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

Friday, January 22, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate Culinary Inclinations Series Part V: Fruits of the Sea and a Bottle of BFC

Hello and Welcome, 

It is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the rainy season in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. What a perfect time to imagine a sunny (and dry) adventure at the other end of the world. Freshly caught and expertly prepared wild seafood and a bottle of Chardonnay will set you right. Please join us for our Culinary Inclinations Series Part V: Fruits of the Sea with a Bottle of BFC.
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.
“Hanging out” at the Boat Shed Café, South Island, NZ
Do you kinda wish you were someplace other than here? Jimmy Buffet sang about it on his White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean album. Seems apropos. You don’t have to stay home, but you can’t come here. While that may be so 2020, it still happens to be true if you want to travel and dine at the White House. That’s the one in New Zealand, on the north end of the North Island.
And if you do get to New Zealand, check out the Boat Shed Café at the north end of the South Island. They are quite literally “hanging out” over the bay. You can stay just down the road with the Honest Lawyer, ask for the bus driver’s suite. It is just about as cozy as 35 square feet can be! Been there, had that done to us. And while it was FANTASTIC, you have to leave the room if you want to change your mind. Yeah, it’s that small. The room, not your mind.
Dining at Home with Thoughts from Afar.
But no matter, you are there trying to make the best of it. We are here, trying to make it better. Freshly caught and Southern Hemisphere inspired seafood is our culinary inclination for today. Or “fruits de mer” (fruits of the sea) for those of you coping with current events in a French idiom.
Chardonnay is the world’s most abundantly planted wine grape variety. And for good reason. It can be one of the most enjoyable wines on the planet. Either by itself as we denude ourselves from the responsibilities of the world at large or indulge in a fabulous meal to celebrate simply being alive here in this place, at this time. And it just so happens that Chardonnay rhymes with Tuesday, and Wednesday and… No wonder it is so popular, it is a wine for all week. Truly a Festivus miracle!
The term Barrel FERMENTED Chardonnay (BFC) is somewhat cumbersome, so we use a TLA. Our BFC is called the Heirloom Cameo. One of the other alternatives is SFC, which you may have guessed is Stainless Steel Fermented Chardonnay. We do that too, and that wine is our Dijon Clones Chardonnay. (TLA is an acronym for Three Letter Acronym.) Our BFC is akin to White Burgundy, where the SFC is stylistically closer to Chablis.
Before we get too much farther down the rabbit hole, you may find yourself looking for a little inspiration. So chill, and maintain your BFC at an approximate temperature of 55 degrees, or SFC at about 45 degrees. When you feel the moment is right, pull the cork and enjoy the pleasures of BF or SF Chardonnay.
Barrel v Stainless Steel fermentation – what’s the difference and why should I care? Stylistically the SFC is clean, crisp and laser focused with palate cleansing acidity. A great wine to have at the raw bar with oysters, chilled shrimp or Uni, although this last one may be an acquired taste.
The BFC is like the old “E” ticket at Disney World, it can take you anywhere you want to go. Barrel fermentation adds scintillating aroma, breadth and depth to the palate and maintains the core of fruit, while tempering and lengthening the finish. Over the course of a meal, the BFC changes and develops more complexity. Due to this evolution, you never finish a meal with the same wine you start with. And that is a journey well worth savoring.
If you’ve got a minute, with nothin’ to lose, let us take you on a BFC Cruise. It’s a Deep Dive into cool climate Oregon Chardonnay. Or skip down and look for the pirate. We’ll catch up with you there.
We grow our Chardonnay in block 24, which is actually 5 rows of Dijon Clone Chardonnay 76 and 6 rows of Dijon Clone Chardonnay 95. All vines are grafted onto 5C rootstock and our soil is Bellpine series marine sediments. That becomes important at the end of the growing season when those deep roots are still pulling up water to keep our wine berries from desiccating. Nearing harvest, shallow rooted vines have a tendency to starve the vine for water and that results in the vine taking water from the wine berries. The sugar is still there, but there is less water resulting in a higher concentration of sugar and that converts to higher alcohol levels in the finished wines. That is not the desired result in either a SFC or BFC. If this triggers any wine growing related questions, you can click here to “Ask a Farmer”.
All of our Chardonnay wine berries are cluster plucked during the same harvest window and are field sorted. Then Ernie hauls only the best clusters up to the winery to get weighed. From there they are sorted and loaded into the press. There is NO CRUSHING. Our Chardonnay is whole cluster pressed. This processing method leads to less potassium in the juice resulting in a firmer, natural acidity in the finished wine. While it is true, crushing before pressing and using rice hulls in the press will give higher yields of juice, we feel it is lower quality juice.
Now this is the important part, pre-fermentation oxidation. Once all of the juice is pressed into a single tank, it settles for a couple of days. The juice is a very dark brown due to the bruising effect of the press and oxidation. Think of a piece of fruit that has been dropped, it turns brown in that spot AFTER you get it home. Especially pears and bananas as they look like they got caught in a street fight. A press is really a great big bruiser that also happens to extract the juice.
The idea is that you want all of this browning and oxidation to occur BEFORE the fermentation begins. The alternative is to have this process happen after fermentation - in the bottle. The French producers of White Burgundy have tried the other way and discovered Premature Oxidation. Premature Oxidation occurs when the juice was not permitted to complete oxidation before fermentation. This resulted in off color and aroma in the bottle, hence the term PREMOX.
Right. Now it is time to run the hose through the holes in the fermentation floor and gravity fill our 500 liter puncheon for the BFC and a couple of 1,000 liter stainless steel tanks for the SFC. Fermentation begins forthwith with the help of a fish tank heater to keep the yeast active until all of the glucose and fructose is converted to ethanol – no residual sugar. Then we add a little specialized bacteria to convert the malic acid to lactic acid. Once this malo-lactic (ML) conversion is complete (about 6 weeks or so) the wines take two completely different paths to bottling.
The SFC is separated from the yeast lees and moved up to the unheated fermentation area to begin cold stabilization. There is no further yeast lees contact. During the winter months, temperatures drop into the mid 20’s to lower 30’s and the wine goes through cold stabilization. The effect on the wine is to form little potassium crystals, known as wine diamonds. You may have seen these crystals in a bottle of white wine after it has been refrigerated. It happens, but we like it to happen before we bottle the wine. Next is a pass through a polish filter of 0.5 microns, then Ernie is filling bottles and Dena is stuffing in corks.
BFC 500 liter puncheon.
The BFC is in so such hurry. It is resting comfortably on its lees below ground along with about 400 barrels of Pinot Noir, Syrah and a few neutral barrels holding Pinot Meunier. But the BFC reigns supreme with the biggest barrel at 500 liters. Everything else is just 225 liters. The barrel maturation period lasts about a year, then it follows the same path to bottling as the SFC. As far as the bottling process goes, we begin with the current vintage SFC and follow with the prior vintage BFC.
Congratulations, you made it! Take a breath, or a sip as the case may be. We now return you to our Culinary Inclinations Series Part V: Fruits of the Sea with a Bottle of BFC.

Secrets of culinary inclinations were often spread by troubadours, roving medicine shows selling (snake oil) elixirs and other travelers. For people who inhabited far away islands, pirates were often a source of culinary information, along with the usual pillage and plunder. Maybe even pandemics. While COVID19 is not the world’s first pandemic, our global response to it is unique to our time. As we used to say, the questions don’t change but the answers do.
One thing that may surprise you is that the New Zealand Rock Lobsters (called crayfish by the Kiwis) have no claws. This is good and bad. Good in that after you handle a few live specimens, you will still be able to count to ten using only your fingers. Bad in that you are missing out on that excellent lobster claw meat. And good in that you will be able to prepare the rest of the meal employing fully functioning opposable thumbs.
Thanks to the pandemic, or tariffs and trade wars, or whatever, the Australians seem to be awash in these crustaceans. They lost access to an exceptionally large market and the locals are trying to pick up the slack.
Supply and demand, not just a good idea, but in fact an unwritten law, is taking its toll. Let’s try and help them if we can. Here’s how.
The first thing you will need to do is co-locate with your whole crayfish. We suggest a local purveyor, or you can harness the power of the internet to find suitable specimens that can be shipped directly to your door. And since it happens to be cold in most of the Northern Hemisphere, this should not pose a spoilage problem.
We are going to end up under the broiler, or out on the grill after someone scrapes off the snow, but first we are going to make a stop in a steaming pot of water. The secret to an irresistible cray tail is to give it a little time in steaming hot water. This method allows for the meat to cook through, thus preventing a disruption of your evening plan with trip to the emergency room.

Once thawed, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes in about 2 inches of steaming hot water is just about right, depending on size. This leaves the meat slightly translucent, an ideal condition to finish under the broiler, unless you can actually get the grill to light. “When was the last time the propane tank was filled? Did you check the regulator? Maybe it is frozen.”
This next step is where we separate the gut line from the prized tail. Cut your cray lengthwise through the tail and remove the gut line. The meat should still be just a little underdone. The wine, chilling nicely at 55 degrees, most likely needs to be refreshed as you toast to your achievement. “It sure looks cold out there. Any luck with the grill, honey or should I just use the broiler?”
You may be in a holding pattern as the grill is yet to be confirmed. Use these few minutes to whip up a homemade aioli. Add a little Dijon mustard, white balsamic vinegar, raw egg yolk and roasted garlic to the blender. Have your best quality olive oil at the ready as you activate the blender. Slowly pour in the olive oil to ensure it is being incorporated and stop when you achieve the desired consistency. While the chances of getting the proportions and timing exactly right on the first attempt are not zero, they are very close to it. We suggest making a few trial attempts, with a sip of SFC inspiration, before the main event.
It’s time to make the call. This is your “grumpy lobster boat captain” Bill Belichick moment. While you have great confidence in the offense, 4
th and 20 from your own 15 yard line is not the time to go for it. You start the broiler and lure your grill mate back into the warm house. A little BFC will go a long way to provide soothing comfort. “No one will even notice. Your left eyebrow will grow back in no time.” You may need to find that reserve bottle, already at chill, in case you have to share.
Other culinary inclinations that do not lend themselves to the outdoor grilling experience (and the ensuing machinations) include pan seared scallops over black truffle risotto. There are only about 15 million Gordon Ramsey videos that demonstrate how to properly sear a scallop. Fried or baked sea salt and black pepper calamari with roasted red pepper aioli is another excellent pairing with your SFC.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can occasionally find white Chinook salmon. These are real Chinook salmon, but they do not process the color pigments from the crustaceans in their natural diet. This affects about 1 in 20 fish. The result is that their meat is milk white, but oh so delicious. Another Pacific Northwest favorite is steelhead. These are ocean going trout that swim back into fresh water to spawn. Norway and Scotland raise these fish for export and fresh fillets may be available in your local market. After planning the revolution, you may find frogs legs, Burgundy snails or a bucket of steamed mussels with crusty French bread to be in order. The use of excess butter and garlic is the key.
And let’s not forget the tastiest crustacean of all, the king crab. A product of cold Alaska waters these crabs make the meals of marriage proposals. To be offered sparingly and with a dedicated purpose in mind. Dungeness and other crabs are available seasonally in local markets. Crab cakes are another way to add your signature preparation to this delicious meat. Soft shell crabs are a once-a-year thing, so you will need to plan ahead. They do.
While a bit of a master class in execution, skewered prawns interleaved with prosciutto finished under the broiler are a tried-and-true way to get that new living room set, or big screen TV you have been eyeing all year. However, skewered prawns can be finished on the grill, so a little pre-planning is in order. An empty propane tank is probably the most effective deterrent to the entire grill saga. Strategy suggests letting the first glass of SFC work its magic before pointing out the empty propane tank situation.
Now the aioli is perfect and the table is set with the appropriate tools, accoutrements and BF or SF Chardonnay. The broiler is glowing red and ready to receive your bisected cray’s.
A little olive oil and a dusting of smoked paprika on the translucent meat is all you need to create the perfect presentation. A quick sip and in they go. This may not take much time, so be near the broiler with hot pads at the ready.
The sweet succulent meat separates easily from the shell, the wine gravity flows from bottle to glass, and you have just received notification that the grill sold on eBay. Well done. “Look outside honey. It is starting to snow, again…”
Chardonnay is there for you. Add a harvest bounty from the sea and let your culinary genius run wild.

Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

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