• Neil & Sue Shay

In the Summertime


Vineyard: After bud break seven weeks ago, we’ve had a pretty moderate season thus far, not too hot and not too cold! Granted, all of July and August are still to come, so we may wind up with a killer hot summer, but not as of yet... Almost all of the vines are up to the top wire already, and topping or hedging is looking imminent. We are caught up on our spray program, mostly organic sulfur thus far, to prevent against powdery mildew on the leaves and stems, but now we have young fruit to protect against the grey mold, botrytis. Flowering was 7-14 days ago, and based on the guide that flowering to harvest is about 100 days in the Willamette Valley, we are predicting an end of September harvest, all other things being equal between now and then. The vines look great, the best ever. Nick has been spending a lot of time out in the vineyard to make sure everything is right.

Our ‘babies’, the vines planted last year and this spring, are being kept an eye on to make sure they don’t get stressed or die back from our dry summer soil conditions. Most everyone in the valley with grapes does dry farming, meaning that the mature vines are not watered. It’s just cool enough here to take this approach, whereas if we were any warmer, like Washington state, southern Oregon, or California, we’d need to irrigate ALL the vines to keep them happy in the summertime. However, the younger vines need water to get them through their first year or two in the ground. Starting last summer, we’ve been using a system utilizing water-filled jugs and buckets with a drip emitter pressed into the bottom. We can then set the jug adjacent to a young grapevine and 1-2 gallons of water will drip into the ground, very slowly, allowing the water to reach the root zone of the plant, without much, if any evaporation. It’s been reasonably effective considering our young vines are now more or less randomly scattered around the vineyard rows. We fill our utility trailer with the water-filled jugs, and then truck them around the vineyard, matching up our young plants, which have a small red flag on the top wire, with a jug.

When we talk vineyard talk with our winery guests, we often mention our annual harvests to date. In 2015, we harvested our first real crop from Mom’s block (planted in 2013): 250 pounds of fruit. In 2016, Mom’s matured a bit more, and we harvested 1,000 pounds. Last year, 2017, not only did we obtain nearly a full crop from Mom’s block, but a good part of both the North and South blocks produced fruit and we harvested 13,000 pounds or 6.5 tons. We’re looking at the vineyard this year, knowing there is quite a bit more fruit set vs. last summer, so right now we’re guessing that a 9-10 ton harvest is not out of the question!

Winery: We recently poured our wines for winemaker dinners at Harper’s Wine House in Brownsville on May 22, and at Corvallis Country Club on June 15. Both featured great dinners and all attending enjoyed good food and wine.

Nick poured recently at Second & Vine Bistro in his hometown of Ontario OR. They served the following Bluebird Hill wine & food pairings at the event:

2017 Pinot Gris served with Red Wine Caramelized Onion & Goats Cheese Tartlets

2016 Chardonnay served with Zucchini Tots

2016 Pinot Noir served with Savory Mushroom Tartlets

2016 Syrah/Pinot Noir blend served with Pulled Pork Sliders with Garlic Aioli

2016 Late Harvest Style Riesling served with Mini Fruit Tarts

Click on the links for the recipes!

We’ve also been out and about for a few tastings in shops between Albany and Eugene. In the near future we will be at Cork and Bottle Shoppe in Corvallis on Friday July 13 4-7 pm, at the new Courtyard Marriott in downtown Corvallis on July 18 and August 15 4-7 pm and at Bo's Wine Depot on July 20 5-7 pm. Our triple-gold award winning 2016 Chardonnay (WE: 90) is on it’s way to becoming sold out. So make your move now if you want to have some of this wine in your cellar. The good news is we will soon release a 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, the same wine, but aged one additional year in French Oak. Stop by and ask for a barrel taste of this wine, for the month of July we are running a 20% off special on a futures case purchase of the Reserve Chardonnay.

We’re also reorganizing a bit around the winery. The metal storage building attached to our garage is now going to be our barrel room. This will be a move from the insulated cool room we’ve been using up until now, which will be used to store our bottled inventory. We just finished adding a full, extra layer of insulation to the storage building and the room looks cozy and clean with a food-grade plastic covering the insulation, ceiling and walls. The room can hold at least 32 wine barrels, stacked two high, which