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  • Writer's pictureNeil & Sue Shay

Holidays 2016


After the two open house weekends flanking Thanksgiving, we were thankful to have a slow weekend at Bluebird Hill. We spent a good part of last Saturday tasting though all the barrels and tanks of wine that we plan to bottle in the next two to twelve months. This includes three barrels of 2015 wine, including our 2015 Reserve and Barrel Select PNs and our 2015 Reserve Chardonnay. After barrel sampling, everyone has been agreeing that they are all yummy and we’re going to have a hard time waiting until they are released in May of 2017. We also went through all the 2016 barrels and tanks, including a good number of Pinot noirs (PNs) which included our first full barrel of Bluebird Hill (BBH) Estate PN, and PN from Zenith, Grace Hill, and Walnut Ridge vineyards. Also in barrel is 2016 Chardonnay from Aurora Colony and Sunrise vineyards, Viognier from Aurora Colony, and Pinot gris from Walnut Ridge. We have some Chenin blanc from Grace Hill and some Chardonnay from Aurora Colony also aging in steel tanks, and late this winter, we will do some blending trials and put together another white wine blend containing the three French varietals, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Chenin blanc. We are really excited to get these white wines ready for the bottle, as the quality of the grapes was even better than than the beautiful fruit we received in 2015. The 2016 Rosé of Pinot noir tastes and smells wonderful and we are also working on dessert wines (Late harvest Riesling, Anderson Blues Blueberry-Pinot Port-style, and a third wine made from Oregon Bing cherries). We tasted some of these dessert wines over the Thanksgiving weekends and the only complaints we heard were that people would need to wait until next spring to purchase them. Oh well, we try to tell ourselves good things come to those who wait!

We did bottle 70 cases of our 2015 Willamette Valley Pinot noir immediately after Labor Day, this wine is a Pinot noir blend made from some of our very first BBH estate PN grapes, and PN grapes from Zenith and Grace Hill Vineyards. This wine will rest in the bottle through the winter in our barrel room and will be released this coming spring. Mark your calendars, the 2017 opening weekend at Bluebird Hill will be Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29th.

We took an inventory of our remaining stock this week and, after setting a few cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay aside for ‘library’ designation, we are still holding a small inventory of 2014 Zenith Pinot noir, along with our Rosé, Chardonnay, and Pinot gris. The 2015 Barrel Select PN and Birdhouse Blueberry-Pinot dessert wines are sold out. We’re still pinching ourselves after finding out in late October that the BBH 2014 Zenith Vineyard PN was selected by Oregon Wine Press as one of 17 featured 2014 Willamette Valley PNs, among the 200+ wines that were submitted to them for consideration. This was the first wine that we have submitted for review since opening, and we’re really pleased to see our wine mentioned in the November Oregon Wine Press article!

BBH Video by Katie Shay (our niece)


As a heads up, over the winter, this is what you can expect to see from us, despite the fact that our weekend tasting room hours are suspended until May of 2017:

  • First of all, we are always open to schedule private events for you and your friends and relatives. We are open to plan an event with you at Bluebird Hill, we can easily accommodate groups of up to 12 people comfortably in out tasting room in Monroe. Ranging from basic wine tastings, to barrel sampling, wine and cheese pairings, and catered meals, contact us and we can work with you to schedule a special event for your party!

  • Cellar Cat restaurant in Albany has recently starting pouring our 2015 Chardonnay, and we are working with the great folks there to plan a wine dinner at their restaurant over the winter, perhaps we are thinking this may go down in March, perhaps on a Thursday evening. More to come, keep checking in, we will post details as soon as we know!

  • We are working with the folks in the cheese making program at Oregon State to set up a special wine and cheese pairing event. Again, this is just in the works, but we will let you know, we think this will happen in January or February, details to come out soon.

  • Wine and Food Trivia Night. Both of us are trivia buffs, and we are planning to schedule a one-night trivia contest, focused on the topics of wine and food. Prizes will be offered and there will certainly be wine available by the glass or bottle, and food during the game. Keep watching this space!!

  • Winter Winery Dinner: We are planning to schedule a winter Bluebird Hill Cellars Wine Dinner. Date and details will follow. The guest chef will be our friend and colleague, Ms. Sandy Cavin, from Olympia, Washington. Sandy is not only a chef extraordinaire, but well-versed in the wine industry, as she has a day job in Washington working as a wine distributor sales rep, servicing local restaurants, groceries and wine shops. Sandy, Sue, and Neil toured the Loire Valley together in the fall of 2015 and are headed to the Côtes du Rhône and Burgundy in March of 2017.

So please, please, PLEASE, let us know if you are interested in any of the above, and we will be delighted to send you advance notice and details of these events as they unwind!


Along with everything going on in the winery, things are still hopping outside! Our 2015 Estate harvest was modest, but we were able to pick enough Pinot noir so that we have one full barrel of BBH Estate PN in the barrel room right now. We hope to harvest quite a bit more in 2017, toward our ultimate goal of harvesting 8 to 10 tons of estate fruit each year, which in combination with fruit from some of our partner vineyards, will contribute to what we eventually hope will be ~1,000 cases produced per year. We opened with 214 cases in May of 2016, and we plan to open in 2017 with approximately 500 cases; perhaps by 2019 or 2020 we will hit 1,000 cases!!! However, the case production numbers don’t mean anything to us, if we are not producing quality wine, that people are happy to drink and pleased to serve to their friends and guests. As we’ve gone through the summer and fall, we feel like we would like to be known first as a producer of really good wines, and second, as hosts at a winery which offers great hospitality to their guests and our guests’ friends.

The estate will eventually be the site of ~ 6,000 grape vines. Our narrow and tight 5’ x 5’ spacing is more reminiscent of Burgundian rather than American vineyards; we have chosen this spacing to maximize production on our relatively small property. We have about 900 more grape vines on order for spring plating, this will fill out our south block, plant four new rows of Chardonnay in the north block, and fill in all the open spaces where our planted vines were just not able to get established since we started planting in 2013. We’ve had an abundance of rain this year, especially this fall. By many accounts, our yearly average of 40+ inches of rainfall per year was passed in October, and with a fair amount of rain in November continuing now into December, we may be very close to a record-breaking year for rain this part of Oregon. We’ll see how the year finishes and let you all know. Despite the fact that we’ve gotten a lot of rain this year, we know the majority of years in this area, for the past 30 years, have been lower than average rainfall totals, so we are due for some higher numbers, to help restore dropping ground water levels, especially in the foothill areas of the Willamette Valley.

Also out in the vineyard, we’re excited to be taking delivery of a new tractor this week, a small, narrow-footprint tractor from Linn-Benton Tractor in Tangent and a new airblast sprayer to keep our plants healthy and productive. Our fencing partner, Valley Fence, just finished installing all of the vineyard end posts in the south block and for four additional rows on the north side. Now, over the winter, we have to lay several miles of wire, mostly in the front block, then plant our remaining new plants in the spring.

Bluebird Hill Cellars Holiday 3 pack - our most popular wines 2015 Pinot gris, Chardonnay and Oregon Wine Press November Cellar Select 2014 Zenith Vineyard Pinot noir. Just in time for the holidays, 10% off your purchase of this 3 pack. Available in our tasting room or by phone.

Can't decide what to give? Have your own favorites? Like to do things your way? Great! Create your own gift and add the gift box or basket and note card. Call us at (541) 424-2478 and we'll help you pick a great selection.

Give the gift of consideration! Wine is a subjective experience and we all have different appreciations for myriad wine styles, vintages, and varietals. Allow lucky recipients of a Bluebird Hill Cellars gift card to decide for themselves the wines that suit best. Available in any amount and rechargable, they can be purchased at the winery or ordered by phone at (541) 424-2478. We'll even drop it in the mail for you along with a personalized card.

Finally, we’d love to hear from all of you, our BBH friends and wine club members. What have you been up to, what travels have you made, and what travel or events are on your calendar for the winter and spring? Let us know, and maybe we will start a ‘travelogue’ section on our webpage, to let others know what our fellow BBHers are up to.

We wish you a great holiday season and hope to see every one of you sometime soon!!


Neil & Sue

May you be blessed

With the spirit of the season, which is peace,

The gladness of the season, which is hope,

And the heart of the season, which is love

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