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Amalie Robert Estate

This is one of the Willamette Valley’s most distinguished wineries, but not one that is widely known except among the Pinot Noir cognoscenti. You won’t hear its name mentioned in the same breath with the more renowned Oregon winery names such as Ponzi, Argyle, Domaine Drouhin and Cristom, yet it belongs in that echelon. After tasting several releases sent to me recently for review, I wish I had visited this winery when I was traveling along the Pinot trail in July.

I met proprietor Ernie Pink once at Pinot Days a few years ago and did a podcast that is still posted on Grape Radio: I left the podcast thinking, “This is a smart guy with a gleaming smile.” Ernie and Dena Drews bought a 60-acre cherry orchard from a retiring farmer, located 15 miles south of Salem and just outside of Dallas, Oregon, in 1999, and converted it into a vineyard property. The couple had careers in the computer industry, and quickly learned about viticulture and winemaking through a local community college. Literally, viticulture and winemaking became their second careers. They may have been wine neophytes, but they knew what they were doing when they established their vineyard adjacent the famed Freedom Hill Vineyard.

The 34-acre dry-farmed vineyard was planted primarily to Pinot Noir, with lesser amounts of Pinot Meunier, Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier. The first vintage in 2002 was sold to other notable Willamette Valley wineries including Cristom Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards and Panther Creek. By 2006, a multilevel, gravity-flow winery had been built and the first vintage under the Amalie Robert label was released. Only estate grown fruit has been used in Amalie Robert Estate wines. The wines are grown, fermented, blended and bottled at the estate.

The estate vineyard is dry farmed with proper soil moisture management to allow enough hang time to achieve full ripeness in every vintage. Very few leaves are pulled to allow for shading of clusters and prevent harsh tannins of overexposure of grapes.

The name, Amalie Robert, is a combination of Dena’s middle name Amalie (“AIM-a-lee”) and Ernie’s middle name Robert.

The Amalie Robert Pinot Noirs are close to heart because they are crafted with whole clusters, feral yeast and barrel and bottle aged as necessary for complexity and drink ability upon release. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. The portfolio of Pinot Noirs includes seven different wines. In 2012, Ernie was in it to win it!

Ernie’s blog, “The FLOG,” at, follows each vintage year with insightful comments and is something I read regularly. Tours and tasting are available by appointment. Visit the website at On the website there are no technical descriptions of the wines, but the wine descriptions are informative and often humorous. One must search carefully to buy wines on the website: look for “Amalie Robert Direct - Buy Now” in the upper right corner. Wines dating back to the 2007 vintage are available on the website. Pinot Noir from the excellent 2012 vintage such as those reviewed here are currently hard to find, as Oregon wineries are now releasing the 2014 vintage.

2012 Amalie Robert Estate iPinot Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., 300 cases, $28. iPinot is composed of reserve quality barrels of wine selected for the luxury tier of Pinot Noirs blended to create a reserve level wine without the reserve level price. After Amalie’s Cuvée and the Estate Selection are determined, this wine is made from a few favorite barrels of wine without homes. Whole cluster inclusion and feral yeast fermentation. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is very earthy, with aromas of mulch and mushroom, and subservient black cherry fruit in the background. Light to mid weight flavors of cherry and red berry are robed in ripe tannins. The wine has enviable harmony and a cherry-fueled finish that has good intensity. Score: 90

2012 Amalie Robert Estate Estate Selection Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 295 cases, $50. Ernie’s barrel selection meant to reflect the vineyard and his palate. Each block in the vineyard is fermented with whole clusters in small 1.5-ton lots and aged 18 months in French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of black cherry, rose petal, mushroom and pine sap lead to a middleweight styled wine with attacking flavors of black cherry and raspberry. The fine grain tannins are well proportioned, their is seasoned oak in the background, and the wine finishes with a juicy and admirably long finish. Score: 92

2012 Amalie Robert Estate Amalie’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 295 cases, $50. This wine is a barrel selection by Dena that reflects her palate and the site, and is meant to be approachable upon release. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas of cherry, rose petal and spice are so enthralling, I was in no hurry to taste the wine. Very seductive, with a core of fresh black cherry, black raspberry and blueberry fruit flavors that saturate the mid palate and return in waves on the extraordinarily long finish. The wine is beautifully crafted with a supportive tannic spine and balancing acidity, but it is the finish that separates this wine from the pack. Score: 94

2012 Amalie Robert Estate Dijon Clones Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.5% alc, 1,030 cases, $40. 100% estate grown and bottled. A collage of seven Dijon clones from twelve dry farmed vineyard blocks. The individual blocks were fermented with whole clusters and feral yeasts from the vineyard. The lots were aged a minimum of 12 months in French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Exuberant perfume of black cherry cordial, rose petal, spice and pine oil. Ripe and rather bold, with a mid weight plus array of succulent black cherry, black raspberry, blueberry and pomegranate fruits that envelope the palate with sap and persist through a bodacious finish. Smooth, even creamy in the mouth, with filigree tannins. A wonderful reflection of the 2012 vintage. Score: 95

2012 Amalie Robert Estate Wädenswil Clone Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 45 cases, $65. Clone is planted in sedimentary soil vineyard blocks. Two barrels of most compelling Wädenswil clone in cellar. Whole cluster fermented with feral yeasts and aged a minimum of 12 months in on new and one neutral French oak barrel. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Blackberry, forest floor and hazelnut aromas fill the glass. Substantial tannins support the mid weight plus core of luscious black cherry, black raspberry and blackberry fruits that have the right accent of spice. The haunting blackberry-filled finish makes quite an impression. Score: 93

2012 Amalie Robert Estate Pommard Clone Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 45 cases, $65. Two barrels of the most compelling Pommard clone wines in the cellar. Fermented with whole cluster and feral yeasts from the vineyard. Aged for a minimum of 18 months in a new and neutral French oak barrel. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Whole cluster imbued nose featuring aromas of black cherry, cola, loads of spice and toast. The delicious core of sweet cherry, raspberry and spice flavors light up the palate. The ripe tannins are well matched, oak adds a deft touch of seasoning, and the finish hangs on until you take another sip. Score: 93

2012 Amalie Robert Estate The Reserve Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 65 cases, $100. The vintner’s favorite barrels of the vintage.Half Pommard and half Wädenswil clones. Whole cluster inclusion and fermentation with feral yeasts. Aged a minimum of 18 months in new oak barrels, a third of which was very tight-grained wood grown in Russia. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Exuberant aromas of cherry, wildflower, baking spice and nutty oak. The gorgeous core of black cherry fruit is blessed with supportive, age worthy firm tannins. Flavor notes of exotic spices, vanilla and nutty oak add interest. Long in the mouth and extremely long on the extraordinary finish. A serious, connoisseur's wine that needs time in the cellar for full enjoyment. Even better when tasted several hours later and the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Did I say the finish goes on and on? Score: 97

2011 Amalie Robert Estate The Uncarved Block Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

12.6% alc., 1,060 cases, $30. An introduction to Amalie Robert Pinot Noir. Estate grown and bottled. Represents all the clone and rootstock combinations of Pinot Noir grown in the estate vineyard. Fermented with whole clusters and feral yeast. Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Unfined and unfiltered. · Light cherry red color in the glass. Typical whole cluster infused nose with aromas of cherry, rose petal, pine sap and sandalwood. Light in weight, with flavors of red cherry, cranberry and baking spices framed by bright acidity and silky tannins. This wine reflects the very cool vintage admirably. Score: 90

2013 Amalie Robert Estate Heirloom Cameo Willamette Valley Oregon Chardonnay

12.9% alc, 86 cases, $50. Estate grown and bottled. Dijon clones 76 and 95. Whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented in a single 500 liter French oak puncheon without lees stirring. Full malolactic conversion. Aged on lees for 14 months then cold stabilized. A small amount of stainless steel fermented wine that did not under go malolactic fermentation was blended back into the wine before bottling. · Moderately light golden straw color in the glass. The nose is replete with aromas of lemon rind, apple and prickly pear. Both saline and earth charged, with primary flavors of lemon, pineapple, melon and subtle oak. Not a mainstream flavor profile and very individualistic, finishing with some length. Could be highly desirable or just unusual depending on your viewpoint, but in any case the wine is well composed. Score: 90

2013 Amalie Robert Pabuk’s Gift Late Harvest Botrytized Willamette Valley Oregon Chardonnay

10.2% alc., 52 cases, $50 (375 ml). Estate grown and bottled. At the end of September in 2012, extensive rains led to botrytis (noble rot) in the Chardonnay grapes particularly in one block. This rare event was caused by warm weather following typhoon Pabuk. The rains started the fungus infection, but the subsequent weather held it in check. Harvest Brix was 37.4º. About half Dijon clone 76 and half Dijon clone 95. · Moderately light cantaloupe color in the glass. Aromas of fig, ripe pineapple, honey and wax and a dead ringer for a French sauterne. Delicious flavors of dried apricot, honey, tropical fruits and fig spread. Somewhat viscous, not overtly sweet, sliding off the back of the palate like a silk sheet. The finish is notably adorned with intensity. A superb sweet wine with a story (read about it on the website) that makes it even more appealing. I do not drink much sweet wine and review even less, so a score would be superfluous. I would just say, I loved the wine.

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