Amalie Robert Estate Climate Update: April 2023
Hello and Welcome,
This is the full-month April Climate Update from Amalie Robert Estate. Vintage 2023 in the Willamette Valley is off to fits and starts. Bud break was a couple of weeks later than usual but still coincided with the lilac bloom. We have had below normal cold and irregular precipitation interspersed with bursts of brilliant sunshine and record breaking high temperatures. The hail, for the most part, has pretty much run its course. And the window for potential frost damage is coming to a close. In for a penny, in for a pound, all part and parcel for growing world class Pinot Noir in Oregon’s Willamette Valley! Approximate reading time is 1.15 ARB's (Adult Recreational Beverage).
The BIG Picture
The vineyard at Amalie Robert Estate is trying to wake up, but Mother Nature seems to be addicted to the snooze button. We’ve all been there… What we have to show for the month of April in The BIG Picture is the newly broken buds, appearing April 30th. They look like little green winged butterflies sitting about every 4 inches or so along the vine. And we have a lot of them. You could say 35,000 vines times 20 buds each is… A LOT!
But not exactly every 4 inches as Mother Nature is not so constrained. That is the next field labor task, to remove the buds that are just too close together. Easier and faster to do it now, before they have grown 4 feet tall. By spacing these buds out on the vine now, we are able to direct the vine’s energy into those remaining few buds. With fewer buds, they will grow faster and we will then harness that growth in our catch wires. We have the advantage; we know their tactics.
While last year’s cover crop would have normally been turned back into the soil by now, Ernie has chosen to let it grow. And in so doing, preserved our topsoil from eroding away from the heavy April rains. This will have the effect of enriching the soil with more nitrogen. However, he did drill the spring cover crop over the top. We will just have to wait and see how this plays out.
And when the fall rains come (yes, they will be a comin’) the remaining shoots will be spaced far enough apart to safely hold the fruits of our labor. And that would be pristine Pinot Noir wine berries ready to be cluster plucked! All done by hand, and you know, not everybody does it that way.
We are Living the Dream, so You Don’t Have To!
Winemaking: The Continuation of Terroir by Other Means. ® is our story. An unfinished set of autobiographical stories reflecting our agrarian endeavor, marked by “unfortunate, but not uncommon” experiences and easily referenced by vintage. Irreverently referred to as the FLOG (Farming bLOG), it captures our 20+ year journey of making a winegrowing life in Willamette Valley wine country. The FLOG is available to read on Substack for FREE.
If you are not afraid of commitment, you can even subscribe so as not to miss a single FLOG. Also, FREE. And if you want to see what we think is worth seeing on a more regular basis, follow us on Instagram @AmalieRobert. It’s FREE! It's ALL FREE!
Are you planning to enjoy traveling again and exploring the Willamette Valley? We know you want to! Go ahead, be the smartest person in the room by downloading our FREE guide to the Willamette Valley sub-AVA's! Here are the 11 Willamette Valley sub-AVA’s listed by acreage, as of October 2022:
Keep in mind, wine flies FREE from 32 west coast cities on Alaska Airlines. This includes our two closest airports Eugene (EUG) and Portland (PDX). Amalie Robert Estate is open year-round by appointment for vineyard tours and tastings. You can learn more about who we are and what we believe by taking our virtual tour! You can request a tasting appointment with your preferred day and time. Dena will confirm your appointment and create a tasting event specific to your party – that’s the way we do it.
Note: Your appointment may collide with a soaring red-tailed hawk. Raptors are in the air patrolling the vineyard for those pesky gophers and other rodents. We are a dog friendly site, but it's a best practice to keep small dogs close by.
Let OUR Cellar be YOUR Cellar!
According to the great marketing oracles of the world, May is Oregon Wine Month. It is also the year of the Rabbit. As agrarians, we think it is the year of the Sock Monster (again) and Oregon Wine Month (still) lasts all year long. Have you heard of Stephen Leacock? He had this to say about marketing and advertising in particular: “Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it”. So be it.
For the month of May let OUR cellar be YOUR cellar! YES, there are new releases on the way. But in the meantime, why not hit up the Big Blue Button to peruse what it may be that you can use. Check out our Purchase page for the latest deals and promotions for the month of MAY!
Digital Distribution is Here!
We believe the future of wine is DIGITAL Distribution! Say goodbye to sales reps and warehouses, and hello to customer service and WINERY DIRECT relationships!
Bypass the distributor and work DIRECTLY with the winery. This is the future calling! No longer are you constrained by what some distributor decides you can sell. Forget that! You can bypass the distributor and have DIRECT ACCESS to our FULL Portfolio!
Any Wine, Any Place, Any Where, Any Time! The wine comes DIRECTLY from our winery delivered to your restaurant or retail door via FedEx. Usually within a week, or less! And it is fully 3-Tier compliant! All of the logistics and compliance rolled into one without any of the baggage! How cool is that?! ALL 👍 NO 💩.
We are currently offering Digital Distribution in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. If Digital Distribution sounds like it is too good to be true, let us show you how it can benefit you! Please E-mail Dena@AmalieRobert.com to learn more.
The Main Story
Women need a reason … Men just need a place.
April is a transitionary month for the Willamette Valley winegrower. It bridges March, which is normally cold, windy and rainy/snowy/haily to May which is typically sunny/breezy/teasy at what could be the best summer ever. In other words, it’s a hodgepodge. A box of chocolates.
The Pinot Noir vines have two major tasks to complete in the spring. The first is to break open the new buds for Vintage 2023. Once they have accomplished this task, it is the winegrowers responsibility to worry about a late frost.
The Pinot Noir vines second task is to bring forth flowers. The time between breaking buds and flowers is highly variable. There is no causation to correlation relationship. Simply put, the warmer it is the sooner the vines will flower. Or, we can look at it from the human perspective. We can project our own human proclivities onto the vines and see if that model fits.
As you top off your ARB, you may recall a movie from quite some time ago called “When Harry Met Sally.” There was some fantastic acting by Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal and an intriguing story line. But there was one particular quote attributed to Billy Crystal that may be pertinent.
“Women need a reason … Men just need a place.” In the vineyard environment, the vines are permanently affixed to the earth. They have their place and that we can take as a given. However, the vines don’t begin to flower without a reason. And that reason comes from Mother Nature in the form of spring weather.
Sometime after bud break, flowering sets the schedule for the rest of the climate to vine relationship. As this budding romance progresses through the summer, the pollinated Pinot Noir flowers begin to form wine berries. There is a flurry of activity as the cells divide until the tiny berry is fully formed. The astute winegrower notices these events, and in turn removes a few leaves around the newly set clusters to allow the sun from first light to dry off the morning dew. Thus, preventing mildew from compromising the young fruit.
About 2 months go by from the time of flowering. The summer unfolds bringing heat and precipitation events to uniquely mark the vintage. It is now that the Pinot Noir wine berries begin to show their true color. The vibrant green wine berries begin to turn just slightly pink, we playfully refer to this event as “Pinot Noir in Flagrante!”
Add another 2 months and we have summer coming to a close and transitioning to fall. Willamette Valley wine country in the fall is somewhat like April in the spring. It is going to rain, we know that. Maybe even hail, but not likely. The Great Cluster Pluck signals the transition from the vine to something other. The wine berries are transformed by fermentation to an ethereal elixir know as Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Mother Nature’s specific tutelage will be forever cast over the vintage to be remembered often and fondly. And after a 6 month rest, a new year brings a new climate to vine relationship.
What Does This Mean and Why Should I Care?
Sometimes things just can’t be explained in a neat and tidy way that humans need. Sometimes there is no known model that fits the situation. That’s why Pi is abbreviated to 3.14. As humans, we are good with that. Unless you were using one of those old Pentium chips that couldn’t do math out to 100 Sig Figs. That was poorly handled by Intel. Reminds us of the 2020 vintage that will seemingly be remembered forever, but NOT fondly.
Even random events, when repeated often enough show a pattern. While we shy away from the phrase “it is what it is”, sometimes it is in fact the best explanation there is. And as proof of our hypothesis, we offer this: “You pick your friends, God picks your neighbors.“ It is an easily verifiable axiom.
As an exercise left to the reader, we encourage you to have a look back to another film. This film projects what life in the United States might be like some 50 years in the future. This clip in particular helps to explain that the agrarian endeavor is in peril. Somewhere along a potential future path, the humans inhabiting the Earth FORGOT that salt is bad for the soil and the plants that grow there.
After watching this clip, repeat the following phrase 50 times: “Amalie Robert has the THIRD half of Pinot Noir. They ferment with whole clusters!”
The important thing to remember about numbers is they are specific. They are objective, not subjective. They contain no ambiguity. And in some cases, their precision can go on forever. However, the data collection process that leads to a specific number is often subjective and therefore may contain some sampling bias.
In the days when people wore watches that needed to be wound, you could ask 10 people (9 of whom wore a watch) for the time and receive 10 unique and verifiable responses. Note: Just because you don’t wear a watch doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t know what time it is. Those responses were “normalized” and a specific time “agreed” upon. It may not be the time that is supported by any individual data point, but more likely an average. Or a weighted average if one data point was considered to be more significant than another. Some data points may simply be ignored, or cancelled, if they fall too many standard deviations from the norm. This phenomenon is known to plague groups of all sizes.
These are our numbers and we have taken all necessary steps to ensure their accuracy. In the infamous title of John Wayne’s biography, “Hell, I was there!”
The month of April is the beginning of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine growing season. We have recorded a total of 90.2 Degree Days for the month of April, with a high of 89.4 degrees on April 28th at 4:48 pm and a low of 30.7 on April 15th at 5:48 am. Generally speaking, it has been an arduous start to the vintage.
Rainfall for the month of April 2023 was 7.28 inches. That is the most April rainfall we have recorded since we began this endeavor at the turn of the century. The next significant April rain event occurred when we recorded 7.07 inches of rainfall in April of 2003. For those of you who keep score, you can see from the heat accumulation chart below that Vintage 2003 was a barn burner! We accumulated record heat, once it stopped raining. Never say never… But you can say Neener! Neener!
Preview of Coming Attractions
Dog Nose weather returns to the Pacific Northwest in early May. Cold and wet.
Dena & Ernie