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 – 2021 Amalie Robert Estate, LLC

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: May 2021

Hello and Welcome, 

Got a minute? That’s what we hear this time of year. It comes from 36 acres of vines. Each one of them is looking for a minute of our time. It’s pretty simple math really, 52,000 vines need about 870 hours of hand labor to put up the first set of trellis catch wires and tuck their shoots inside of them. Once that is completed, the weather heats up in June and the vines grow an inch (or more) each day. Then the vines are ready for the second set and finally the third set of trellis catch wires. Each set of wires needs another minute of time, or 870 hours - depending on your perspective. 

Mt. Jefferson making an appearance.

FLOG communication (Farming bLOG) by Dena & Ernie from Amalie Robert Estate. Oregon Willamette Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Have a look and see what we see on Instagram @AmalieRobert Estate. We are posting on Facebook and LinkedIn. Check us out if you can. We can use all the likes we can get…
May is Ernie’s Birthday Month. He is a Taurus. And for those of you who hadn’t figured that out yet, we felt it was about time to let you in on it. His contribution to the Amalie Robert Estate Pinot Noir portfolio is called Estate Selection. (Men make selections, and women make cuvées.)

Will you be in our area? Amalie Robert Estate is open all summer by appointment for vineyard tours and tastings. Select your preferred day and time with the Big Red Button.

Amalie Robert Estate about 15 miles southwest of Salem.


Canopy Management - It’s catch wire time in Willamette Valley wine country.
Miles and miles of hi-tensile wires. Readers of this FLOG know that an acre (43,560 square feet) of vines at Amalie Robert Estate represents 5,808 lineal feet. Just imagine all of those vine rows put end to end, instead of next to each other. For comparison, a mile is 5,280 lineal feet. Thanks to farming math, we can easily figure there are 1.1 lineal miles of vines per acre.

And on that acre there are some posts, EIEIO!

And on those posts we ran some wire, EIEIO!
In fact there are 8 wires on each of those posts. And thanks to our 1.1 lineal feet to square feet ratio, we know that’s 8.8 miles of wire per acre. There is a fruiting wire which holds the main cane and bears the weight of all the wine berries. There is a tendril wire about a foot above the fruiting wire so this year’s shoots have something to wrap their tendrils around, and then there are 3 pairs of catch wires.

Tendril holding on to a catch wire.

The fruiting wire and tendril wire are permanent. In other words they do not move up and down the post to hold the vines growth. They do move however, if a wayward tractor were to inadvertently run into a post. This is an unfortunate, but not uncommon, occurrence in farming.
Catch wires, do your job!
Their job is to contain the vine’s explosive springtime growth. Did we mention the trellis design at Amalie Robert Estate is called VSP? That stands for Vertical Shoot Position. Left to their natural tendencies, vines grow along the ground until they find someone they can lean on, like an oak tree. Then they use their tendrils to climb right up it. They are vines, that’s what they do.

VSP (Vertical Shoot Position) trellis at Amalie Robert Estate.

Since they can’t find any oak trees, they lean on us. More specifically, they grow into the trellis and our job is to vertically position their shoots into a set of horizontal wires. Surely, you can see how the vines upward growth is confused by this juxtaposition of horizontal wires. They need help. In our case, 870 hours worth of help.
Vertical shoots clipped between horizontal wires.

What does this mean and why should I care?
The goal is to harvest clean wine berries and ferment the sugar out of them. A properly trellised vine will more likely than not produce perfectly developed aroma and flavor wine berries free of rot, mold or any other affliction. Those wine berries make the best wine.
Rotted wine berries are no good. The birds won’t even eat the rotted ones. They will just fly over you and your picnic and drop little white spots on everything to show their disapproval with your lackadaisical approach and viticultural ineptitude.
This is something a 14 gauge can help with. Our 3 pairs of trellis catch wires are 14 gauge hi-tensile wire. When properly positioned at the most opportune time, we can catch the vines growth and direct the shoot growth upward allowing for sun exposure and airflow around each cluster of wine berries. This is the best-case scenario of canopy management. Ignore this step of winegrowing at your peril.

Amalie Robert Pinot Noir clusters enjoying the sun.
It’s most likely junk.
Welcome to the equipment corner. Our spring surprise THIS year was an inoperative UDOR diaphragm pump on the Turbo-mist Sprayer. Ernie discovered this early one Saturday morning. Being Saturday and all, there was no help available from the sprayer or pump manufacturer. Fortunately, there was still some downed branches from the ice storm to clean up. Ernie sent the appropriate E-mails so they would be waiting for the unsuspecting recipients early Monday morning and then he pivoted.

Turbo-mist sprayer with UDOR pump.

Monday morning arrived with a mission. UDOR is the Italian company that manufactures the pump. And that was Ernie’s first call. Clint was a fairly helpful engineering type and he said “Well, maybe you got lucky.” Ernie had to remind Clint that even though he was growing wine, this was really just plain old farming. Agriculture at its finest.
“Well then, if the diaphragms in the pump failed and the water mixed with the oil, its most likely junk.” This is what Ernie was looking to hear. A definitive “GO or NO GO” evaluation. Clint imparted a few words of wisdom, including some other farming anecdotes that can not be reproduced here, and sent Ernie on his way.

UDOR diaphragm pump "in situ".

Once the pump was separated from the sprayer, it was time to pull the drain plug. Like most other pumps or engines, water in the crankcase (where the crankshaft is located) is not a good sign. That is where the oil goes to lubricate the metal surfaces that have very tight clearances. Water in the oil is a telltale sign that you have exceeded the equipment’s mechanical limitations. Do not pass go and PAY $200.

"Open pump" transplant.

With that diagnostic step out of the way, Ernie was looking for a new pump – RFN. Tuesday morning the Turbo-mist E-mails were finally replied to. Those guys are up in Canada and may be a little slow in understanding the urgency of the situation. But again, this is farming, so what’s the big rush?
The Turbo-mist guys said call the Oregon dealer, and they provided a phone number – to Yakima, Washington. The dealer in Yakima, said he had a few pumps on order, but didn’t know when they would arrive. Then he asked why Ernie didn’t call the Oregon dealer. Right. Continue farming.
The parts man in Oregon said he had 3 pumps in stock. Ernie said put my name on one and he would come up to look at it right after lunch. In faming parlance “lunch” is a mythical time period that often buys you some time to finish doing whatever in the hell you were trying to get done before taking on a new (and unexpected) project. It rarely does, but sometimes can, involve food.
On the way out the door, the phone rings. It’s the parts man calling to say he can’t find the pumps. They are not in the parts bin where they are supposed to be. OK, thanks for the call. Turns out it really was time for lunch. After lunch, the phone rings again, and the pumps have been found. Procurement resumes forthwith.
Other than the fact this pump was green, and Ernie’s was red, everything else seemed to check out. Ernie buckled his precious cargo into the front seat for the 90 minute drive back to the farm. And that’s about all that gets done “after lunch.”

Ernie's precious cargo belted in and ready for the ride back to the vineyard.

Then next morning it is installation time! A few parts specific to the Turbo-mist application needed to be swapped over from the old pump to the new one. The water manifolds were quick AND easy. All was going well until the drive sprocket had to be removed from the old pump and affixed to the new pump. Oh fudge. But Ernie didn’t say fudge.
Farming is a fairly basic proposition. Legal contracts can change that, but the agrarian endeavor is essentially digging in the dirt, tending whatever grows up and then trying to consume it. Dogs also have a simplistic view of their condition. When they see something new they either want to eat it or mate with it. And rhubarb DOES taste different if you own a dog.

Drive sprocket and slip bushing before assembly.

Ernie has adopted the Sherlock Holmes approach to farming. Once you remove the impossible, all that remains is the improbable. The pump’s drive sprocket is held onto the 6 spline shaft with a slip bushing. The outside diameter of the shaft is just a micrometer larger than the inside diameter of the slip bushing. The idea is that the slip bushing slides over the shaft with the sprocket attached. The tight tolerances keep everything from moving around.

Installing drive sprocket using percussive maintenance.

A final call to the Turbo-mist guys. “No, you should not have to go to a machine shop to press the drive sprocket on.” The only solution left was percussive maintenance. Once the splines were aligned in the bushing, it was tap, tap, tap with a small hammer. It actually started to “slip” onto the shaft!
Excited and encouraged, Ernie found the next bigger hammer, pow, pow, pow. A little more progress, but that was the end of the low hanging fruit. The next 90 minutes yielded another 1.5 inches of “slip” and the sprocket was finally installed on the new pump. Hallelujah! The sprayer is operational – for now.

Successful pump transplant.
Well look at the time! It’s numbers time!
May vintage 2021 was a fairly moderate month. Our high temperature was 92.7 degrees F recorded on May 31st at 5:24 pm. Our low temperature for the month was 33.8 degrees F recorded on May 8th at 5:48 am. May Degree Days were 281.2 bringing the season total to 518.0 Degree Days.

Year to date May Degree Day comparison.

We did not record any measurable precipitation for the month of May. We are not saying there wasn’t any, we just didn’t record any. This anomaly simply highlights the undeniable fact that for all of the statistical analysis you read, or are forced to absorb, it is all based on data collection.
And in some cases, data collection includes adjustments or “normalizing” of the underlying data. In other cases, data anomalies can result from: not observing or recording the data, just making it up as you see fit or deleting nonconforming data points. The final analysis may be distinct and unambiguous, but the underlying data often illuminate shades of gray.
Not unlike the likelihood of a “Double CGG” sequence occurring naturally. It could happen, but never has. Once the impossible is eliminated, all that remains is the improbable.
Based on his time abroad, Ernie has developed the European corollary: The facts, however interesting they may be, are irrelevant to the narrative.
Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Update: The Great Cluster Pluck in 105 Days - and Counting

Hello and Welcome, 


Flowers in Pommard Clone Pinot Noir. 
It seems everyone is back to work after the long weekend, including the vines. It’s not like you are going to tell 20 year old Pommard vines when to flower, especially those grafted onto 5C. But in the course of putting up our first set of trellis wires, they have decided now is their time. On June 1st we spied our first Pinot Noir flowers, and it was 103 degrees. We chose to commemorate the event with a glass of Pinot in Pink Rosé!

Winemaking: The Continuation of Terroir by Other Means.® A Farming bLOG (FLOG) communication from Dena & Ernie. Estate grown Amalie Robert Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley. Have a look and see what we see on Instagram @AmalieRobert Estate. We are posting on Facebook and LinkedIn. Check us out if you can. We can use all the likes we can get…
The Harvest Window Appears
Over the past 30 years or so, Pinot Noir wine berries in the Willamette Valley have usually achieved full aroma and flavor development 105 days AFTER flowering. So, we can now pencil in a harvest window, and that is a handy thing to have as we move through the growing season.
From the vine’s point of view, they are simply trying to ripen their seeds and attract some creature to deposit them hither and yon so they can reproduce. Kinda makes you feel bad for seedless grapes.
We just want to make wine. If you are into the Julian calendar, as we are, you can take June 1st (Day 152) and add 105 growing season days to get Day 257. And that day is the first potential day of harvest, September 14th. You can check our Julian Calendar math here.

Stages of wine berry flowering.

But first we must have pollination. Flowers are nice, but we are not going to have any clusters to pluck if there is no pollination. Good news is that the weather is supposed to be nice and wine berries are self-pollinating – they do not depend on bees as most other crops do for pollination.
After a couple weeks of pollination, we can check out the fruit set. The flowers that do not pollinate are called shatter and they fall off the stem. What is left are tiny green wine berries. Quantitatively speaking, if there are “a lot” of them, then the “fruit set” was good. If there are only a few, then you have a “poor set”.
The quality of fruit set gives you an idea of how many tons of wine berries you have on the vine. Watching the temperature over the next 45 days gives you an idea of how hot the growing season may be. If you are paying attention, somewhere in there is a plan to thin the potential crop load to match the growing season.

Flowers in Dijon Clone Chardonnay.

Vintage 2021 reminds us of vintage 2009 where we harvested early because the vines flowered early. And thus denied the birds their opportunity to freely feast upon our wine berries. It was a wonderful thing. However, in 2011 we flowered in July, and harvest was not scheduled until late October. The birds were back early that year with a vengeance (and friends and relations) when several TONS of wine berries took flight.
That’s what’s in store for us. Along with everything else Mother Nature and the farming endeavor can send our way. What are you going to be doing in 105 days?

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate: Vintage 2020 BOLO & Memorial Day Weekend Open House

Hello and Welcome,

May has been quite a busy month for the Pinot Noir vines at Amalie Robert Estate. They know there is only about 4 months to go before The Great Cluster Pluck. Yep, they are sitting pretty just waving in the breeze! Enjoy it while it lasts, because the first set of trellis catch wires is coming for you.
Winemaking: The Continuation of Terroir by Other Means.® A
Farming bLOG (FLOG) communication from Dena & Ernie. Estate grown Amalie Robert Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley. Have a look and see what we see on Instagram @AmalieRobert Estate. We are posting on Facebook and LinkedIn. Check us out if you can. We can use all the likes we can get…
Open House Weekend!
The winery will be open for outdoor tastings and guided vineyard tours this Memorial Day weekend, Friday through Monday, 10 am to 3 pm by appointment. If you can make it, please click on the BIG RED BUTTON to be among the very first to access our NEW tasting appointment page!

If you are going to be somewhere other than here, we have for you the BIG BLUE BUTTON! With a click of this button, you will be transported to a matrix of wines to select from without leaving the comfort of your digital appliance. All purchases above $300 include domestic ground shipping (your PROMO CODE is preloaded). And the NATIONWIDE spring shipping window is WFO (Wide Farming Open)!

Vintage 2020 Preview.
It is about that time of year when you get to taste the latest vintage Oregon White and Rosé wines. You won’t be seeing any from Amalie Robert, as we chose NOT to release any wine due to smoke taint. However, we can give you a few discussion points as you taste and talk your way through the valley.

Heavy Smoke in the Willamette Valley Vintage 2020
When: The most important question you can ask is when was the harvest date. The smoke entered our part of the Willamette Valley around Tuesday, September 8th right after Labor Day. If the grapes were harvested prior to that, there is little cause for concern. UNLESS the wines were blended with grapes harvested after the smoke entered the valley.
Where: Location made a significant difference in smoke exposure. The big fire that created the most smoke for us was from the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires. They were due east of Salem, and our vineyard, by about 60 miles. High winds helped the fires grow quickly and rapidly filled the valley with smoke. There were also large fires generating smoke south of Salem. We think the least affected areas early on were located at the north end of the valley, but eventually we all had some exposure.
How Much: Most wineries did micro ferments (using 5 gallon buckets) and sent the resulting wine out for analysis. While this was a good idea, the main lab we rely on, ETS located in St. Helena, was backed up. They were overloaded with samples, and closed due to fire danger for a few days, so getting results back before harvest was typically not possible. When we called, they suggested sending wine samples to Australia for testing, as they had experience with smoke taint and the turnaround time would be faster.
Exposure: When the grape skin is exposed to smoke, the particles cross the cell membrane and bind with sugar molecules (Glucose and Fructose). When tasting fresh grapes, they don’t taste smoky as the smoke compounds are bound to the sugars. After fermentation is complete, the smoke compounds are unbound from the fermented sugar molecules and can then be detected. The question is how much and at what point in the wines’ maturity will those aromas, flavors and textures be present. Sometimes right away, sometimes after a while and sometimes never.
Smoking Gun: The indicator compound is called Guaiacol. If the winery has tested the FINISHED wine for Guaiacol AFTER fermenting, but BEFORE going into toasted oak barrels, that would be good to know. Toasted oak barrels can also impart Guaiacol into the wine. And get this, you cannot test Syrah for smoke taint using Guaiacol as the marker, because Guaiacol is a naturally occurring compound in Syrah. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!
Our test after fermentation came back at over 8.0 parts per billion (ppb) and that is why we have no vintage 2020 wine to offer. Anything over 4.0 ppb is circumspect. Here is a resource from ETS covering the topic.

The Final Analysis: There were some fantastic wines made from vintage 2020. They are out there waiting to be discovered. And hopefully, vintage 2021 will be free of any environmental encumbrances and we can all get back to the task at hand.
Amalie Robert Estate Vintage 2020 Statement.
We have chosen to involuntarily withdraw from vintage 2020. We live on our vineyard and winery property and bore firsthand witness to the smoke event that spanned September 7th though the 16th. The intensity, duration and physical impact on our vines is undeniable.
Our underlying philosophy is to express the purity of our site through the unique characteristics of the vintage. We ferment with whole clusters, indigenous yeast and barrel age our wines for 18-24 months. We bottle without the addition of fining agents such as egg whites and we do not filter or otherwise manipulate our wines before bottling. We are 100% estate grown.
These traditional wine making fundamentals have stood the test of time well before we founded Amalie Robert Estate. They have also served us well for the past 20 years. When we release a bottle of wine you can depend upon our stewardship of the land from vine to bottle and commitment to excellence.
To make smoke taint free wine in vintage 2020 by following our guiding principles was simply not possible. We knew there was no pathway to release a premium quality wine under our name.
These are our choices, and they are the right choices for us. We have high hopes that these fires and the devastation they have caused will provide a strong impetus to better manage our natural resources, including the life sustaining air that all earthbound plants and animals require.
Additional Resources.

You can read our real-time, on-site updates written from the vineyard here.

2020 Vintage Update: Earth, Wind, Fire & Smoke

Special Update: Oregon Wildfires and Potential Harvest Impacts

Special Update: Oregon Wildfires II and Wine Implications

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate Situational Review: Inflorescence, Vine Spacing and PAR, Oh My!

Hello and Welcome, 

This is the status of vine growth mid-May vintage 2021. The vines are a bit ahead of themselves this year and we, as farmers, are following their lead. But we know where they are headed, we have seen this movie before. Funny thing is, the ending changes every time. 

Wadenswil inflorescence in Amalie Robert block 10.

Do you see those bumpy looking things in the middle of that shoot? Those are called inflorescence. If all goes well and according to plan, they will become clusters of wine berries. In this case Wadenswil wine berries, the best kind!
A FLOG communication (Farming bLOG) by Dena & Ernie from Amalie Robert Estate. Oregon Willamette Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Have a look and see what we see on Instagram @AmalieRobert Estate. We are ramping up on FaceBook! (If you don't like us, we don't wanna know…)

Inflorescence to flowers to wine berries.

Around mid-June they will flower and look like little golden pinecones. Come the middle of August they will start to turn mauve one by one and in no particular order that is apparent to humans. All of this precedes The Great Cluster Pluck that typically starts in October, but that is yet to be scheduled. We normally add 105 days to flowering to pencil in a harvest date - but not always.

Now you may be wondering how many of these yet to be clusters it takes to make one bottle of wine. We like the way you think! The simple answer is one ton of wine berries will produce about 60 cases of FINISHED wine. NOTE: Finished wine is the wine you have left over for bottling after sampling, laboratory analysis, spillage and wine tasting from barrels - repeatedly.

Wine tasting from barrel at Amalie Robert.

While this answer is accurate, it is not very illuminating. By the miracle of The Completion Backwards Principle (credit to The Tubes), we know that one 750 milliliter bottle of wine is produced from 2.78 pounds of wine berries. And this lays bare the inherent flaw in winemaking – we are mixing the US/Imperial and Metric system.
As most people who grow Pinot Noir will tell you, a typical cluster of Pinot Noir weighs in at about a quarter pound (112 grams). So logically, you would surmise that you need about 11 clusters of Pinot Noir to make a bottle of wine, more or less.
As a domestic producer of Pinot Noir, we know that a single acre of land is 43,560 square feet. If that land yields about 2.5 tons of wine berries, which is pretty close to the historical average for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, then we will produce about 150 cases of wine. The birds, deer and other nefarious creatures help to maintain a natural ecological limit on wine berry yields.
Now let’s drive home the point - 150 cases of wine from that one acre is roughly 20,000 clusters (5,000 lbs. X 4 clusters per pound). But how many clusters are we asking EACH VINE to produce? How many bottles of wine is that per vine?

Clusters on one Amalie Robert Pinot Noir vine. 

It depends on vine spacing. Right now the vines are not too concerned with any of this. They are busy growing leaves to harvest sunlight. Leaves form their solar array and that will provide energy to the vine and negative pressure to the roots to extract soil moisture. And they are looking for a specific spectral range of light from 400 to 700 nanometers. This spectral wave band is what vines use in the process of photosynthesis. This is known as Photosynthetic Active Radiation, abbreviated as PAR.
Typical Willamette Valley Oregon vine spacings for Pinot Noir using a Vertical Shoot Positioned (VSP) trellis are often between 6 and 8 feet. Since most vineyard sites are on hillsides with side slopes, much narrower spacing is not sustainable due to tractor rollover potential.

7.5 foot row spacing of solar array at Amalie Robert.

To get the lineal feet per acre of solar array (trellis) for each spacing, divide it into 43,560 square feet. For example, at our 7.5 foot row spacing, we have a solar array that is 5,808 feet long. Just imagine the vines all planted in a single row. The height of the canopy should then be 1:1 with the width of the rows to maximize sunlight harvesting. Pro Tip: Unless you want lower alcohol potential in the wine, then cut a shorter canopy.

4 foot spacing between vines at Amalie Robert.

Assuming a 4 foot spacing between the vines, we will have 1,452 vines in an acre of land. That is our 5,808 lineal feet divided by a vine every 4 feet. And each vine only has 30 square feet to work with which will help drive deep roots. Using our historical Willamette Valley Pinot Noir yield average of 2.5 tons per acre, this means we will end up with about 3.44 pounds of Pinot Noir clusters per vine. And at 4 clusters per pound, that works out to 14 clusters per 4 foot of solar array.
The wider the row and/or vine spacing, the more clusters are required of each vine. Here is another way to look at it – how many bottles are produced from a single vine? Or maybe how many vines are represented in a single bottle?

That brings us to the final conundrum – how many glasses of wine are there in a bottle of wine? This is an empirical evidence exercise best left to the individual reader. However, we do recommend replicated trials in a controlled environment. Hint: The answer is the same using milliliters or ounces.
Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: April 2021, Tilling and Drilling

Hello and Welcome, 

The April Pink Super Moon (on National HEMI Day 4/26) was quite a sight to see all up close and personal. Not that it was actually pink in color, but instead it derives its pink moniker from Phlox subulata—commonly called creeping phlox or moss phlox—which also went by the name “moss pink” which blooms in the northern HEMIsphere this time of year. And as you would imagine, the blooms are pink. 


A FLOG communication (Farming bLOG) by Dena & Ernie from Amalie Robert Estate. Oregon Willamette Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Have a look and see what we see on Instagram @AmalieRobert Estate. We are ramping up on FaceBook! (If you don’t like us, we don’t wanna know…)

In 1964, Chrysler’s new technology took the internal combustion engine world by force. The highly innovative and new design proved worthy on the racetracks, dragstrips and backstreet grudge matches. While several HEMI displacements were engineered from the early Red Ram 241, to the 331 “Baby HEMI”, the 354 and dual 4 barrel carbureted 392 in your Dad’s Chrysler Imperial, the final factory displacement of 426 cubic inches just made the 7.0 liter cut off for sanctioned racing. And that is why the BIG 3 auto manufacturers of the day each had 426, 427, 428 or 429 cubic inch racing engines. Their goal was to put them into the lightest cars possible in hopes of winning races at racetracks and dragstrips across the country to promotion their brands. The HEMI engine was a mechanical marvel that was so successful it was banned from NASCAR after its first year. And then along came the Pink Elephants.
Not to be outdone, Mother’s Day is THIS weekend. With these series of events occurring so close together, who can doubt it means Rosé Season is in full bloom?!
While there is no vintage 2020 Rosé due to the potential for smoke tainted wine, we do have a little bit of the sublime 2019 and a few bottles of the highly perfumed (think Wadenswil) 2018 barrel aged Pinot in Pink vintage Rosé to offer. You can read our FLOG posting on the smoke impacted vintage 2020 here.
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Tilling and Drilling – Preparing the Vineyard Floor for Vintage 2021
The vineyard floor is what we refer to as the top foot of soil. This area is where we as winegrowers can impact the nutrients and soil moisture that will be available throughout the growing season. And like everything else in farming, there is a specific and limited window of opportunity available.
The vineyard floor is really 2 vineyards in one. Every other row is planted to a permanent cover whose only treatment is mowing. In our case, permanent grass means Tall Fawn Fescue – it’s a bunch grass also known as Festuca.
Viticulturally speaking, mowing this permanent cover can significantly impact the amount of soil moisture available to the vines. A short cut means the grass uses less water, leaving more available to the vines. Letting the grass grow takes more water out of the soil profile. This can be useful in areas that have deep moist soils.
Canes before and after mowing.

And we mow up last years canes in the permanent cover crop rows. The browns and greens are what keeps our soil microbes busy digesting and then releasing all of these nutrients for our vines. The permanent cover crop rows also provide our beneficial insects (think lady bugs, ear wigs and all kinds of spiders) a place to call home.

Ernie drilling in cover crop.

The cover crop rows are where we till the soil and incorporate the cover crops to naturally supply nutrients to our vines. Last fall, Ernie drilled in a winter cover crop of Austrian winter Peas and Barley. These two plants help to hold the soil onto the hill during the winter rains and provide nutrients when tilled into the soil the following spring.

Opening up the soil with the chisel plow and the open air crawler.

But first we open up the soil with a chisel plow. This tool has a fairly simple job. It breaks up any tire compaction, trims off shallow vine roots and helps to aerate the soil. And it is hooked up to the open air crawler, so Ernie gets a refreshing springtime ride. It’s kinda like driving around in a top down 911 Porsche. Kinda…

Mixing in the cover crop with the rototiller to feed the vines.

Next up is the rototiller. This tool mixes the green cover crops with the soil and places it right below the surface. We consider the soil to be the plant’s stomach, and dinner is served!

Buckwheat and vetch starting the growing season.

Planning ahead, Ernie then drills in the summer cover crop of Buckwheat and Common Vetch. Just like Pommard and Wadenswil, they were made to go together. Both of these plants are easy on the water budget, but at 20+ years of vine age our roots have gone deep. And it is kinda funny to see the quail lined up in each of the furrows scratching out a few of the Common Vetch seeds for themselves. They are not big fans of Buckwheat, you see.
Buckwheat is a fantastic little plant with Superpowers! First off, it can start to bloom about 3 weeks after it germinates. Pollen is protein and a good dietary supplement when our army of carnivorous predatory insects can’t find any mites or other hapless victims to feast upon.
It is also a great soil conditioner and enhances the activity of mycorrhiza fungi. Mycorrhiza fungi function as a symbiotic extension of the vines root system. The plant makes organic molecules such as sugars by photosynthesis and supplies them to the fungus, and the fungus in kind supplies the vine water and mineral nutrients, such as phosphorus, taken from the soil.
Common Vetch (and Austrian winter Peas) adds to the mix by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere to its root system. Both the Buckwheat and Common Vetch survive in our dry farmed vineyard from the morning dew of an “on-shore flow”, meaning moisture and humidity riding the jet stream in from the coast. Once these cover crop plants are tilled into the soil, the soil microbes convert the green plant material into nutrients the vine can use. Spring or fall, we till it all!
Spring growth in the Chardonnay block.

The numbers. April 2021 was a bipolar month if ever there was such a thing. Our high temperature blazed 90.9 degrees on April 18th at 3:30 pm, while our cold temperature was a frosty 27.9 degrees on April 5th at 6:30 am.
Our Degree Days reflected the warm temperatures later in April logging a total of 236.8 Degree Days. The first half of April contributing 89.8 and the second half with the remaining 147.0 Degree Days. Quite a respectable start to the vintage and it certainly explains the rate of growth in the vines and the grass. Ill-fated vintage 2020 began the growing season with 133.5 Degree Days.

Rain showers totaled 1.01 inches and came in two tranches, both at the end of the month. The first recording 0.43 inches and the second 0.58 inches. These showers are exactly what our cover crop seeds needed for germination and establishment. So far, so good!
Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie