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  • Writer's pictureNeil & Sue Shay

2018 Harvest Update!

After months and months of waiting, the harvest exploded into action at Bluebird Hill on September 22 as a crew of eager pickers set out in the cool of the early morning and picked more than a ton of Pinot noir from the North Block for our 2018 BBHC Rosé. We picked some of each of our five different Pinot noir clones: Pommard, Wädenswil, 777, 667, and 115. (For those of you interested to learn more about clones, here is perhaps a good start from Dr. Rusty Gaffney, at his ‘PinotFile’ blog:

Fruit was crushed after lunch and we let the crushed fruit sit about 3 hours before setting forward to the press, to collect that pink-colored grape juice that would then be fermented into rosé.

Our new ‘toy’ in the winery is a new wine press, a made-in-Italy “Zambelli Hydro 450”. The new press just about triples what we can press at one time, allowing us for the first time to process an entire fermentation bin (~ 1 ton of fruit) in one press run. The ‘Hydro’ in the name refers to the fact that the press operates via a water-filled bladder that operates off regular house water pressure. The material inside the six-foot tall basket is gently squeezed from the inside-out, and the juice (or wine, depending what we press), pours down into a collecting pan that can then be pumped or drained into a tank or barrel. Our sense already is that the juice and wine we are collecting from this press is treated very gently. There is very little agitation or oxygenation, leading to a great quality product to move onto the next step in the winemaking process, be it fermentation, for the case of white and rosé winemaking, or for ‘barreling down’, when we press our fermented Pinot noir. This ten to fourteen day-old wine is kept overnight in a settling tank, to allow some of the fine solids to settle to the bottom, and then the somewhat clarified wine is then pumped into our French oak barrels for what will probably be two years of aging before bottling.

The fruit this year seems to have great acidity balanced by near-perfect sugar levels and great flavor! We picked from the North Block the first weekend, went out the South Block during the middle of the next week, and then finished up with Mom’s Block and our Pinot gris in the second weekend. In the meantime, we also brought in two tons of Pinot gris from Walnut Ridge Vineyard, and Chardonnay and Viognier from Aurora Colony. The last of it was 1.5 tons of PN from Zenith Vineyard (Eola Hills AVA) and more Chardonnay from Sunrise Vineyard, in Cheshire.

At present, we have a variety of fermentations still going on at various stages, in fermentation bins for the Pinot noir, and in tanks and barrels, for the case of our white wines. Harvest and crush wrapped up the weekend of October 6 & 7, with Pinot noir arriving from Zenith and Sunrise. All in all, it looks like we processed 15 tons of fruit, perhaps winding up being about 900 cases of wine! Moreover, maybe not a surprise, but guess what? As we expand our production, we are finding that space is more than a little tight. Neil is starting to think about where the next storage structure might be placed, and how big it needs to be!

We worked around a minor glitch, in that our forklift went down (hydraulic lift developed a leak), and it took more than a week to get the right parts and schedule the repair. Some wine people, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, call the forklift the most important piece of equipment in a winery. Hard to argue with that...

The new releases out in August and September are getting good reviews! We have a new Reserve Chardonnay, the 2016, which is a partner to the 2016 Chardonnay that received four gold medals. This reserve is a keeper! In addition, our 2016 Pinot noir reserves are out now, the Zenith and Walnut Ridge single-vineyard reserves, along with our Bluebird Hill Estate Reserve, which happens to be the first Pinot noir we have ever released made entirely from Estate fruit. These reserve wines would be a great gift for those starting to think about the holidays. Think maybe about a 3-pack of the single vineyard PNs....

Speaking of the holidays, we have one eye already on the Thanksgiving open house weekends (November 17&18 and 23-25). We are planning to offer barrel samples of our 2017 Pinots, and maybe a taste or two of the “Noveaus” from this fall. Also on tap are these other events: October 27 & 28 Wine Club Pickup Weekend-Free Brats, Sauerkraut and potato salad for wine club members, Wine & Food Trivia Sunday November 4 and our second-annual Chili Cookoff, January 20, 2019. Visit our Events page for details on these events as well as other upcoming events.

One other thought: if you are thinking about a holiday get together for your friends, relatives, or co-workers, think about arranging a wine-tasting party at Bluebird Hill. We can custom design a wine and food event sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.

Thanks to all of you for being part of our Bluebird Hill family and we look forward to seeing you all in the coming months!!


Neil & Sue Shay

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