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  • Writer's pictureNeil & 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:

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 by our calculation would be about 800 cases of wine.

After the wave of new releases in May (2017 Pinot gris, white wine blend (Duology), Estate Rosé, and 2016 Pinot noir, Red Blend, and Syrah), we’re following in July with our new 2016 Reserve Wines: 2016 Zenith Vineyard and Walnut Ridge Vineyard. Soon after that, we hope to have out our first 100% Bluebird Hill Pinot noir (2016) and the Reserve Chardonnay (2016) mentioned above. Thus far, all of the new releases are getting good comments out on the patio, and we are especially proud of our 2016 Pinot noir. Unlike some wines that get ‘bottle shocked’ after bottling, out of the bottle the 2016 PN is tasting just the same as it did in barrel, which many of you barrel-tasted over the winter and enjoyed.

Upcoming Events:

Saturday morning, July 7 will be the next ‘Yoga in the Vineyard’ from 10:30-12 with Guest instructor Susan Goldberg, where you can take part in an outdoor yoga class looking out over the vineyard South Block followed by a wine tasting!

Wednesday July 11 (5:30-7:30) is our next Women and Wine Wednesday.

The format this month is an Indonesian Cooking Class with Chef Shelly ( We will be preparing and enjoying: Indonesian Chicken Curry paired with our 2016 Chardonnay; Loempia (an Indonesian egg roll) w/Peanut Sauce paired with our 2017 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Dadar Gulung (coconut banana pancakes) paired with our 2016 Riesling dessert wine. Tickets are $60 and include the class, dinner and wine pairings. We only have a few spots left so reserve yours now at

The next weekend, July 14 & 15, is our third annual ‘Art on the Hill’, we have about a dozen artists confirmed with perhaps a few more to be added. Make plans to come out and browse the exhibitors’ work with a glass of wine in your hand! You will also find us pouring wine at Philomath Uncorked on July 28th and Art & Wine in the Garden at Garland Nursery July 28 & 29.

Give us a call or visit to reserve your tickets for BBQ on the Hill from 5:30-8 on Sunday, July 29th with special musical guest, singer/songwriter Jesse Meade.

Announcing: Bluebird Hill Cellars First Annual Vertical Wine Dinner

Finally, we’re quite excited to announcing that we are going to host a very special wine dinner at Bluebird Hill on Saturday evening, August 11 5:30-8:30 pm. This is going to be our first annual ‘Vertical Dinner’, featuring our 2014, 2015, and 2016 Pinot noirs. The 2014 Pinot noir was an Oregon Wine Press Cellar Select (November 2016), and the 2015 Pinot noir received medals from this winter’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Savor NW and also 88 points from Wine Enthusiast (Aug2018) . The 2016 has not been out long enough to be in any judging events as of yet, but we have a sense it will our best pinot ever! Dinner will be a summer seafood boil, featuring a nice assortment of seafood (salmon, lobster tail, clams, mussels, etc.), spicy sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, and more. This will be a private event with limited seating, only twelve tickets at $75/person will be sold on a first-come, first served basis. Call the winery at (541) 424-2478 to reserve your spots at this event!


Appetizers: Assorted Cheeses and Charcuterie paired with our 2017 Bluebird Hill Estate Rosé

Entree: Summer Seafood Boil (Pacific NW Salmon with Lobster Tail and other shellfish, spicy sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, mushrooms, and onions) paired with our 2014, 2015, and 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot noirs.

Dessert: Oregon Berry and Peach Shortcake paired with Late Harvest-style Dessert Riesling.

Plan to put this evening, private sit-down dinner with Neil and Sue on the Bluebird Hill grounds on your calendar. Enjoy good company, good food and wine, and the sunset view over the Oregon Coastal Range. Each couple attending will have the opportunity to take home one set of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Pinot noirs at special one-time pricing.

We hope to see you out at Bluebird Hill sometime soon! Our summer hours are Fridays 3-7, and Saturdays/Sundays noon to 5. Also, we are open other times by appointment, and feel free to call us to talk about having us host your private party on our patio after regular tasting room hours or on a weekday evening.


Neil & Sue

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