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  • Writer's pictureNeil & Sue Shay

A Pressing Engagement.....

For the past two and half weeks since our last post, just eighteen days, we’ve been fermenting fruit from our own vineyard, and our vineyard partners: Zenith, Walnut Ridge, and Aurora Colony. Bluebird Hill fruit from our warm site came in first, followed by Zenith Pinot noir, Walnut Ridge Pinot gris and Pinot noir, and then Chardonnay from Aurora. Viognier is the straggler and should come in next week. As of yesterday, all of the Pinot noir has gone through the primary fermentation; while the Gris and Chardonnay are merrily bubbling away as the yeast use their sugary feast to help them grow, and produce ethanol and carbon dioxide, the end products of the fermentation reaction.

As Pinot noir nears the end of fermentation, we begin the process of collecting that delicious liquid: of course, it’s not juice anymore, after the sugar is gone, it’s wine! We take our fermented musts, a mixture now of wine, skin and seed, by bucket brigade into our basket press. Most of the liquid, the young wine, is collected as the ‘free run’, the wine that freely passes directly through the wooden slats of the basket into a collecting bin. Watching that juicy red liquid pass out of the spout of the press makes us feel that some sort of cycle has completed, starting last winter, when the vines were sleeping, we began our pruning, getting ready over the course of the cool, grey winter months to get the vines ready for spring and bud break. Then, all season long, it was tending to the vines, taking care of the training, the pruning, leaf pulling, and occasional sprays to keep things healthy. At this first look at our 2017 wine, it appears that all that work, starting last winter, is coming to a successful close.

Watching the free run fraction pour out of the wine press takes us to the heart of winemaking. We’ve decided that our Bluebird Hill Pinot noirs will be made solely from free run wine. As an analogy, if wine collected during the press process were beef, then the free run portion would be the center cut filet, the best of the best. The remainder of the wine collected is the press fraction, when pressure must be applied to the wet grape skins to obtain additional wine. The press fraction has a higher content of tannins and may be bitter compared to the free run fraction. Press wine is often blended back into free run, and/or manipulated to reduce the levels of the bitter tannins. Although this high-tannin fraction may have other great uses, we’re deciding not to use it as a component of our Pinot noirs. Hopefully, the quality of our Pinots will demonstrate the wisdom of choosing to do our winemaking this way!

The free run wine that passed through the basket press is kept overnight in a holding tank, to allow some of the grape solids to sediment and not be moved on to barrel with the partially clarified wine. We now have twelve barrels of 2017 Pinot resting comfortably in oak barrels. We’re keeping the barrels a little warm (~ 65F) for a while, to allow the secondary stage of fermentation, the malolactic fermentation, to occur before winter. The barrels were inoculated with malolactic cultures, the microbes that convert the sharper, more acidic malic acid, into a softer flavor compound, lactic acid. Just about all red wines go through this process, and our fermentations have been moving forward so well, we are hoping to get this process done now, at the conditions these microbes prefer, so our wines can rest over the winter at a nice, cool cellar temperature, around 58F.

Along with all of this going on, we were able to get the remainder of our 2016 wines shepherded into their final destiny. We have 4.5 barrels of our 2016 Willamette Valley PN set aside, which is to be bottled this winter and become available for sale in 2018. We also have single-barrel wines, Reserve PN’s from Bluebird Hill, Zenith, and Walnut Ridge, and our 2016 Reserve Chardonnay. It’s been both a hectic, exciting, and fun time over the past weeks starting with our harvest and continuing into the 2017 winemaking.

We hope to see all our friends in the coming weeks as the holidays approach!

November 15th 6 to 8 pm Wine Tasting at 16 Tons 265 E. 13th Ave. Eugene, OR

November 17th 5 to 7 pm Wine Tasting at Bo's Wine Depot 364 E 40th Ave Eugene, OR

November 18 & 19 noon to 5 pm Pre Thanksgiving Open House Bluebird Hill Cellars 25059 Larson Road Monroe, OR

November 24-26 noon to 5 pm Post Thanksgiving Open House Bluebird Hill Cellars 25059 Larson Road Monroe, OR

Holiday Wine Specials

Holiday 3-Pack: 10% off

2016 Walnut Ridge Pinot Gris

2016 Chardonnay and

2015 Pinot Noir

20% off Case purchases of

2016 Trilogy, 2016 Rosé and

2016 Late Harvest Style Riesling

We're open Fridays from 3 to 7 pm and Saturday & Sunday noon to 5 pm the next two weekends. Holiday hours Pre and Post Thanksgiving weekends and by appointment. We hope to see you in the tasting room soon.


Neil & Sue

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