• Neil & Sue Shay

Play it Forward -- COVID edition

September 2021 Blog Post

We’re publishing this blog post to coincide with our ‘Play It Forward’ 2021 charity event. We’ve first offered this event in 2017 as a golf tournament and auction. As we’ve mentioned before, the event supports our local United Way with an emphasis on charitable organizations local to us here in south Benton County, such as the new Relief Nursery in Monroe which was organized by one of our favorite charitable organizations, the Old Mill Center of Corvallis. The online auction will run for nearly a full week, September 7-12. You can find the auction and register as a participant and bidder at www.32auctions.com/PlayItForward2021


As we enter September, SO CLOSE to harvest!! No kidding, on August 31, we went out into the vineyard and collected our first sets of grapes for the analysis of sugar (which is increasing) and acidity (which is decreasing). These readings are showing us the grapes are still a few percentage points low in sugars, and a bit too tart. We are now predicting September 11 and 12 as our first pick dates of the season. If you are interested in being a harvest volunteer at Bluebird Hill, please contact us at the winery ASAP (email: info@bluebirdhillcellars.wine or 541-424-2478). As our ‘veteran’ volunteers are aware, we try to schedule most or all of our picks for weekend dates and start early in the morning to pick the grapes while they are still cool from the overnight low temperatures. Then, we all break, and lunch and a glass or two of wine is offered to all, before the wine staff take on the task of crushing the grapes in the afternoon. Usually, most volunteers leave after lunch, but occasionally, a few stay for the afternoon as well.

For those of you who do not know, the picking and crushing of fruit illustrates one of the first principles of winemaking. When we are making white or rosé wines, we destem and crush the fruit, and then press the fruit to make grape juice. What happens to the skin and seeds? We truck them out to the compost pile. The juices produced on the first day are then fermented, in either tanks or barrels, depending on the style of wine we are shooting for. For the case of red wines, the first day is just one step simpler: we destem and crush the fruit and drop this crushed red fruit into our one-ton fermentation bins. This mixture of juice, skin, and seeds is then fermented, usually for about 10-14 days, before pressing the newly-fermented wine off the skin and seeds.

Regarding the upcoming harvest, it is looking like we are perhaps a week or so ahead of the past few years. Despite those really hot days we had this summer, we believe the earlier harvest is more a function of the earlier bud break we had in the spring, rather than those few hot days we suffered through.


About two weeks ago, we received a shipment of over 500 cases of wine bottles from our supplier, Pioneer Packaging. These bottles are earmarked for our 2019 red wines: all of our 2019 pinot noir, and our Syrah and Red Blend. So far, we have bottled the Syrah, and the Zenith Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir. And we’re thrilled to be reporting to you, that based on what everyone has said after tasting them, these 2019 reds are going to be exceptional! We have been really pleased with our 2017 and 2018 Pinots, and right now we’re confident that our 2019s will be their equal, if not superior to them!! The Zenith PN we bottled last weekend is going to be an exceptional wine. We are planning to release the 2019s during the fall holidays of this year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but good news, we are planning to offer pre-release tastings of the 2019 Pinots over Labor Day weekend (see September Specials).

We are planning to offer outdoor tasting throughout the fall, either on the patio, with a warm firepit nearby, or on our porch where we can offer a cozy spot, protected from the wind, again with the heat provided by a propane space heater. So put a visit, or regular visits on your fall calendar, come out to Bluebird Hill and enjoy a flight or a glass, take in the view, and talk wine with Neil and Sue.


Pint Size Performance tickets on sale NOW for Sunday, September 12, 2021 from 12-3pm!