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  • Writer's pictureNeil & 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

New People: We’ve talked about them before, but just to reiterate, we’re so pleased to have Clay Williams and Alexis Doyle on board for harvest and beyond. Clay is an OSU student who joined Bluebird Hill in the spring of 2018. He was away this summer, but is back now, and plans to stay at Bluebird Hill full-time after he graduates in December. Clay will support our efforts in both the vineyard and winery, as Nick Cheatham did in 2017 and 2018. Alexis is going to be working part-time in 2019 and 2020, while she finishes a degree at OSU in Food Science and Enology. Of course, Brian Day will still be around, helping us in the tasting room on Sundays and for special events as needed.

Recent Accolades: Since our last blog we've heard back from a couple of competitions that we had entered over the summer. We were thrilled to learn that all 4 of the wines that we submitted to The Oregon Wine Competition received medals. Our 2018 Pinot gris & Rosé and our 2017 Chardonnay all received Silver medals and our 2016 Pinot noir received a Double Gold. The 2018 Pinot gris & Rosé were also Judges Picks at SIP Northwest magazine's "Best of the Northwest".

Upcoming Events:

September 25 Wed 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Wine Tasting @ Courtyard/Corvallis

October 2 Wed 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Women & Wine Wednesday - Succulent Dish Garden Creation

October 23 Wed 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Wine Tasting @ Courtyard/Corvallis

November 2 & 3 noon to 5:00 pm

Wine Club Pickup/Octoberfest

November 6 Wed 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Women & Wine Wednesday- InstaPot Cooking Class

November 9 & 10 6:00 to 9:00 pm

Vertical Dinners

November 20 Wed 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Wine Tasting @ Courtyard/Corvallis

November 23 Sat 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Wine Tasting @ Bo’s Wine Depot/Eugene

November 23 & 24 noon to 5:00 pm

Pre-Thanksgiving Open House

November 29- Dec 1 noon to 5:00 pm

Post-Thanksgiving Open House & Barrel Tasting

December 4 Wed 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Women & Wine Wednesday- Holiday Sign Painting Class

December 14 Sat 6:00 to 8:00 pm

Holiday Dinner

December 21 Sat 6:00 to 8:00 pm

Holiday Dinner

December 18 Wed 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Wine Tasting @ Courtyard/Corvallis

December 20 Fri 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Wine Tasting @ Bo’s Wine Depot/Springfield

January 19, 2020 Sun 1:00 to 4:00 pm

Chili Cookoff

January 24 & 25, 2020

Bluebird Hill Cellars @ First Taste Oregon

February 2-4, 2020

Bluebird Hill Cellars @ Portland Seafood & Wine Festival

February 20-23, 2020

Bluebird Hill Cellars @ Newport Seafood & Wine Festival

March 7, 2020 Sat 3:00-7:00 pm

Bluebird Hill Cellars @ Corvallis Wine Walk

March 13-15, 2020

Bluebird Hill Cellars @ SIP McMinnville Wine & Food Classic

March 12-15, 2020

Bluebird Hill Cellars @ Savor Cannon Beach

April 10- 12, 2020 noon to 5:00 pm

Spring Open House

April 24-26, 2020

Bluebird Hill Cellars @ Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival

May 9 & 10, 2020 noon to 5 pm

Mothers Day Weekend

May 22-25, 2020 noon to 5 pm

Memorial Weekend Open House

Visit our Events page for further details and to RSVP to our events.

We hope to see you at the winery soon! Get a group together, put together a picnic, and make a plan to spend a few hours with us. Our hours are Fridays 3-7, and Saturdays/Sundays noon to 5 through November and Saturdays/Sundays noon to 5 in December. Also, we are open other times by appointment, and feel free to call us to talk about having us host your private party after regular tasting room hours or on a weekday.


Neil & Sue Shay

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