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, August 18, 2021

Amalie Robert Estate: A Mid-Summer Night's Dream, "If I Ran the Zoo"

Hello and Welcome, 

It is mid-August in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir wine country. The West Coast fires continue to expand and the resulting particulate matter is providing for some spectacular sunset viewing. The moon is waxing and glowing an ominous brick red. While we can see the air we breathe, we cannot smell it. 
The Air Quality Index (AQI) has been moderate for the Willamette Valley - under 100. That is mostly due to the Jet Steam providing sanctuary in the form of a south easterly flow bringing fresh air from the Gulf of Alaska. There have been clouds, but still no rain. Things would be different if we ran the zoo. At least we would like to think they would be.

Reading time: 0.75 Adult Recreational Beverages.


Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Dijon Clone 114.
Our quest is to rescue these wine berries at the peak of aroma and flavor development, and then ferment the sugar out of them. It’s The Great Cluster Pluck, Charlie Brown! And it is closer than you might think.
The Perp-Walk Line-up

That’s the one! The second one from the left. Yes, I am sure of it!
Yellow jackets, which are actually classified as “predatory social wasps of the genera Vespula” are an ever-present part of the winegrowing endeavor. But we know their weakness and now is the time we exploit that weakness to our full advantage.
They like salmon. Fresh Pacific Northwest salmon is their thing, and our thing too. Ernie does this very simply with sprigs of variegated lemon thyme, smoked Paprika and a dusting of ground ginger. Convection roast on 325 for about 20 minutes while a cool vintage Pinot Noir is opened and set to breathe. We might have a sip, or maybe two, to verify the provenance, and you can too!
Yellow jackets are not so particular. A few scraps of fish from around the fins or off the bones is all they need. Dena packs those scraps into the standard, vertical yellow jacket traps and hangs them off the south facing metal end posts at first light.
Walk by after a few hours of direct sunlight, and WHOA! The scent of freshly “sun ripened” salmon is overwhelming. Yellow jackets are coming out of the blackberry bushes to get a piece of that action! Once the traps are full, Dena soaks them overnight in a bucket of water and RELOADs for the next day. While the number of yellow jackets we take from the overall population may be insignificant, it is a moral victory.
Our zoo would not allow yellow jackets to free range over the grounds. However, there would be a yellow jacket viewing area. The viewing area would be just outside of the glassed in, fully enclosed Yellow Jacket Experience exhibit.

This exhibit would allow humans to interact with all 4 species of yellow jackets in their natural habitat. The climatic conditions would be set to Willamette Valley Pinot Noir harvest conditions. That’s when the yellow jackets are at their zenith and most aggressive. Fresh salmon scraps and epi-pens available for purchase. Don’t delay, get YOURS today!
Winemaking: The Continuation of Terroir by Other Means. ®

FLOG communication (Farming bLOG) by Dena & Ernie from Amalie Robert Estate. Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 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… Want to learn more about Amalie Robert? Take the Tour!
Will you be in our area? Amalie Robert Estate is open by appointment for vineyard tours and tastings. Select your preferred day and time with the Big Red Button.
National Pinot Noir Day is Wednesday, August 18th. If Pinot Noir had an American birthday, this would be it. Most of us hope for a Friday or Saturday birthday, so we can let loose on that one day of the year that is uniquely our own. And you can rest assured that we would celebrate National Pinot Noir Day EVERYDAY if we ran the zoo. And the clocks would all be set to 5:00.

Pinot Noir has no such constraints. While the grape growing regions of the world may be due for some re-alignment (see below), the diversity of Pinot Noir is unparalleled in the wine world today. Choose from Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (our favorite), a Kiwi wine from New Zealand, a Beaune “1er” from Burgundy, or a lesser-known but equally interesting growing region.
Thanks to modern implementations of traditional techniques such as whole cluster fermentations and the use of indigenous yeast, Pinot Noir that has been grown, fermented and bottled over the half century is at its historical peak of viticultural and winemaking quality. But climatically speaking, the wines of the last few vintages stand apart.
Extended Heat and Fire Watch

We suffered a relapse of the June 110+ degree heat event in mid-August. And the forecast was actually pretty good. Our high temperatures beginning Wednesday, August 11th were 109, 110, 107 and 99. Once again it was off to the air-conditioned safety of the Independence Hotel.
The age-old combination of high heat and lack of rainfall lead to drought. If you live in a desert, this is nothing new to you. But if you are growing Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, this is not what you signed up for.
The drought will continue until the rainfall resumes. Maybe September, maybe October. Now, let’s see here, what comes after heat and drought?
Oh, that’s right, lightning and wildfires. Here is a graphic of the Pacific Northwest wildfires. While all fires are of concern, the fires we are monitoring are east and southeast of Salem.
The wildfires south of us around Eugene and northern California continue to expand. Washington state also has wildfires burning as does Canada. The Jet Stream continues to swap smoke particulate matter up and down the West Coast. Our only reprieve is when the Jet Stream shifts and fills the Willamette Valley with fresh cold air from the Gulf of Alaska.
The conditions that exist now are eerily similar to the conditions that doomed our vintage 2020, but happening a few weeks earlier. The final “blow” that doomed vintage 2020 for us came from the east. An arctic blast of low pressure frigid cold air came south out of Canada through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. That forced a tremendous volume of air, at a very high rate of speed, to the West Coast.
That strong 60+ mile an hour east wind acted like a bellows that took those small wildfires east of Salem and turned them into ravaging wildfires. The smoke of which was on a direct path to us. Wildfires consume whatever lies in their destructive path from trees to buildings to cars to houses and more. The smoke produced is tainted by the fuel that was incinerated.
What Does This Mean and Why Should I Care?
What everyone we know wants to know is, what does that mean for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, vintage 2021. Well, one thing that might come out of this is a ride on a Woolly Mammoth. It seems the Siberian fires are thawing permafrost and revealing some incredibly well preserved pre-historic animals. These animals have fur, skin, internal organs and DNA impeccably preserved.
And as humans being humans, it is only a matter of time before someone clones a pre-historic animal. But please, leave the viruses back in the stone age. The pre-historic Cave Lion Encounter will be near the Yellow Jacket Experience exhibit - it takes a different kind of mindset to enjoy these types of events. But that is all part of the zoo wonderment – something for everyone, including the exhibits.
Hot, dry and smoky conditions are not new to the Willamette Valley. After typhoon Pabuk doused vintage 2013, we have had several vintages of heat and smoke-filled skies. Dry summers and some measure of drought have also been common place. But if you have been paying attention, you have adapted to this new set of growing conditions.
Our vineyard mitigation strategies of removing leaves from the top of the canopy, keeping leaves to shade our fruit zone and mowing the grass down seem to be helping preserve soil moisture. Our canopy is still green and functioning. Planting 5C rootstock, the deepest rooting of them all, has been a viticultural stroke of genius. Access to deep soil moisture means the wine berries are continuing their natural ripening curve including color transformation from green to pink to mauve to the final destination – Pinot Noir purple.
Desiccation is a major concern heading into The Great Cluster Pluck without meaningful rainfall. The vines will rob water from the wine berries to cool the leaves if they can’t get it from the roots. Desiccation leads to high sugar concentration without commensurate aroma and flavor. High sugar concentration leads to high alcohol potential and early harvest dates. Early harvest dates can mean unripe aroma and flavor. If this were all a word puzzle, it could spell “What you got yourself there is a nice little Rosé vintage.” Not all bad, it goes with the sunset…
Mid-August Degree Day Update
Vintage 2021 continues to bring the heat. Once again, in the first half of August we see extreme daytime high temperatures and intolerable nighttime low temperatures.

We have accumulated 323 Degree Days for the first 15 days of August. The high temperature was 109.0 degrees recorded on August 21st at 5:12 pm. The low temperature was 49.6 degrees recorded on August 8th at 5:00 am. Total heat accumulation for vintage 2021 through August 15th now stands at 1,981 Degree Days.

Mid-August 2021 Degree Days of 1,981 compared to full month August Degree Days for prior vintages.
Here is actual data collected at the Portland airport from NOAA that shows the frequency of 90 degree or hotter days from June through mid-August. The pink bars represent each vintage, and the blue line is the 10 year rolling average.

While the detailed analysis and executive summary is a task left to the reader we can clearly see, that with the exception of vintage 1951, 1953 and 1998, there is never an “average” year where the trend line equals the yearly data point. Note: Vintages 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 form a nice little data cluster. And made elegant wines…
Kindest Regards,


Thing One and Thing Two,
Just YOU wait until we run the zoo!

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