Either the “New Normal” or “New Abnormal” (as Neil says sometimes now), it’s hard to believe that during this crazy time, we can talk, or want to talk about normal things, typical things, things like vineyard goings on, and winery goings on. But to talk about these things gives us some relief from this ‘Covid Stress’ that many of us are preoccupied with, for good reason. So, for now, we are going to set that stress aside, and talk about some of the normal things, that we would every year.
In the Vineyard: The spring weather has been fantastic this year, and after a winter that was a bit warmer than average, our bud break was a week or more ahead of the past two years. After bud break, spring in our corner of the valley was delightful: a mixture of sunny and rainy days, with very average temperatures for the springtime – no sneaky early warm days, nor excessively cold days. With this great spring weather, the vines quickly moved out of first gear and in seemingly a blink of an eye, this year’s new shoots were at the top wire of the trellis system. We just finished hedging this week, and the vineyard has never looked better, the younger parts of the vineyard have caught up to the more mature rows, and foliage everywhere looks nice and even. We’ve been through the vineyard about every two weeks since bud break with our spray rig, and now have switched from early sprays of sulfur, to combat powdery mildew, to other sprays that will act not only on the powdery mildew, but also the grey mold, Botrytis cinerea.
In the Winery: With Phase II of reopening in Benton County beginning in late May, we went ahead and opened our outdoor tasting area over Memorial Day Weekend, with some major changes in the way we operate, to ensure that social distancing and a secure environment is maintained. Our tasting room hours are still the same, Friday through Sunday, but we are asking guests to book online, email us at email@example.com or call (541) 424-2478 ahead to make a reservation for one of our socially-distanced tables. We have two large tables under cover on the patio, two tables of four with umbrellas out on the front lawn, and two bistro tables with umbrellas that seat 2-4 people out in our garden patio just outside the tasting room. All of these tables are 10-15 feet apart, and when we only have a few parties tasting, you might be 50-100 feet away from the next group. Secondly, you will find when you arrive, that the reception table is 10 feet away from your Bluebird Hill host, who will be behind the tasting room counter. Third, we have a new system for tastings: we are offering tastings of 4, 6, or all 9 wines, and we serve guests all the wines at once, in mini carafes on a plastic tray. This allows us to approach your table one time, instead of many times to pour each wine one by one, as we have done in the past. Interestingly, the response to this change has been outstanding – just about everyone has liked getting all the wines at once, allowing guest to taste at their pace, and trade tastes if they want (“I’ll give you my whites for your reds”)
Results from the Oregon Wine Awards were released last week, and we're quite pleased with the results: three golds (yay!), our 2018 Pinot gris, the 2017 Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot noir, and our new dessert wine, the 2019 Birdhouse. The Birdhouse is a quite unique blend of Pinot gris and Rainier Cherry wine, a light, fruity white dessert wine, modestly but not syrupy sweet. Our 2018 Chardonnay also received a bronze medal, all in all, there were relatively few wineries in the whole competition who scored “gold x 3”, so we are very pleased that in independent, blind tasting, our wines are being appreciated! The 2017 Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot noir is on its way to becoming one of the highest regarded wines that we’ve ever released – you might remember that this wine received a double gold and 96 point rating at Savor NW Wine Competition earlier this spring, was a May 2020 “Cellar Select” in the Oregon Wine Press, won a Gold medal/92 Points at the 2020 San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge and now this gold medal.
All of our spring bottling (2019 PG and Rosé, and 2017 Red Blend and Syrah) was completed successfully with skeleton crews and appropriate distancing. Our 2018 Pinot noirs are resting in the barrel room, we will eventually release a flagship PN, and two reserves: South Block Estate Reserve, and Mom’s Reserve. These are tasting great right now in barrel. We have over 20 barrels of 2019 Pinot noir, and the equivalent of 6 barrels of 2019 Chardonnay in the barrel room as well. Interestingly, we came across a survey of Pinot noir producers, and we found out that our winemaking program, which includes barrel aging of 22-24 months, is only performed by ~5% of all producers, with most keeping their wine in barrel 10 months or less. We like what happens to our wine during that second year of barrel aging, our thinking is the wine seems to soften up and develop more mouth feel.
New for July: For four weekends in July, we are offering a first: library tastings of Pinot noirs and Chardonnays. Going back to our first PN from the 2014 vintage, we will be offering special sets of 2014’s, 2015’s, and 2016’s. On the Chardonnay side, we will be pouring the 2015’s, 2016’s, and 2017’s. We have some nice wines in the library, gold medal winners, double golds, best in show, and Cellar Selects. Each weekend will be a different set of four wines, and we will be offering four 3-ounce pours for $25 (wine club members @ $20). We will be announcing each weekend’s library set during the week before on our Facebook page, so keep an eye out!
We’re pleased to be offering a few specially priced packages for the month of July:
Summer Sipper Case: Our lightest wines, three Pinot gris, three Chardonnay, three Rosé, and three Birdhouse Dessert: Retail is $288, 20% off is $230; wine club members get 25% off ($216).
Dessert Special: Celebrating our gold medal for the 2019 Birdhouse Dessert wine (recall, this is the Pinot gris/Rainier Cherry blend), we are offering cases of this wine ($240 retail) at 20% off ($192) or 25% off for club members ($180). We had a couple of nice conversations with guests about this wine as they were tasting it, and consensus is, that good dessert pairs for this wine would be pound cake or angel cake with fresh whipped cream topped with peach slices; also, key lime pie or lemon meringue pie, or maybe even fresh Rainier cherries over ice cream or gelato.
Shipping Special: For our friends who live out of state, we will be offering $10 shipping on 3 or more bottles for all of July. Visit our online shop and use the coupon code SHIP10JULY at checkout to take advantage of this special offer. The shipping discount is not stackable with other discounts.
We know many of you are not going to be comfortable yet, heading out to wineries, restaurants, or other businesses, so just remember we are always happy to set up a private tasting appointment, curbside pickup or do a local delivery. If you can make it out, we are going to do our very best to make sure you have a great time in a safe environment, all things considered.
Thank you for continuing to support small, independent wineries in this difficult time. We appreciate you all so very much and look forward to raising a glass of wine with you soon.
We wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend and hope to see you on the Hill sometime soon!
Neil & Sue Shay