When Steve Tanzer's IWC reviewed the 2004 Oregon wines, the article quoted one industry insider who described 2004 as a "Pinot lover's vintage," like 1988, 1989, and 1990. The piece closed with the following warning: "A healthy, often fanatical local following ensures that many of the best Pinots never leave Oregon. . . . The cellar-door trade thrives, meaning that perseverance will be required to secure many of the top wines. But in a vintage like 2004, your efforts should be rewarded." Amalie Robert's Dijon Clones ranked as one of the "top wines."
Amalie Robert's accomplishment is all the more impressive given that 2004 was the estate's third vintage. Founders Ernie Pink and Dena Drews met about ten years before, in Dublin, "over a keyboard and a conference table," as Pink likes to say. Neither Pink nor Drews had any training in winemaking: he worked for Microsoft and she was an IT consultant. Both shared a passion for wine, however, and the pair spent long weekends flying back and forth from Ireland to the Continent, where they visited numerous wineries and expanded their knowledge of wine.
When Pink and Drews returned to the U.S. in the late 1990s, they decided to swap keyboards for shovels and launch their own winery. Their timing was perfect: a nearby community college had just founded a viticulture and winemaking program. Pink and Drews were among its first students. Between classes, they spent their free time learning from local winemakers (like Dick Erath and Steve Doerner) and converting their estate's 30-acre cherry orchard into a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyard.
Amalie Robert's 30 acres of densely planted, dry-farmed vines are located on a predominantly south-facing hillside composed of mostly Bellpine soil, a silty clay loam that provides an ideal profile for Pinot Noir. The slope climbs from 275 to 650 feet above sea level. The vineyard takes full advantage of the long, warm summer days and the cool marine influence in the evening that is crucial to developing Pinot Noir flavors and aromas.
To maximize the individual characteristics of soil, microclimate, and each of their several Pinot clones, they divided their vineyard into 34 separate blocks. The trellised vines are hand harvested only when the fruit has reached optimal maturity, and this wine is a blend of five Dijon clones, grown on four different rootstocks from seven dry-farmed blocks.
As for how the 2004 Dijon Clones tastes, we'll defer to the IWC: "Light red. Flat-out gorgeous nose of red berries, yellow rose, and five-spice powder, with a chalky mineral element adding energy and lift. Juicy, vibrant and pure, the nicely concentrated flavors running the red fruit gamut (especially wild strawberry), with an earthy note of rhubarb. Wonderfully clean and brisk, but with no shortage of concentration or flavor impact through the finish. Develops a wild, sweet note of underbrush with air. This is strikingly pure, unadorned, and pretty Pinot." Drink now-2011.