93 Points, Vinous

2011: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir Wadenswil Clone Willamette Valley
Lucid red. Red and dark berries, incense, lavender and smoky minerals on the pungent, exotically perfumed nose. Juicy black raspberry and cherry flavors are lifted and given spine by juicy acidity and a hint of peppery spices. Finishes lithe, spicy and penetrating, with fine-grained tannins and emphatic floral and cherry pit qualities. 92 Points, Vinous.

2010: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir Wadenswil Clone Willamette Valley
Bright red. High-pitched cherry and Asian spice aromas are deepened by notes of sassafras, woodsmoke and cola. Stains the palate with sappy red and dark berry flavors and tangy acidity adding lift and cut. An exotic floral nuance emerges with air and carries through a long, sweet and persistent finish. While this energetic pinot is built to age, it has a lot of immediate appeal. 93 Points, Vinous.

2009: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir Wadenswil Clone Willamette Valley
Bright red. Heady, exotic aromas of candied red fruits, sandalwood, lavender and rose. Juicy, sweet and focused, offering fresh raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that put on weight with air. Shows an array of spice and floral qualities on the finish, along with notes of candied raspberry and bitter rhubarb. Wild stuff, and balanced to age. 93 Points, Vinous.

2008: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir Wadenswil Clone Willamette Valley
Bright red. Displays an array of red and dark berry scents, along with notes of cherry-cola, pungent herbs and baking spices. Sappy, deeply pitched cherry and black raspberry flavors are well concentrated but surprisingly lively, picking up a zesty mineral quality with air. Dusty tannins add grip to the sweet, incisive finish. This benefits a lot from air; it was fermented with all whole clusters, as are all the pinots here. 91+ Points, Vinous.

2007: Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir The Reserve (100% Wadenswil) Willamette Valley
Limpid red. Bright strawberry, raspberry and Asian spices on the nose, with a seductive note of potpourri that gains strength with air. Sappy, spicy, attractively sweet red fruit flavors are energized by tangy blood orange and white pepper nuances, with a note of medicinal cherry adding grip. Plays deep cherry off tangy strawberry on the finish, which is precise, lively and very long. This will age on its energy and balance. 93 Points, Vinous.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie