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

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Amalie Robert Estate Culinary Inclinations Series Part II: Cowboy Pepper

Hello and Welcome, 

This is an Amalie Robert Estate Culinary Inclinations Series Part II: Cowboy Pepper. A FLOG communication (Farming bLOG) from Dena & Ernie @AmalieRobert Estate. Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. 
For the second of our Culinary Inclinations Series, we recognize that many people are not comfortable with indoor seating at their beloved eating establishments. Assuming these eating establishments are still established. A large segment of our business was conducted in restaurants through what is known as “on-premise” sales. If you happen to be associated with the restaurant business from the front of the house to the back of the kitchen, servers or wine professionals – we feel your pain. It is our pain too.
We remember the life of our nation’s intellectual inquisitor, Alex Trebeck. He was a native son of Ontario, Canada, and we gladly welcomed him into our homes for 37 years. In the lower 48, we learned to never answer a question with a question. However, in fond memory we will respond, “What is Cowboy Pepper for a thousand, Alex? It’s a Daily Double!”

We thought it might be interesting to explore the alternatives to what was heretofore known as on-premise dining. It may be that some of you have shared these experiences in your youth, and that may be why you prefer the traditional concept of dining out. So until it is time to venture out and gather together, please sit back with a glass of Rosé and tongue firmly in cheek, as we voyeuristically explore an alternative form of dining out.
Spending formative years in Montana instills certain life skills that become handy later in life. For example, always fill up your VEE-hycle when you get down to half a tank, as fuel, or your access to it, may be unpredictable during the 9 winter months of the year. Safely enjoying outdoor recreation such as camping, fishing and the skill of navigating a huckleberry patch ahead of the dog while always keeping a keen watch out for bears. You know when the dog has gotten ahead of you because the bushes have half eaten huckleberries and are covered in dog slobber. On the other hand, who would deprive this beloved animal such unbridled happiness?!
And then there is the communal satisfaction of cooking over the campfire. This can be with a willow switch that you collect after catching a few prized brook trout. The best fishing, of course, is right at dusk. The hatch is on with all manner of insects that sustain the state’s abundant fisheries. You have to fish where the fish are, and the fish are where the bugs are. And then it is dark and it is time to head back to the campsite. In the dark.
Once the batteries in the flashlight are depleted, your VEE-hycle’s headlights may shine a light onto the campsite, or near enough to it that you can work toward your goal of getting fed. The forethought of digging a fire pit and lining it with rocks has paid off. So has putting a tarp over the drift wood and kindling that was collected earlier in the day. And whoever left an emergency pack of matches in the truck, under the floor mats all those years ago, was an absolute GENIUS!
After a few hopeful, but failed attempts at igniting the heat source to prepare the evening meal, it is time for the Scout water. A splash here and a dash there and it is time for the next attempt. A strike of the match and a hit of sulfur bring the flame to life. A well-placed toss into the carefully constructed kindling, while lingering just long enough to see it catch fire, and then run like hell! The smell of singed hair fades away, but it takes a while to grow your eyebrows back.
As the campfire crackles to life everyone takes a moment to bask in the glow and aroma of triumph over the elements. Interacting with Mother Nature’s environment, as it were. A team effort that everyone contributes to (although not everyone contributes in a positive way) enables a celebration of individual achievements and intellectual superiority over the piscine. When it comes to survival in the forest, luck and skill are much more than casual acquaintances.
While most everyone likes to fish, not everyone likes to clean, cook and eat fish. This is the difference between fishing and catching. So be it, there are burgers and bratwurst aplenty. But since it is dark and the only light source is from the glowing embers, there seems to be some confusion as to how exactly to proceed. Chaos has not set in yet, but it is not far off either.
If you drop your burger onto the ground before you cook it, there is a better chance that whatever has stuck to it will be “just fine.” This bit of added seasoning is called Cowboy Pepper. Cowboy Pepper also provides a very real sense of terroir. Not all campsites are the same. Depending on where you are camping and the time of year, the forest floor may impart significant aroma, flavor and texture to your meal. Bear in mind, you are not the only visitor to this campsite. The local fauna have been there frequently cleaning up after whomever was there before. From chipmunks and squirrels to birds and raccoons, they have been crawling all over the place, leaving their mark.
The dilemma occurs when you drop your perfectly flame grilled burger on the way to your plate. If you happen to have lost it inside the fire ring, well that is “not so bad” as most everything in there has been sterilized by the heat. You simply need to get it out of there and onto your plate, and maintain your eyebrows, if possible.
Dropping your dinner on one of the fire pit rocks is actually “pretty good” as hot rocks have been used by some cultures as cooking stones for centuries. Retrieval here is certainly much simpler than from inside the fire ring. Of the three possible peril scenarios of retrieving your cooked burger, this is the one that minimizes the added terroir to your meal. The third scenario, dropping your cooked burger outside the fire ring, brings to bear the combined forces of gravity and the dog.  
Hot dogs, frankfurters and bratwurst present a unique challenge. The willow switch seems to fit in the end and go to the front, much like the way to secure a fish. Hovering just above the flames and rotating slowly creates a little char and a nice patina suggesting an expert campfire griller. Knowing the precise moment to withdraw your bounty prevents char from becoming burnt. However, the pressure inside the casing can increase rapidly causing them to split rather suddenly. This lack of tension within the casing allows the meat to separate from the stick. Once again, gravity is there to direct your dinner directly into the fire. If you are lucky enough to retrieve your dinner, an oversized bun will help mask some of the terroir you have amassed. Like some other sandwich we will not name, the more bread there is, the better, but it is never going to be good.
What is more exuberant than an 8-month-old, 65 pound Labrador Retriever “puppy” going from camper to camper nuzzling and nudging for a bit of whatever it is that you are having? Of course, his dish and kibbles are located near the fire, but left untouched. Each conquest is immediately wolfed down and then it is off to the next camper. The size of the victory is commensurate with the vigor displayed in the wagging tail. Suddenly like a World Series slugger, there goes your plate taking flight across the campsite. The race is on but at 4 legs to 2, you never really had a chance… A well trained dog will at least fetch you a beer from the cooler. Beer run!
Once everyone has had an opportunity at cooking their dinner on the campfire it is time to sit back, relax and enjoy your meal. Except for that knot you did not notice on the log that is creating quite a cramp in your right butt cheek. And where the hell did all these ants come from. Maybe from under the log that is being rocked back and forth. If someone is rocking your world, best go see what the fuss is all about. Depending on your terroir these could be your everyday ants, or maybe they are army ants or fire ants. Time to shake a leg.
The “no-see-ums” have now arrived and are circling in the warmth of the fire. This just also happens to be the zone you are inhabiting. Each of you interacting with the other’s environment. The ants have now breached the cuff of your hunting socks* and are destined for your nether regions. This causes the plate that is positioned on your lap to tilt to and from in a rather herky-jerky motion. This is simply too much for the ear of corn to handle and it slips off your plate onto the terroir. As is the case with most campsites, the terroir has a certain slope to it. And it usually slopes away from you. Gravity once again lends a hand.
* Hunting socks are just that. They are two socks that look nothing like each other. You are wearing them because it was too dark to see if they matched. Your hunting is comprised of finding another pair of mismatched socks that exactly match the mismatched pair you are wearing. Kind of like mahjong in the outdoors idiom.
Now corn comes in a variety of formats. There is the golden yellow, or pearl white or a variegated blend of the two. And an ear of corn is uniquely and ideally suited to collect as much terroir as it possibly can in between and betwixt each and every kernel. If only the moon were a little brighter, you could actually see what is making it so crunchy now.
It’s not really a full campfire experience without the marshmallows. Your willow switch from earlier in the evening can serve a dual purpose here after you clean off the remnants of the fish course. While marshmallows appear to be quite innocuous and harmless, they take on a different identity in the wild. First of all, they can go from a perfectly golden brown patina to exploding sugary confection in just under 3 nanoseconds. Even if you do manage to perfectly toast your marshmallow, avoiding all of the perils and pitfalls associated with this activity, you have to get it off the stick and onto your salivating palate before gravity takes a hand and deposits it onto the terroir. Retrieval in this scenario can only be attempted outside the fire ring. And the ooze of warm marshmallow is the perfect foil for all things soil.
Douse the fire and it’s time to snug into your sleeping bag. The no-see-ums have remained at the campfire savoring their last meal (you). Your itching and scratching begins at first light, if you’re lucky.
As much fun as all of this sounds, please remember Cowboy Pepper is nothing new. It goes back to the days when cowboys lived off the land and packing gourmet spices was not something tolerated, or even discovered. A big pot of beans, a stray varmint and burnt coffee was most likely as fancy as that was going to get. A bit of the forest floor or prairie landscape was a welcome “joie de vivre” back in the day.
Have a look around your pantry and spice rack. If you have, or have recently adopted, a flair (or basic survival need) for cooking then you most likely have more than granulated white salt and ground black pepper on hand. These are the makings for your own, individual, Cowboy Pepper (CP).
While many meats, poultry, upland game birds, waterfowl, fish and vegetables can benefit from a pinch of this and a bit of that, we are going to approach the fine art of CP from the more visual aspect. Most people would agree that, with the exception of eating around the campfire at night, they eat with their eyes. And that is how we shall proceed, from the visual perspective as we enjoy the fall foliage.
Let’s start off with one of the more basic CPs and that is a mix of dried Italian herbs. Something along the lines of Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Savory, Sage, Oregano and Basil. Sprinkle this on a whole chicken and you have suddenly created the terroir akin to a summer cookout in a forest complete with pine needles and a bit of moss. As most of the country has forested areas, this is a very safe CP to start out with. Add some fresh ground black pepper for that left-over campfire charcoal look. Having trouble sticking it to the chicken? A little olive oil drizzle is the proper remedy.
A fresh fillet of salmon or halibut is the perfect canvas for this next CP. A little fresh dill weed says you are camping near a stream with all manner of flora from fiddlehead ferns to horseweed and maybe a little poison sumac. Paprika is a ground spice that can add a perfect patina to any fish, without overpowering. For more intensity you can move up the scale to smoked paprika or cayenne pepper which will move your terroir closer to red volcanic soils quite near an active volcano.
Now let’s say you are in an area with a lot of crumbled rock. This is a perfect environment for chipmunks and pika to hide. A fresh venison or pork loin rolled in black sesame seeds says you have found their den! Add a little ground ginger and this shows off the mica found on the rocks. Ground black pepper is also a realistic addition to this terroir.
Zucchini is your personal playground. Sliced lengthwise and scored diagonally, this pale slightly green canvas lets you be you. Have at it! We have already covered the supreme utility that corn on the cob provides. Wild chanterelle and morel mushrooms typically come pre-seasoned with CP, so not much work to be done there. For an advanced effort, make a basic aioli and then sprinkle in a little dried dill weed and smoked paprika. Green tabasco will add a little piquant aftertaste, think fresh pine tree sap.
Fortunately for you, a modern heat source can be set and maintained at most any given temperature. This requires very little set-up, fire pit digging and wood gathering, not to mention how much you will save on Scout water. Once you have created the visually correct terroir from your own individual CP, stand back and admire your handiwork. That’s when it hits you. “Wow, this looks like it could have just fallen off the back of the tailgate up at the lake!” And your eyebrows still look nice – and they match from side to side.
Now that you have mastered your CP technique, it is time to celebrate this milestone in your culinary retrospective with a nice glass of wine. 
Kindest Regards,
Dena & Ernie

No comments:

Post a Comment