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  • Writer's pictureNeil & Sue Shay

Harvest is coming!

We feel like we say this with nearly every blog post, but just cannot believe it is already two months since our last post. We are on track for that late September harvest that flowering predicted, as we mentioned at the end of June...

Vineyard Report: We are just about 100% past veraison now, the changing of those small and hard green berries into purple berries that begin to accumulate their sugar and wonderful flavors, while reducing their acidity. We track the sugar content of the grapes and their acidity by picking a few clusters from around the vineyard, and then measuring the sugar content, and pH and total acidity to evaluate the balance between sugar and acidity. At the same time, we taste our fruit, to monitor that balance first hand. We also look at other parameters like the color of the seeds (they change from green to brown as the grapes ripen), and the texture of the skin. If you take a berry in your fingers and crush it, the skin gives up some information about ripeness of the grape and the closeness of harvest: if you rub the red skin of a pinot noir grape between your thumb and other fingers, skin from a ripe grape will readily release red pigment onto your fingers. The last week or two and the following week or two are particularly gratifying, as the grape clusters grow dramatically in size, almost doubling in weight from just before, to just after veraison. We hope you can come out and take a walk in the vineyard, we’re going to be offering a daily tour or two, each afternoon we’re open, to take a look at the grapes, take a taste or two, and maybe bring the refractometer out with us, to make a spot check of sugar levels in the grapes. Keeping our fingers crossed, the long-term forecast is predicting many pleasant days and cool nights that will help ripen our grapes in the best possible fashion!

So this all begs the question, exactly how much sugar are we looking for in our grapes?? There is no absolute answer, but a lot of winemakers love it when their pinot comes into the crushpad at around 23 – 24 percent sugar in the juice. In the wine and food industries, we usually use the word ‘brix’ as an identifier of the percent sugar levels. For example: ‘this week, we expect our grapes to be at around 17 brix.’

Despite the hot days of July and August, we have managed to keep most of our spring-planted vines alive and healthy. Mid-summer, we switched over to a system using a 50 gallon plastic water tank on a home-made trailer which we tow around the vineyard and directly spot-water any grapevine that looks like it needs water. It looks like just about all of the replants we put into the ground in April are alive and well. As a local vineyard expert tells us, the first year is mainly about ‘keeping them alive’....

Winery: We just finished a constant, if not hectic month of work. All of the 2016 wines are now out of their barrels and into the bottle. A week or two ago, we bottled our 2016 Bluebird Hill Estate Pinot noir – exactly one barrel, 25 cases. This is our first 100% Bluebird Hill Vineyard Pinot noir wine, after two years of making PN from grapes purchased from other vineyards. This special wine is now on our tasting menu, and thus far, everyone loves it! We are hoping all of you will come out and take a taste and let us know what you think. The wine is Pommard clone dominant and barreled for two years in French oak with ~25% new oak.

On the white side of the fence, we have had more good news on our award winning 2016 Chardonnay. This wine now is four for four, receiving a gold medal at the 2018 Oregon Wine Competition, benefitting the Asante Children’s Miracle Network. (Our Pinot gris, by the way, silvered in this event!). How could this get any better, you might ask??

The answer would be the release of our 2016 Reserve Chardonnay. This is the exact same wine as the 2016 Chardonnay, but about a year ago, one barrel was held back and aged in barrel for an extra twelve months. This special reserve is now in bottle, and also on our tasting list at the winery. This wine is exceptionally luscious, silky, and balanced. One recent tasting room guest, who is particularly savvy regarding Chardonnays, told us he thought this wine was as good as any he’s recently tasted from both Oregon and California. So again, we ask you to come on out, make the trek to Bluebird hill, and taste this wine!

The new barrel room is working out great. As we mentioned in our last blog, this space can hold at least 32 wine barrels, maybe more... Right now, we have 16 barrels in this space, 13 barrels of 2017 Pinot noir, and 3 barrels of 2017 Chardonnay. The cooling system is working great and we are keeping our barrels at about 56-58°F, a great cellar temperature.

On the social side, things have been busy as well! The golf outing for the benefit of our local United Way and South Benton County needs teed off on August 17 and raised nearly $5,000. The golf, wine, and food was great, and Corvallis Country Club did a great job hosting us and providing an exception post-event barbecue dinner! The 2014-2014-2016 Pinot noir vertical dinner was a lovely and intimate event with twelve in attendance, and Pinot on the Patio happened last weekend with 30+ guests enjoying good food, wine, and the music of the HipBillys.

On the harvest side, we are thinking the weekends of September 14-16 or 21-23 might when the ‘checkered flag’ of harvest gets waved. If you would like to be a part of the harvest crew at Bluebird Hill, shoot us an email or give us a call. We start early, in the cool of the early morning, and then try to debrief over a barbecue lunch on the deck, as we plan to crush the picked grapes and get our 2018 fermentations started. We had a few friends help us last fall, and would love to see them again, and maybe have a few more out to help us with this significant winery event!

Upcoming Events:

Aug 31, 2018 Bluebird Hill Cellars wine tasting at Cork and Bottle Shoppe in Albany Neil will be pouring our award winning wines from 4 to 7.

Sept 1, 2018 Join us for our next to the last Yoga in the Vineyard for 2018 tomorrow at 10:30 am. Please RSVP at no later than 9 pm this evening.

Sept 9, 2018 Bluebird Hill Cellars wine tasting at Wine on The Green Corvallis Country Club

Sept 15, 2018 Yoga at the Vineyard

Sept 22, 2018 BBQ on the Hill with music by Jesse Meade (limited seating~ticket sales will close at 9 pm on Wednesday, Sept 19th)

Sept 29, 2018 Stock your Cellar Red wine tasting at Corvallis Country Club (members only)

We hope to see you at the winery! Get a group together, put together a picnic, and make a plan to spend a few hours with us. 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 Shay

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