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  • Neil & Sue Shay

March Madness?

AKA our March 2021 Blog Post

It’s a cloudy and cool Sunday afternoon here at Bluebird Hill, and we’re taking some time to catch our breath and take stock of what’s been done to vine and wine and what still needs to happen. So read on, and we will catch you up on the latest happenings.

In the vineyard, there is no ‘March Madness’ or anxiousness on our end: we have finished pruning, two canes tied to the bottom wire in what the viticulturalists call ‘bilateral vertical shoot positioned’ trellising. All the cuttings are gone now, with our new flail mower attached to the back of our Kubota tractor (check out Instagram post for photos and video of this guy in action!), we were able to reduce almost one-foot-tall heaps of cuttings into small, shredded wood chips with just two passes!

Everything out there is tidy, and now we are starting to see white wildflowers blooming in patches of the South Block. It seems that we had a cooler and wetter winter compared to a year ago: buds on the grapevines show no signs of swelling up yet, and we are just starting to see the plum trees open and are just about to blossom. On our property, the plum trees are the first to declare ‘it’s spring’ by showing off a dense cover of snow-white blooms.

All the apple trees have gotten their winter pruning and after hitting the three cherry trees at our entryway, we will be able to put the pruning tools away for the year. Last week, we rented a slit seeder for a couple of days and worked additional grass and red clover seed into the vineyard alleyways in both the North and South Blocks. Our timing was good, a day after we finished the slit seeding, there were three rainy days in a row!

Right now, this afternoon, we are seeing that our bluebirds, which keep company in a small flock over the winter, have paired off and are starting to investigate the empty bird boxes on the property; accompanying them is a good-sized flock of goldfinches. The goldfinch males are just starting to develop their summer bright yellow feathers. Sue cleaned up and filled the finch feeders with Niger thistle, and those little finches are fighting to take a turn and get their fill. We still have a bunch of other outdoor chores to take care of, like the spring burn piles, and cleaning up and replanting the veggie garden for the season. All in all, we feel like we’re on track…

In the winery, Nick has been working away to take care of the needs of our wines ‘resting’ in the barrel room, the 2019 Pinots and Reserve Chardonnay, and all the 2020 wines. We are getting ready to do some blending of the 2019 Pinots and it looks like once again, we will be putting together a 2019 Red Blend, our blend has been and will continue to be a Syrah-Pinot combination, that produces a bigger wine that pairs well with grilled meats and other hearty entrees that you wouldn’t normally think about pairing with a Pinot noir… On the Pinot side of things, the 2019s will include our largest bottling ever, the 2019 ‘Flagship’ Pinot, along with several reserves, very likely following the 2018 reserve lineup of Mom’s, South Block, and Zenith Vineyard. As far as the 2020s go, the Pinots are a long way away from being ready to bottle (18 more months!), but we are just about ready to bottle our 2020 Rosé, a late harvest style Pinot gris dessert wine, and new for us, a ‘Blanc de Noir’, a delicious white Pinot noir made by crushing a ton and a half of PN grapes, and then pressing immediately to make a nearly clear grape juice. There’s just a trace of the skin pigment in this light wine to give away the fact that the wine was indeed made from red grapes. We hope to have both of these wines available for the traditional start of the tasting room season, Memorial Weekend at the end of May.

With the winter season of wine festivals all being cancelled for the sake of social distancing, we have been spending a lot more time at home and have even opened for outdoor tasting on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when decent weather permits. Now that spring is officially here, you can pretty much count on us being open on weekends for wine tasting and curbside pickups. With the combination of the tasting room traffic, and occasional visits from RV-ers with the ‘Harvest Host’ program, we are hoping to match the sales that we had been making at wine shows in Salem, Portland, Newport, McMinnville, and Cannon Beach. Most of those shows, however, have gone on and held wine competitions, and we are part-way through getting results from these shows. So maybe this is a good chance to recap wine news that we have received over the winter. A bit of this is carry-over news from our last blog, so you may recall reading about the first two items on the list, but the remaining awards are brand new:

- The 2017 Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot Noir continues to be one of our highest-regarded wines ever. In this winter’s 2021 Platinum Award Competition held by Wine Press Northwest, this wine, made from a 50/50 combination of grapes from Zenith and Walnut Ridge Vineyards was judged the number one, highest scoring Pinot noir among a group of forty gold medal-winning Pinots! (And, no, N.B., we did not bribe the judges, this was a blind judging event with three different multi-judge teams… ) This wine is a mixture of Pommard Clone (50%) combined with 115 and 777 (25% each). We are expecting this lovely wine to be sold out by Memorial Day, put it on your list to get some of this wine into your cellar soon!! You can read the Wine Press Northwest writeup on the 21st Platinum Judging here.

- Wine Enthusiast Magazine received six of our wines in December, and in late January, we were notified that all six were very well received, with scores ranging between 92 and 94 as follows:

- 2019 Chardonnay: 92 Points & Editor’s Choice

- 2018 Reserve Chardonnay: 93 Points

- 2018 Willamette Valley (‘Flagship’) Pinot Noir: 92 Points

- 2018 Mom’s Reserve (100% Estate) Pinot Noir: 93 Points

- 2018 Zenith Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir: 93 Points

- 2018 South Block Reserve (100% Estate) Pinot Noir: 94 Points

We have sent our wines to Wine Enthusiast before, but not ever received a set of scores like this from them before. (For our best set of scores prior to this, see our write up in the PinotFile from 2019: ( ) And speaking of PinotFile, we just got a new set of scores published today on their website (

- 2018 Willamette Valley (‘Flagship’) Pinot Noir: 89 Points

- 2018 Mom’s Reserve (100% Estate) Pinot Noir: 91 Points

- 2018 Zenith Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir: 90 Points

- 2018 South Block Reserve (100% Estate) Pinot Noir: 93 Points

Their review of the South Block Pinot: Aged in French oak barrels, 10% new. Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of dark red raspberry and cherry, earthy flora and sandalwood. Light to mid-weight in style, with an elegant array of dark red and purple fruits accented with spice and vanilla. Silky on the palate, integrated fine tannins, and overall a joyous drink.

And then other judging news: