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  • Writer's pictureNeil & Sue Shay


For those of you who regularly check out our blog, you recall our last post was titled: “The Waiting Game”, specifically regarding our vineyard conditions and the anticipated lateness of harvest this year compared to the past several years here in the Willamette Valley. We also referred to a couple of songs in that post, particularly Todd Rundgren’s version of The Waiting Game.

We’ll keep the classic rock them going with this post, now relying on genre favorite, David Bowie, ‘Changes’ was not only one of his biggest hits, but was released relatively early in his career, in 1971. (“1971? 1971? Holy cow, can that be 50+ years ago…? Wow…”, reflects Neil… “I must have been in kindergarten!”)


Turn and face the strange


Ooh, look out, you rock 'n' rollers


Turn and face the strange

So, if you’re thinking we’re going to tell you about changes happening at Bluebird Hill Cellars, you are correct! A lot’s been happening, and we are going to update you right here, right now:

As of September 15, Neil is now officially retired from his full-time Professor position with Oregon State University. We celebrated Sunday, September 11th, with a reception at the winery for friends and OSU co-workers. It was a great event, everyone had a great time, there was good music, good food, and the wine flowed! We didn’t intend it to be while planning this event, but in fact it turned out to be the biggest event we’ve ever hosted at the winery since we opened in May of 2016! We think there were 100+ people in attendance, and cars were parked EVERYWHERE and almost, but not quite spilled out to on the street parking on Larson Road!

Neil will expand his hours at the winery, moving mainly from being a weekend tasting room host, to more hands-on work out in the vineyard and in the winery. Neil insists that he will also have time now to pursue some hobbies with more intensity, and he will also teach two ten-week online classes for OSU in the winter and spring terms. He’s also keeping a few professional duties including scientific editorial work and some consulting. So, not a lot of napping opportunities for Neil, but it will be different, not being a part of OSU, full-time.

Also, very big news, that many of you who have been around the winery in the past month or two already know, is that our main man, Nick Cheatham, has left Bluebird Hill to start up his own business in Corvallis. Nick’s exciting new endeavor is going to be a wine bar in downtown Corvallis, and he’s chosen to name it ‘Corozón’, in part he has explained to us to celebrate and honor his Spanish and Mexican heritage, and for the meaning behind the word, as you may find from the dictionary, the term Corozón may refer to the heart; to courage or spirit; to love, affection, compassion, or sympathy; or may also refer to one’s lover or beloved.

Nick is a great young man, his background and versatility in both the vineyard and the winery made him very important to us here at Bluebird Hill, and we will miss him! Nick first worked alongside us in 2016 as a part-time winery intern, he worked with us again in 2018, before moving on to an opportunity in the Idaho wine industry. Lucky for us, we were able to persuade him to return to us in March of 2020, and he worked with us since then, until his departure in August.

We give Nick our best wishes for a successful venture and all the happiness in the world… Good Luck, Nick!

We also recently said goodbye to one of our part-time helpers, Ula Renetskis. Ula joined us in June and worked mainly the tasting room over the summer. Ula is working on a master’s degree at OSU and has taken a position in her field of environmental science.

In other news in the winery, we’re continuing to bring on new equipment and new technology that will help us make the best wine we can, and with more efficiency (we hope!) as well. We’ve acquired a floating lid stainless steel, jacketed tank. This is the first jacketed tank we’ve ever owned; the ‘jacket’ on the outside of the tank allows for coolant to be pumped through it, keeping the tank at a constant, cooler temperature. In the past, we have used the cool temperatures of the barrel room to keep our white and rosé fermentations from getting too hot, but this tank will help give us a little extra flexibility at fermentation time and with storage.

Also, we’ve purchased, brand-new, a new bottle corker that will ultimately replace our old reliable, Italian corker that is now about forty years old and simply wearing out… The new corker has one advantage of adding inert gas (argon) at the time of corking, eliminating the ‘sparging’, the replacement of the ambient gas with argon, done by hand, just prior to corking. Hopefully, this will make the bottling process more efficient and provide even better protection against in the bottle oxidation of our wines.

Other additions include a new set of barrels to add to our assortment of French oak barrels, and an upgrade to our ‘BirdGard’ squawk boxes that help prevent bird damage in the vineyard at harvest time.

Other news:

‘Rogue’ grape harvester sighted: We know there is some sweetness in the grapes already, because we’ve caught Gus in the act a couple of times, snagging a few berries off the hanging clusters in the South Block. We’re still predicting a first pick around the beginning of October. Although the sugar is starting to develop, the seeds are still very green and there is significant tartness that needs to soften…

Fall Charity Auction: Many of you know, in part because of the Covid quarantine, we cancelled our 2020 and 2021 golf fundraisers and instituted an online auction fundraiser to replace the charity activity of the golf. The first auction was in 2021, and this year’s auction will be in November. Please plan ahead, if you would like to use some of your 2022 giving dollars to our cause, or provide an auction prize for the event, please just let us know. We are partnered with our local United Way to help fund local activities in our community, helping South Benton County to be a better place to live…

Pinot on the Patio: We hope you didn’t miss Pinot on the Patio! It was a great time, good food, good wine, great fellowship, and what can we say, the South Central Willamette’s greatest duo, The Hipbillies, played an array of greats, including Credence, think there was a Johnny Cash in there, and Neil twisted an arm and got one Steely Dan tune out them as well… It was a great time, plan on this event for 2023, ok?

“Cruise News”: We’re pinching ourselves; we can’t quite believe this is happening, but Sue and Neil are finalizing the details with cruise line AMA Waterways to become the ‘host winery’ of a one-week cruise on the Douro River in May of 2024. Interested to join us? Visit our website or contact Sue at the winery for details… The cruise will be one-week on the Douro, with an option for three days of guided tourist activities in Lisbon prior to the cruise. This is a riverboat cruiser, with a limited number of cabins, so don’t get left out of this opportunity!

Wine Club Parties: These are off and running, and we’re finally out from under the grey cloud of quarantine and social distancing. For active wine club members, we are now scheduling free, private parties in appreciation of your loyalty and patronage of Bluebird Hill over the years. Keep a lookout for the next one, likely will be around the holidays!! Details coming soon!


September 2022

Bluebird Hill Cellars 2019 Reserve Chardonnay, Willamette Valley

Heavy perfumed notes of gardenia are lightened by lime and Meyer lemon and sweetened with some oaky caramelization. Flavors repeat on a balanced palate with just the right amount of weight and toasty butteriness. $54

More News:

We are excited to announce that Bluebird Hill wines are now being distributed by Highland Imports in Neil's home state of Connecticut!


Just this week we shipped a pallet of wine to Private Reserve Wines in Ohio!

and we may not have mentioned...

Our wines are being distributed by NW Beverage in Washington state.

Upcoming Events:

Bluebird Hill Cellars tasting at Coastal Plein Art & Wine Festival

October 1 & 2 Florence

October 7 Corvallis

October 12 Veneta

October 22, 23, 29 & 30

November 5 Albany

November 11 Corvallis

November 18 Corvallis

November 19 & 20

November 25, 26, & 27


Turn and face the strange


Ooh, look out, you rock 'n' rollers


Turn and face the strange


Pretty soon now you're gonna get older

Time may change me

But I can't trace time

I said that time may change me

But I can't trace time

Tasting Room Hours

​May through October:

Reservations appreciated

Friday: 3-7; Sat/Sun: Noon – 5

Outdoor seated tastings. Picnics welcome.

​November and December:

Reservations required

Sat/Sun: Noon – 5

Seated tastings outdoors on our covered front porch, under our tasting room canopy and in our tasting room. Limited seating available.

We know that we have a lot to be thankful for. It's all of you that make it possible for us to live our dreams every day. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Stay safe and healthy, and we hope to see you on the Hill in the near future!

Best always, Neil and Sue

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