• Neil & Sue Shay

Sharpening Our Saws


It’s been said that you cannot cut wood effectively if all you do is cut wood, there needs to be some time sitting back and sharpening your saw. This came to mind a few weeks ago, as we began to get ready for the ‘Super Bowl’ of winemaking, the harvest of our crop and the primary fermentations that will begin the production of our 2019 wines. In its simplest form, it’s Neil joking with our Bluebird Hill Cellars' assistants, Clay Williams and Alexis Doyle, that the cleaning of 60 plastic buckets and oiling of our grape snips was the vine and wine equivalent of preparing for battle or getting ready for the playoffs. At a higher level of complexity, beyond buckets and snips, it’s getting our new destemmer and sorting conveyor ready for the harvest, as well.

Bluebird Hill Chardonnay

Coming down the home stretch, the fruit has been looking absolutely beautiful, and right now, as we write this update, we’re waiting through a few days of rainy weather after which, the long term forecast predicts two to three weeks of absolutely beautiful, mostly sunny and quite pleasant fall weather which should serve to ripen our fruit to perfection! We are so happy, after doing vineyard planting from 2013 to 2017, we are seeing the payoff now, like never before – robust vines, most with a full crop of fruit, where just a year or two ago, we were worried about the same vines, much smaller and fragile, whether they would survive the dry Willamette Valley summer! After Alexis hedged the vines in mid-summer, we finally could see the final form of our Bluebird Hill Farm Vineyard taking shape and becoming a mature vineyard. Right now, our Pinot noir clusters could not be any fatter and larger, and based on our most recent measurements, we’re very close to that magic balance of sugar content, ripe flavors, and appropriate acidity. We’re looking forward to making our best-ever wines in 2019!

New Equipment: We may have talked about this a bit in one of our previous blogs this summer, but just to review, step by step, we are upgrading the winery equipment to a level we had no real vision of just a few years ago. Our first vintage for Pinot noir was 2014, and our first whites were 2015, and honestly, in those two vintages, we were simply put, just trying to ‘make it all happen’, to make good wines that guests would enjoy when the winery opened to the public in 2016. Last fall (go back and check the blog history), we posted about our new Zambelli bladder press, and wrote about how it would improve the quality of our winemaking. Now, in 2019, we are stoked to have on board, a new (new to us, but gently used) destemmer, and a new motorized conveyor belt sorting line. These two items will allow us now, to deliver crushed fruit to our fermentation bins, with much lower levels of less than perfect berries and a much lower level of green stems. Again, like the Zambelli, these are Italian made, from Enoitalia. Enoitalia is one of the top brands of manufacturers producing equipment for wine grape processing. As we expand our production a bit, we’re keeping up with storage, and we’re bringing on four new French oak barrels, five one-year old barrels, and two more steel tanks. We’re hopeful of having more wine than ever in barrel and tank after the 2019 harvest is done.

New Fruit: We have two new sources of fruit this year: first, we’ve entered into a new arrangement for Chardonnay grapes, from La Chouette (‘The Owl’) Vineyard, in the mid-valley Ankeny Hill region. La Chouette is new, and up and coming producer of Pinot noir and other wines, and we are fortunate to have struck a deal with them to secure a good supply of Chardonnay from them on an annual basis. We are hopeful to further build the reputation of Bluebird Hill Chardonnay, from the judging at San Francisco in 2018 and 2019, and the Best in Show at Portland, winter of 2019, to hopefully bigger and better things in the future! Also new in 2019 will be a new source of Viognier. In the search to obtain Viognier from a warmer site, more than the heat we get in the Willamette, we’ve arranged to take delivery of Viognier from the Applegate Valley, just outside of Jacksonville. The only danger in this (written tongue-in-cheek), is that the Vio will be so good, that we may abandon production of Duology, our Vio-Chard blend, and replace Duology with a Viognier.... we’ll see!

Clay Williams
Alexis Doyle

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