In 2013, everything was hunky dory in Oregon vineyards. The beautiful vintage was right on schedule until the massive remnants of Typhoon Pabuk dumped 9 inches of rain on western Oregon over four September days.
After that sogfest, the weather dried out and Amalie Robert winemaker Ernie Pink, a bit dejected, walked his vineyards, discovering that the Noble Rot, Botrytis cinerea, had infected his Chardonnay.
He and his wife, Dena Drews, managed to salvage a mere 70 buckets of shriveled and affected grapes in late October. It took them 3 days of hand picking the good mold from the bad --berry by berry-- to get the juice for this extraordinary wine. The nectar measured 44% sugar, and the wine fermented to 10% alcohol. The resulting wine is easily mistaken for a top-tier French Sauternes.
This honeyed gift is a fantastic achievement and probably a once-in-a-lifetime wine. Or so they hope! And, it is, to the best of my knowledge, the first late-harvest botrytis Chardonnay ever produced in Oregon. If anyone knows differently, Dena, Ernie, and I would sure love to know.” - Ron Zimmerman, The Herbfarm, AAA 5-Diamond, Seattle, Washington, February 2015
Amalie Robert Estate Wines
Pinot in Pink Rosé is a dry Rosé of Pinot Noir.
The Uncarved Block is an introduction to Amalie Robert style of whole cluster and indigenous yeast fermentation.
The Dijon Clones is a blend of 7 Dijon clones of Pinot Noir grown throughout the vineyard.
Amalie’s Cuvée is a limited production barrel selection made by co-founder and co-owner Dena Drews. This is referred to as the “Hers” of the “Hers and His” Reserves.
Estate Selection is a limited production barrel selection made by co-founder and co-owner Ernie Pink. This is referred to as the “His” of the “Hers and His” Reserves.
Pommard Clone is a 2 barrel blend of the most intriguing Pommard in our cellar.
Wadenswil Clone is a 2 barrel blend of the most intriguing Wadenswil in our cellar.
Chardonnay: We produce about 200 cases of Chardonnay each year. Her Silhouette is a Chablis style wine fermented in stainless steel and does not undergo malo-lactic conversion. The Heirloom Cameo is fermented in a new 500 liter puncheon each year and is our answer to Chassagne Montrachet.
Pinot Meunier: Raspberries meet rose pedals in this light bodied, exotically perfumed, still red wine. Production ranges from 50 to 100 cases per year, depending on Mother Nature’s mood.
We are traditional producers of Pinot Noir who ferment individual vineyard blocks in small 1.5 ton fermenters using indigenous yeast and whole clusters. All of our Pinot Noirs spend at least 12 months in barrel and the reserve wines age a minimum of 18 months. The Pinot Noirs are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The Top Barrel is the single best barrel of Syrah from the vintage.
“Even with a November harvest – which seems to be de rigeur for these vines, given that even the 2009 was picked in that month – the Amalie Robert 2010 Syrah Satisfaction barely reached 12% alcohol. (And that’s even with some – accidentally – inter-planted Viognier, for more about which and about this project generally, consult my Issue 202 review of the 2009.) That sounds like a recipe for ripeness-deficient trouble, but instead was one for a Syrah unlike any other I can recall, and whose ilk I have only remotely approached from Schneider Vineyards on Long Island or in Saint Joseph and Cote Rotie of three decades ago.
And while it seems that mid to upper 90 point scores are de rigueur these days, to put this review in perspective there were only 4 wines from the 2009 vintage to achieve the highest rating of 94.
The Reserve Pinot Noir also achieved the highest rating in that wonderfully expressive vintage 2007 with a 93 point review. Again, there were only 4 wines from the 2007 vintage to achieve this rating. The Reserve Pinot Noir earned another 93 point review in 2008 and 2010, but missed the highest mark of 94 – by a single point.
And way back when in 2006, from our very first vintage in our own winery where we were in “complete control” of our winegrowing and winemaking, our very first The Reserve Pinot Noir earned the highest review of the vintage with a 93 point review. There were 10 wines so awarded.
The Reserve Pinot Noir is made when we both choose the same barrel or two for our individual wines. For Dena this is Amalie’s Cuvée and for Ernie it is Estate Selection. Somewhat telling is that Dena’s wine is a “Cuvée” while Ernie’s wine is a “Selection.” The Reserve blend is dictated by the barrels of wine we taste in the cellar, but 50 to 75 cases seems to be the maximum production. When we find that barrel or two of magic, we don’t want to dilute it. The Reserve Pinot Noir has earned the top score of the vintage in 3 out of 5 years (2006, 2007 & 2009.)
The Reserve Pinot Noir is simply our best barrels of Pinot Noir from the vintage.
His research started as a consumer of some very fine wines. Specifically wines from the cool growing regions of Côte Rôtie in France, the Clare Valley in Australia and Martinborough, New Zealand. Of course, you never really know until you go, so it was off to Europe, down under and beyond. He learned about Syrah trellis systems, rootstock choices, reflective mulch, tons per acre, but most importantly the different clones of Syrah.
The defining moment came after tasting the “La La’s” in barrel at the cellar of Guigal in Ampuis. Ernie asked if he could speak with someone regarding Syrah clones, as he was getting ready to plant a vineyard in Oregon’s cool North Willamette Valley. After a few minutes, Marcel Guigal entered the room and Ernie had his opportunity to talk with the man who manages their vineyard holdings.
When asked about the proper clones for cool climate Syrah, Marcel said, “Well, we mostly take cuttings from our own vineyards.” Ernie was devastated. A well is a hole in the ground with water in it. Not much use to him. Also, he could not take cuttings from their vineyard and bring them back to Oregon.
But necessity is the Mother of invention, so Ernie countered with, “Well, if you had to plant new clones of Syrah, which clones would you choose?” The pregnant pause ensued. “Of course,” Marcel replied, and left the room.
After what seemed like 3 days, he reappeared with a single page. “This page is what we know about the best clones for cool climate Syrah.” Ernie’s eyes glazed over, as the page was in FRENCH! Marcel kept on, “I would recommend this clone and that clone, but avoid this one. Also, we have some experimental clones and you should try one or two of these.” “Merci, Bonjour” was the best Ernie could muster and the session was over.
Back in the car, Ernie took another look at this page. Among all the gibberish were a few numbers. Yes, now we are getting somewhere, the clones are all numbered! His analytical mind was now engaged, and so the quest began. It took about 5 years, but Ernie finally planted the 4 select clones of Syrah that were indicated to him by Marcel Guigal. Note: That is 297 vines of each Syrah clone plus 297 Viognier vines. That makes an acre, and that’s all there is.
The 2007 Amalie Robert Syrah was selected for the “The Year’s Best American Syrahs” by Wine & Spirits Magazine with a 93 point rating. And in 2008 our Syrah had a new name: “Satisfaction.” And that’s how it worked out for Ernie.
Satisfaction is four clones of Estate grown, Northern Rhône clones co-fermented with Viognier.
Ernie was confident that he wanted to grow Syrah and Viognier. Dena said OK, but you can only have 1 acre – no more. Establishing an acre of vines is not the most difficult thing Ernie has ever done, by far.
But establishing the right clones of Syrah in that 1,485 vine planting took some research. All of the local growers thought Ernie was daft. “Yeah, sure, go ahead. Let us know how that works out for you! Ha!” If you have met Ernie, you know he doesn’t really run with the traffic. He was simply more “encouraged.”
While we strive to create wines that are enjoyable upon release, we also intend for them to develop wildly complex and exotic aromas and flavors with bottle maturation. The Reserve Pinot Noir from 2009 has just earned a 94 point review from the most respected of all Oregon Pinot Noir critics, Josh Raynolds writing for Vinous. His review is reproduced here:
"Light, bright red. Vibrant and sharply focused on the nose, displaying intense red fruit preserve and Asian spice scents along with deeper cola and underbrush nuances that gain strength with air. Sappy, penetrating and pure, with deeply concentrated raspberry and bitter cherry flavors energized by a jolt of blood orange. Powerful yet graceful wine with excellent finishing clarity and persistence and supple tannins that fade into its ample fruit." 94 points - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, October 2015
Smoky Latakia tobacco and peat; burley tobacco and beef blood; plum and cherry; grapefruit rind and bittersweet floral perfume combine for a brightly juicy, if lean; dazzlingly diverse and interactive show. The tannins here are perfectly placed to invigorate without engendering roughness, and the combination of salinity and marrowy depth captivates the salivary glands in a sustained finish. But bear in mind my initial comment: this is certainly unlike any contemporary Syrah, and those drawn to it will probably think my score miserly while others will think I got carried away. How this will evolve in bottle can only be guessed at, but I would certainly encourage anybody lucky enough to make its acquaintance to follow at least a couple of bottles through at least 2018. 92 points.” - David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate, October 2013
In our dry farmed, 35 acre estate vineyard we grow 6 varieties of wine including Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Syrah and Viognier. Our soil is sedimentary and is densely planted at 1,452 vines per acre. The trellis is VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioned.)
Pabuk’s Gift is our Late Harvest Botrytized Chardonnay, a Gift from Typhoon Pabuk which gifted us 9 inches of rain in 4 days just before harvest.
“Sometimes disasters have a happy ending. Such is this wine, one of the GREATEST LATE-HARVEST WINES ever created in the Pacific Northwest: the 2013 Amalie Robert Estate Botrytis Chardonnay.