The 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):

Tasting Notes: Blushing ruby red. Elegant and delineated aromas festively waft tart red Montmorency cherry, Oregon strawberry preserves and baking spice adorned by cocoa dusted almonds. Easy going and playful on the initial embrace, but the mid-palate reveals a strengthening tenacity as the third grape of Champagne delivers crisp acidity and textured tannins. Lithe and elegant, savory and sweet – quite the little tart, indeed. Unfined and unfiltered.

Culinary Inclinations: Charcuterie all around! Cured meats and ripened cheeses adorned with cornichons, stone ground mustards, grilled vegetables, olives, capers and so much more! While the combinations and permeations are seemingly endless, proceed undaunted as Pinot Meunier knows no strangers in this particular idiom.

Pinot Meunier Accolades:

2015 Pinot Meunier

Chagall stained glass red. Aromas of fresh, ripe Oregon strawberries, crystallized red rose petals, purple wildflowers and cocoa dusted almonds enchant. An elegant and refined palate experience evokes sweet-tart red fruits providing the delicate veil for a firm and engaging finish, aka the velvet glove. Lithe and elegant, savory and sweet – quite the little tart, indeed.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Brilliant red. Spice- and herb-tinged cherry and red currant scents, slowly joined by subtle woodsmoke and cola notes. Chewy and focused on entry, offering bitter cherry and rose pastille flavors that flesh out and become sweeter with air. Nicely concentrated but lively as well, showing strong closing thrust, dusty tannins and a lingering cherry note.

          - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2018 – 91 points

          - Wine & Spirits Magazine, October 2017 – 90 points

2014 Pinot Meunier

​Delish red. Sweet aromas of ripe Montmorency cherries, red currants and bittersweet chocolate entice the palate into a rosy red fruit mélange intertwined with savory bits and restraining acidity that linger effortlessly. This wine is as elegant as the day is long.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

​Brilliant red. Bright mineral- and spice-accented cherry pit and raspberry scents develop subtle earth and rose pastille notes as the wine opens up. Juicy and focused on the palate offering bitter cherry and raspberry flavors that slowly tighten up and become deeper on the back half. Delivers a solid punch of flavors but comes off vibrant displaying no excess fat supple tannins and emphatic finishing spiciness.

          - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, January 2017 – 92 points

2013 Pinot Meunier

Raspberry red shimmers as your senses are heightened by aromas of cherry and raspberry cobbler, lavender in bloom, graham, cinnamon and a hint of caramelized brown sugar. The scintillating mid-palate is a precise tussle between purity of flavor and the velvet glove of integrated acidity. This transcendent experience evolves into a crisp and lingering finish with echoing vibrancy.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Deep red. Aromas of dried cherry, redcurrant and rhubarb, with a mineral element adding vivacity. Bitter cherry and anise flavors are enlivened by juicy acidity, picking up a smoky nuance on the back half. This lively, focused wine finishes with very good cut and smooth, late-arriving tannins.

          - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, October 2015 – 91 points

Raspberry red shimmers as your senses are heightened by aromas of cherry and raspberry cobbler, lavender in bloom, graham, cinnamon and a hint of caramelized brown sugar. The scintillating mid-palate is a precise tussle between purity of flavor and the velvet glove of integrated acidity. This transcendent experience evolves into a crisp and lingering finish with echoing vibrancy.

         - Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast, June 2015 – 90 points​

2012 Pinot Meunier

Garnet meets cranberry and everybody gets happy. The initial aromas take you back to the first time you smelled a fresh cherry cobbler, accented by graham crackers and cocoa dusted almonds. The flavors and textures are ripe red fruits leading to a mid-palate sweetness reminiscent of an adolescent crush where everything was right with the world. The sweetness turns to a fading memory as the tannins and acids combine to form an enduring finish. “We’ll always have Paris…” Unfined and unfiltered. 50 cases produced.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Vivid red. Musky red berries and cherry on the fragrant nose, with subtle herbal and floral qualities adding complexity. Chewy bitter cherry and licorice flavors become sweeter with air while picking up a peppery nuance. Closes with very good energy, grip and length, leaving a note of white pepper behind. Shows good delineation for the vintage, with no excess fat.

          - Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, July/Aug 2014 – 90 points

2011 Pinot Meunier

Translucent garnet in the glass presents fresh strawberry and raspberry aromas supported by Turkish Bay leaf and freshly tilled soil. Sweet flavors of ripe red raspberries and red currants transition to the tingling acidity of tart red Montmorency cherries. Tannins and acidity unite to provide a seamless and endearing finish. Unfined and unfiltered. 81 cases produced.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Drews and Pink’s 2011 Pinot Meunier delivers a varietally typical account that will as a result taste highly unusual to most wine lovers who seldom encounter Meunier pure. Marine breeze alkalinity and salinity, celery seed, and marjoram in the nose go on to accent a juicy, bright palate featuring the fruit of fresh, tart-edged red berries. Salinity and herbal pungency lend saliva inducement and invigoration to a buoyant and sustained finish. One way to envision this wine is to imagine a blend of relatively delicate Pinot Noir with barely ripe Gewurztraminer. It should prove versatile through at least 2015, though that hypothesis is not informed by any experience with older Amalie Robert Meunier, a deficiency I hope I’ll be able to redress.

          - David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate, October 2013 – 90 points

2010 Pinot Meunier

Garnet red. Aromas of red rose petals and fresh raspberries linger over five spice and graham. Refined and suave on the palate with a velvety mid-palate expression. Bright red fruits reveal the character of the vintage and transition to a lengthy and echoing finish. What an intriguing little wine we have here. Unfined and unfiltered. 99 cases produced. 

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

From an exposed and hardscrabble portion of their vineyard designed to administer tough love, and racked from barrel after 11-12 months (as opposed to the 18 months in barrel accorded their Pinot Noirs), Drews and Pink’s 2010 Pinot Meunier uncannily mingles exuberantly juicy tart cherry and red raspberry with rose hip, almond, and a pronounced, mouthwateringly savory sensation of salted veal and mushroom stock. I found it almost impossible to resist the next sip of this distinctively delicious as well as intriguing libation, and am sure it will prove impressively versatile at table over at least the next 2-3 years.

          - David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate, August 2012 – 91 points

2008 Pinot Meunier

Ruby red in the glass extends an invitation. The aromas are deep and rich with ripe blackberries, spice, tilled earth and lemon zest. The palate is broad with succulent red fruits, quince and nutmeg. The finish lingers and provides acidity that is typical of this variety. Unfined and unfiltered. 70 cases produced.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Light, bright red. Delicate aromas of redcurrant and strawberry, with a suave floral quality in the background. Zesty red fruit flavors are complemented by notes of blood orange, white pepper and subtle herbs. Finishes brisk and refreshing, leaving tangy berry skin notes behind. I like this wine's light touch.

          - Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, July/Aug 2010 – 90 points

2006 Pinot Meunier

We find this garnet colored Pinot Meunier to open with very delicate aromas of strawberries, maraschino cherries, cocoa dusted almonds and cinnamon. The palate begins with Montmorency cherry, moves through freshly crushed black raspberries, soothes with soft tannins that help set up the crisp, lingering sensation of five spice. We recommend the same stemware you would use for Pinot Noir. Unfined and unfiltered; 97 cases produced.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Bright red. Spicy cherry on the nose, with deeper cocoa and black tea notes adding an element of seriousness. Red berry and bitter cherry flavors are complicated by brown spice and succulent herb qualities and given structure by gentle tannins. Finishes with good spicy lift and sweet persistence. More structured than the pinot noir; in fact, this benefited from decanting.

          - Josh Raynolds​, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/June 2009 – 90 points

What is it? Pinot Meunier (MUH-n’yay) is a close relative to Pinot Noir and was identified as such before the 16th century. Based on recent DNA “fingerprinting”, an early Pinot vine and a vine called “Gouais Blanc” are the parents of Pinot Meunier and other varieties, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The name “Meunier” is a French word meaning “the miller”. This term is given to Pinot Meunier due to the distinctive, flour-dusted appearance on its leaves.

What is it like as a still wine? Pinot Meunier is traditionally used to make sparkling wine, however as a still wine it is lighter bodied and very elegant. Pinot Meunier is appreciated for its aromatics, fruitiness, soft tannins and spicy finish. Our Pinot Meunier is matured in neutral oak barrels allowing the true character of the variety to impress.

Follow this link to learn more about Pinot Meunier in the Forbes article "The Grape Divide" featuring Amalie Robert Estate.

Pinot Meunier