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  • Writer's pictureNeil & Sue Shay

Happy Mom’s Block!

Saturday, April 21 appeared to be our official bud break day at Bluebird Hill Vineyard. After weeks of variable weather: cool/warm/cool/warm/cool/cool, etc., buds all around the vineyard opened up to show the first evidence of 2018 foliage.

At this point now (early May), we are just about through shoot thinning in the vineyard, the process of ensuring a reasonable array of nice, straight vertical shoots, upon which this year’s fruit will be set and mature. In the past few weeks, we’ve planted about eighty new grapevines, filling in the few empty spots still existing between the ~5,500 vines that have been planted over the past five years, starting in 2013.

Many of you know we purchased our Bluebird Hill property back in 2011, without any intention to do anything related to the grape and wine industry. Really, we fell in love with the hilltop property for the view, and knew only that the overgrown Christmas trees that surrounded the house on all sides needed to be removed, but there were no plans to replace them with anything specific. Only after we were moved into the house for a year did we appreciate that we were located in the midst of a set of commercial vineyards, including Broadley Vineyard, one mile to the east of us, and Alpine Vineyard, one of the Willamette Valley’s oldest, just to the west of us.

Over the winter of 2012-2013, we had successfully cleared an open area of perhaps one-quarter acre on the southwest side of our property, and decided to plant what we first considered to be a ‘hobby vineyard’. We found a grapevine producer who had vines available, and arranged to buy 400 vines to plant. So five years ago, almost to the day, we planted those vines on a weekend best characterized by howling wind and regular rain showers. We chose to plant at a compact spacing, five feet between rows, and five feet between plants within the row, to maximize production.

Later in 2013, we made that big decision to go commercial. The details of this are, to be totally honest, hazy now to both of us. However, we embraced it with open arms – we arranged to purchase 2,500 vines over the winter of 2013-2014, which were planted in the north block in April of 2014. The majority of the south block was planted in 2015, and small blocks of Chardonnay were planted in the spring of 2016 and 2017. Since then it’s been mainly trying to fill in the occasional open spots.

However, back to 2013..... As we made the decision to go commercial in the summer of 2013, in talking about this with friends and family, we received a whole slew of opinions! Some folks encouraged us, and I think a few chuckled about our naiveté behind our backs. However, Sue’s mom, Ellora Butler, was one of our supporters, and as a present to us, in the fall of 2013, she gifted us, retroactively, the funds to plant that original block of 400 plants. With that news, we recognized her by naming the 20 x 20 vine quarter acre ‘Mom’s Block’. These Pommard clone Pinot noir vines are our oldest and most vigorous, and right now really looking great, just a few weeks after bud break. So now, coming up to Mother’s Day 2018, and the five year anniversary of our 2013 groundbreaking, we have a lot to be thankful for!!!

We’re celebrating all of this history and activity with a Mother’s Day open house, Sunday, May 13. We’ll be featuring just about all of our new release wines coming out this spring, along with wines that have been featured at wine shows over the winter, including our 2016 ‘triple-gold’ Chardonnay, which also was recently awarded a 90-point rating by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. (Our 2015 Pinot noir also received a respectable 88 points!) The new releases include our 2017’s: Pinot gris, Duology white wine blend (60% Viognier and 40% Chardonnay), and Rosé; and for the reds: 2016’s Willamette Valley Pinot noir, a Syrah, and a Pinot noir-Syrah Red Blend.

Besides our Mother’s Day open house, we are being featured at local wine dinners, on the front burner we are headed to Corvallis Country Club for a members’ dinner, and Harper’s Wine Bar in Brownsville, for one, and maybe more evening dinners. Check our events listings for the specifics.... Otherwise, after Mother’s Day, we are opening for the season over the Memorial Day Weekend, on Friday May 25th at noon sharp. For the remainder of the summer season, our regular hours are 3 -7 pm on Fridays, and noon to 5:00 on weekends. As always, we are always at your disposal to discuss options including after-hours private parties on weekends, and private luncheons and other events during the week. We have a great caterer available, or you can arrange food for your group as well.

Out and about, Nick Cheatham has returned from his internship at Villa Marie in New Zealand, and Brian Day is going to be helping us occasionally again on weekends in the tasting room. We also have two OSU undergrads helping us with yard and vineyard chores, they have been invaluable!

One last thing for the blog, once again, in 2018, Bluebird Hill Cellars is going to be the lead sponsor for a charity golf outing for the benefit of our local United Way Chapter, the Second Annual Play It Forward Golf Outing. We like supporting United Way and in turn, their focus to make positive change in communities through partnerships with schools, government agencies, businesses, organized labor, financial institutions, community development corporations, voluntary and neighborhood associations, the faith community, and others. Our local United Way chapter coordinates with our local rural communities in South Benton County, and assists with the funding of a variety of projects directed to support kids and families living below the poverty line. This event is going to be Friday August 17, 1:00 pm at Corvallis Country Club. We would be delighted to have some of our BBH Cellars friends join us for golf, to volunteer during the event, or to provide a monetary or in-kind gift that could serve as a golf or raffle prize. Contact us for the details if you are interested in any of those options! After golf there will be a great barbecue and we’ll be pouring Bluebird Hill wine.

Thanks again for all of your support of our endeavors!


Neil & Sue Shay

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