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

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate Vintage 2021: A Year in Preview

Hello and Welcome, 

As the taint of vintage 2020 slowly begins to dissipate, we turn to face the opportunities and challenges that await us in vintage 2021. But as we do, there is value in applying the lessons of vintages past as we look to Vintage 2021: A Year in Preview. 
In other words, as we approach the other end of the tunnel it is nice to know what is making that light. “This year can’t be any worse than last year,” said no farmer ever. A FLOG communication (Farming bLOG) by Dena & Ernie from Amalie Robert Estate. Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir. Have a look and see what we see on Instagram @AmalieRobert

Sunrise harvest morning, vintage 2015.

First Quarter: January through March - Rain and Renewal. The 30 year average annual rainfall is about 45 inches at our 35 acre vineyard. That rainfall starts around harvest time with a shower here or there, and then really gets with the program from November through March. So, you may want to know just much rain is that? How do you put that in perspective? How do I impress my friends and persuade my boss to give me a raise?
Just ask a farmer. An inch of rain over a single acre of ground is 27,154 gallons and weighs 113 tons. Here at the farm, a five minute shower uses about 10 to 25 gallons. However at Ernie’s age, the time is reduced, as is his use of shampoo. Your mileage may vary, but over time the curve skews downward. And speaking of downward, all of those cover crop seeds of rye grain and winter peas are just laying there in the soil soaking it all up. That’s their job, to develop fibrous roots that will hold the soil onto the hill during the winter months. And to fix nitrogen to feed our vines come springtime. More on that in the second quarter.

35 acres of producing vines and there's Ernie right in the middle.
So logically, a 35 acre vineyard that receives 45 inches of rain per year is getting 42,767,550 gallons of rainwater, weighing in at 177,485 tons. And at a vine spacing of 7.5’ for the tractor and 4’ between vines yielding a vine density of 1,452 vines per acre, each vine receives 841 gallons of rainwater each year. And that is enough for 35 to 84 showers a year, average about 60.
And we are dry farmed, meaning the only irrigation our vines receive is from Mother Nature. So you could say that our vines get about 60 “human equivalent” showers a year, where humans are more likely to get around 360 showers per year. To summarize, an inch of rain is about 20 gallons of water per vine. See if that little kernel of wine knowledge doesn’t make you the popular one.
This is also the time for renewal. More commonly known as pruning. The idea is to get the vines ready to bear fruit and ripen their seeds without succumbing to mildew or bunch rot. And it is a nasty time of year with the wind and driving rain soaking the vineyard workers to the core.
Intelligence and experience is needed to prune the vines properly. A properly pruned vine is a joy to work and a pleasure to the eye during the canopy management portion of the winegrowing program. If you mess up pruning and make the wrong cuts, you get to live with those decisions all year long right up through harvest. This is just the opposite of a bad haircut that will grow out. Not that it really bothers you, as it’s everyone else that has to look at it. No, you get to live with bad pruning decisions all year, and potentially impacting the follow-on year.
It takes about 15 pruning cuts per vine to remove last year’s canopy growth and tie down a single cane for the new growing season. Multiplied by 50 some thousand vines, that is about 750 thousand pruning cuts – by hand. We understand carpal tunnel syndrome is real. But you may want to think twice before you accept a thumb wrestle challenge from a professional vineyard worker. Maybe just a handshake will do. Or the newfangled elbow bump…
The vineyard before pruning.

We have a brief set of videos on the renewal process. The first step is to remove the little catch clips that hold last year’s perfectly positioned shoots into three sets of catch wires. Each vine gets about 5 of these across the three wires. They go on in the spring and come off in the winter. By hand.
Click on the picture or this link to see catch clip removal. (10 seconds)

The next phase is to make the primary cuts. This is where we determine which canes will stay for the new growing season, and which ones will be returned to the vineyard floor. Ernie mows these with the tall grass, thereby returning the nutrients to the soil. Waste not want not.
Click on the picture or this link to see primary cuts. (21 seconds)

Then there is the arduous task of pulling the brush from the canopy. There is a lot of talk about drones and self-driving tractors in the field. What we really need is an automated solution to this task.
Click on the picture or this link to see brush pull. (22 seconds)

And finally, we have a new cane to tie down to the wire. This single cane carries all the vines hopes, dreams and aspirations to ripen their seeds and reproduce in vintage 2021. They don’t know we are making wine. It’s our little secret.
Click on the picture or this link to see tie down. (34 seconds)

Meanwhile, Ernie is in the tractor shop changing oil, repairing this AND that, torqueing lug nuts and generally getting ready for the growing season. The best kind of tractor to have is the one that starts when you want it to. Ernie sees to that this time of year. It’s called percussive maintenance. In extreme cases it can lead to new equipment purchases with the section 179 deduction. And potentially a visit to the ER, with a moderate co-pay.
Remember, 2021 started on a FRIDAY! Is this going to be a great year, or what?
Kindest Regards,

Dena & Ernie

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