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  • Writer's pictureNeil & Sue Shay

Happy Holidays?

Certainly not the yuletide holiday season, but the winery season in the Willamette Valley unofficially kicks off for the summer over the Memorial Day Weekend. Sometimes we get in such a frenzy to get ready for our own opening, we need to keep a special remembrance for what Memorial Day is about – the honoring of our veterans who served our country. We remember especially, Neil’s dad Frank, who served in WWII on the USN Yorktown (CV10) and Sue’s dad Bill, who served in the infantry in Korea. And now that the opening has come and gone, it won’t be long until July 4th is here and we’ll be celebrating another patriotic holiday. So keep a special thought in your hearts and minds for your own loved ones who have served and maybe are serving right now! Thank you vets, for putting your lives on the line to protect us and this great country.

Our own Memorial Weekend at Bluebird Hill was a hit! Sue, Neil, Brian, and Alexis were all on hand and it seemed that just about every guest seemed to enjoy themselves and commented favorably on our new releases. The 2018 Duology is 75% Viognier and 25% Chardonnay and again is going to be a great summer white wine that pairs well with fruit and cheese boards, salads, and other light fare. Both the Vio and Chard are detectable by both the nose and in the taste, and practically speaking, one of the other great things about Duology is that it is our price leader at $18 per bottle. The 2018 Pinot gris might be our best gris ever. We make our PG in an Alsacian style – the pressed juice goes right into neutral barrels and we ferment in the barrels; when the fermentation is done, we then store the wine over the winter in two lots, ~50% in barrels, and ~50% in tank. The wine has a skoosh more mouth feel than the PGs that see only stainless steel, but we still have great acidity and crispness on the palate. There are citrus, kiwi and other tropical fruit notes as well. On our first tasting day over the Memorial weekend, the first couple who came in to taste, took one sip and wrote down “6” on the order form, a nice compliment! Thirdly, we’re pleased to offer our 2018 Rosé of Pinot noir. We hit the perfect shade of color we were looking for, and have a great summer wine with accents of flowers and strawberries. After Memorial weekend, we had wine club pickup weekend and Sue prepared the following pairs: Duology: Chilled fruit skewer; Pinot gris: Shrimp and Thompson grape kabob; and Rosé: salmon salad on crackers. We also think any of these three wines are going to be great ‘summer sippers’, as Neil describes it, one a hot afternoon sitting in the shade of the front porch, all one needs is a chilled glass of wine to sip on, and we’ll worry about what’s for dinner after that!

After the great winter season of wine events and judgings, some results are still trickling in. Sunset Magazine re-instituted its wine competition after a one year hiatus, and we entered our 2017 Chardonnay (bronze) and our 2016 Pinot noir (silver). We liked the 2016 PN from the start, but we are seeing it improve month by month as it ages in bottle, just like the 2015 Pinot did. Other awards these two wines received were gold at SF Chronicle 2019 and 93 points from PinotFile (Chardonnay) and gold at Newport Seafood Festival (Pinot noir). These two wines accumulated multiple awards in the past six months and we’d love to pack up a 3+3 or 6+6 Chardonnay/Pinot noir cellar stocker for you, or maybe as a gift for your favorite wine lover?

Vineyard Update:

We report last blog post about bud break, and wow, what vigorous growth we are seeing out in the vineyard. As we’ve talked about before, our hilltop location offers a bit more sun, perhaps, than other spots, but also provides a way for cold air to drain away, keeping us a bit warmer that some other sites. The vines are screaming along, some have already reached our top wire, and here in mid-June, we’re nearly done with flowering. It has been a task just to walk through the rows and do the required ‘tucking’ of the growing shoots to ensure that they can wrap their tendrils around our four main support wires. As the tucking occurs, we also gradually raise our catch wires to keep the shoots more vertical and pressed against the support wires. The young vines of 2017 and 2018 seem to have taken hold, and we are looking for our first harvest of Bluebird Hill Estate Chardonnay this fall. The Chard was planted in 2016 and 2017 and we probably will harvest a 25-50% crop this fall. So far, we’ve applied two sprays of organic sulfur to protect against powdery mildew, along with a trace of foliar nutrients.

Winery Update: The 2017 and 2018 wines remaining in the barrel room are resting comfortably, chilling out, so to speak: we keep our ‘cellar’ at about 57°F year-round. The next things to happen, this summer, before harvest, are bottlings of our 2017 PNs, including ~125 cases of Willamette Valley PN, three reserves (50 cases each), and 2018 Chardonnay. Also, 2017 Red Blend are Syrah are in the queue. Finally, a bit off the cuff, but we are also prepping our next dessert wine release: a bit exotic, we are going to be releasing a Pinot gris/Rainier Cherry Wine blend, modestly sweet, not syrupy, and definitely displaying the PG notes with a tweak of the Rainier to give you a pleasant offering that will be a great pair with summer shortcakes with fruit, crème brulee, or even your favorite blue cheese. Look for this release mid-summer.

Events, Events, Events!

Join us the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month over the summer for Trivia on the Hill. Bring a partner, bring a team, and arrive between 5:30 and 6:00 for the 6:00 start. Mr. Trivia-1 (Neil) will be writing the questions, and Mr. Trivia-2 (Master of Ceremonies, Kevin) will be reading the questions and scoring: seven rounds of ten questions. Each game will have one “Wine and Food” category, with the other six categories being a mix from literature, history, sports, science, etc. Not too hard but not too easy, either. Get your game face on and a glass of wine in your hand and let’s play!

June 30th at 5:00 pm Sunday BBQ on the Hill with music by Cosmic Strings an acoustic folk/jam duo featuring Emma and Spencer Houghton. They play a style that is all their own. With influences in folk, bluegrass, rock n roll and beyond, their blissful dynamic of beautifully harmonious vocals and creatively vibrant guitar is enjoyed by audiences of all ages. Dinner by Boss Hawg's BBQ Express. Tickets are going fast for this one and registration closes on Wednesday so RSVP now!

July 3rd at 5:30 Women & Wine Wednesday Join us for a Wood Sign workshop with Wild Rustic Designs. Adrienne and Leslie will lead us in a sign making class. $30 covers the class and all materials. Wine will be available by the glass & bottle. Reserve your spot!


We have lots of other events on tap so check them out on our Facebook page or website.

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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