The 2014 Vintage: The 2014 vintage will be remembered as the (lucky) 13th harvest at Amalie Robert Estate. The controlled chaos known as “The Great Cluster Pluck” began, as it always does, in “Earnest,” on Monday, September 29, 2014. Harvest operations continued through October 19th when we brought in the buxom berries of block 13 (Syrah.) Home at last.
The 2014 vintage caps the run of three warm vintages in the Willamette Valley. Once again this year we were faced with the dilemma of when to harvest. The growing season was warm and the vines built sugars quickly in response to the heat. However, flavor development is more a function of time on the vine and was lagging.
While harvesting on flavor is the ideal situation, once sugar development reaches a certain concentration, you have to bring them in. Or, you can wait for the pre-harvest rains to replenish the soil moisture and rehydrate the berries, thus lowering the concentration of sugar.
And for the third year in a row, that was our decision. We waited for Mother Nature to give us a little shower to rehydrate the berries and lower the alcohol potential of our wines. Another overlooked benefit of waiting for a little rain, was the increased hang time. A few more days on the vine helped to further develop our aromas and flavors. Who’s your farmer?
You can read the full Harvest After Action Report (AAR) at: http://amalierobert.blogspot.com/2014_11_01_archive.html
The 2011 Vintage: The 2011 growing season provides us yet another lower alcohol, cool climate vintage. Our vineyard heat accumulation finished up at 1,794 degree days. This continues the run of cooler vintages that began in 2007. The wines produced from these cool vintages very much reflect the vineyard site and how they were tended throughout the season.
The 2011 vintage got off to a relatively late start in the Spring. We typically see the first buds breaking around the 15th of April (Note: this is harvest time for the IRS), but Mother Nature must have filed for an extension, so we waited until the 5th of May. The growing season was cold and protracted.
We have come to accept that the months that matter most are the ones that end in “ber.” September put on a strong showing with warm dry days and cool nights. This was the weather we were hoping for all year. The weather held into October, and we began the annual “Cluster Pluck” on October 23rd.
You can read all about the 2011 growing season and Harvest AAR (After Acton Report) by visiting the Amalie Robert FLOG (Farming bLOG) here: www.amalierobert.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.html
The 2016 Vintage: Playing chicken with Mother Nature. Vintage 2016 was another barn burner for the record books, but with a twist. The continuing pattern of warm night time temperatures established way back from 2012 was in full effect. But this year the water spigot did not get fully turned off during the summer and we recorded measurable precipitation every month during the growing season.
We bore witness to the blogosphere reporting the Willamette Valley once again had pre-mature fermentation with one of the earliest harvests on record. And once again, Ernie would not get out the harvest bins until we saw a little mid-September rainfall. Note: Playing chicken with Mother Nature is not for the weak kneed or timid.
And pretty much right on par with 2015, our first significant rainfall occurred overnight on the 16th of September with 0.36 inches being recorded. We could not believe it. The soils were as dry as the day before, but the rain gauge does not lie. The wine berries were drawing up that soil moisture and continuing to develop aroma and flavor, just as if we had planned it that way, which, in fact, we had.
The 2016 harvest began in earnest at Amalie Robert Estate on September 23. It was a young block of Wadenswil grafted onto 44-53 rootstock at the highest elevation of the property that began the show. And then the mystery of the vintage began to unfold. The 28th of September recorded 0.86 inches of rainfall followed the next day by 0.27 inches. The first couple days of October brought another 0.93 inches. That’s over 2 inches of rain in a week! Now, we are getting somewhere, but only if you were able to hold out for the rains.
Is ripeness sugar accumulation or aroma and flavor development with moderate tannins? When and why do you harvest and who gets to make that decision? This is where the motivation behind contract vineyards and estate grown vines becomes apparent. Some blink, some don’t.
And that is when we got with the program. With each passing day of harvest, the sugar concentrations were dropping and the aromas and flavors were coming on strong. And since we leave leaves to shade our Pinot Noir, the aromas and flavors were elegant and perfumed.
The temperatures also began to cool considerably in September. The vintage accumulated 2,177 degree days, but only 300 of those were in September and the last 40 came in by mid-October. The heat came on just like voting - early and often. And then it was over. Vintages have consequences…
You can read the full Harvest After Action Report (AAR) on our FLOG (Farming bLOG):
The 2015 Vintage: Some like it hot, and if that is what you are into, then 2015 is your kind of vintage. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. A clean, fully developed and relatively expressive vintage, 2015 (much like 2014) offers up a significant contrast to the frigidly cold yet scintillating vintages of 2010 and 2011. In the context of Pinot Noir vintages, there are showers and then there are growers.
We have grown wine in nearly the hottest and certainly the coldest vintages ever recorded in the Willamette Valley within a 6 year span. We have triumphed over vintages colder than Champagne, took what appeared to be rotted Chardonnay from Typhoon Pabuk and produced a Botrytis desert wine to rival Sauternes, sweltered under elevated evening temperatures and summer drought conditions that teased an unprecedented early harvest window. And, to borrow a line from Frank, “We did it our way.”
While some experienced pre-mature fermentation again this year, Ernie held out for rain before he pulled the trigger on Cluster Pluck 2015 (He looked so determined at midnight under the full moon doing the rain dance in block 2.) “Hey, whatever works...” Once again, this year the conditions were right for a sticky. This time it is Our Muse Viognier emulating the traditional late harvest beerenauslese style – complete with gold capsule.
You can read the full Harvest After Action Report (AAR) on our FLOG (Farming bLOG):
The 2012 Vintage: The 2012 vintage, like all Oregon vintages, is a story unto itself. The growing season was warm and dry, with no measurable precipitation from mid-June through mid-October. A collection of seemingly perfect days, followed by cool evenings, extended the ripening period through mid-October. A brief day of soaking rain occurred on Friday the 12th, and we began harvest that Sunday.
You can read more about the 2012 vintage on our FLOG (Farming bLOG): http://amalierobert.blogspot.com
Amalie Robert Estate Vintage Vestibule
The 2013 Vintage: From the “everything you could ask for, and more vintage,” 2013 has something for everyone. We begin with a very nice, if not warm, growing season. The humans like this and the vines have a tendency to get ahead of themselves. They go merrily along their way building up sugars and, like Congress, leave the hard work of developing a (flavor) plan for later.
Well, we can’t have that. Just before an early and stress free harvest, in rolled a little “Mamma Drama” and her new boy toy Typhoon Pabuk. When it rains it pours and we received the gift of 9 inches of rain in late September. This is good for the blogosphere as it provided a little grist for the mill. We couldn’t harvest, so might just as well talk about it.
The good news is that the month we really need to grow great wine is October. The rains blew out of town, the sun reappeared and the breezes picked up. This was all very well and good for the Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Viognier and we had a very successful harvest.
The Chardonnay, however, took some casualties. Our nemesis Botrytis gained a foothold after the September rains and began its cycle of extracting the water from the berries. Well, ho ho ho, and off we go, it turns out with the sunny dry weather what we had was a little Noble Rot. So, Ernie made a “sticky” from that once in a lifetime event with the help of his friend and conspiring winemaker Dick Erath.
You can read the full Harvest After Action Report (AAR) at: www.amalierobert.blogspot.com