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  • Neil & Sue Shay


Greetings winery friends! Neil sometimes jokes that the Bluebird Hill blog is a monthly publication which comes out eight times a year. This winter and spring is part of the reason we cannot keep up rigorously to a monthly publication schedule. Just too much going on!

Care to be updated? Read on…

Winter/Early Spring Happenings: With the advent of some sort of sense of safety, a number of wine and food events held live, in-person events for the first time since March of 2020. If you can remember back to the beginning of the quarantine, Neil was set to go to Central Point (for the Oregon Cheese Festival) and Nick and Alexis to McMinnville for the Food and Wine Classic, the very next day found out that both of those events had been cancelled. Sue poured two days at the Savor-NW event at Cannon Beach before the rest of that event was cancelled. She headed back home and two days later the whole state was shut down.

Now, in late winter and early spring of 2022, we’ve participated already at the Newport Wine and Seafood Festival, the McMinnville Food and Wine Classic at the Evergreen space museum, the Portland Seafood and Wine Festival, the Oregon Cheese Festival in Central Point, the Astoria-Warrenton Crab, Seafood and Wine Fest, and Monroe’s own Festival.

So lots of loading up the truck, lots of travel, lots of food on the road, lots of tastes and glasses poured, and a good number of bottles and cases of wine sold to happy festival goers. Now, finally, most of the festivals are over…

SPACE INVADERS: Speaking of Newport, we had rented a very nice VRBO for the long weekend of the Newport wine event, sharing a pretty large vacation home just outside of town with some of our friends for the weekend, our ‘home base’ for the weekend of the event. Two ‘Not-Good’ things happened that weekend. First of all, on Thursday night-our first night on the coast, while going for a glass of water after dark, Sue slipped on some mirror-finished glossy wood stairs, and took a hard fall from the last couple of steps onto a hardwood floor. She broke some of her fall with an outstretched arm, but still wound up bumping her head on the floor, too. The end result was a sprained wrist and a wrist splint that was worn for four or five weeks, and a bump and bruise on Sue’s crown, at the hairline. Luckily, that was it, and thank God, she was not hurt any worse…

But wait, there’s more! Saturday morning after Sue’s spill, she was woken from a pretty good sleep at 6:45 am with a phone call. From whom, you ask? Well, the caller ID read “Benton County Sheriff Department”! Ok, well that one’s worth answering live. Turns out, it was indeed a call from one of our home county sheriffs, he was calling to let us know that a young man, who lives locally to us, was rushing to work in his 4x4 pickup, and missed the slight right turn heading down Larson Road, traveling from west to east. (This is from the top of the hill, by the neighbor’s red barn, down the hill in front of the South Block Vineyard, down toward the direction of Bellfountain Road, if that helps you understand this any better). Somehow, he hit the three-foot berm at the edge of the road, lifting his two left wheels off the ground, and he slid through the deer fence, on two wheels, into the South Block, knocking down about a dozen wooden end posts like bowling pins, running over a couple of dozen vines, and snapping a whole bunch of trellis wires.

Neil left Sue at Newport and headed home immediately to check out the damage. He arrived only a couple of hours after the sheriff’s call, to find two tow trucks and two drivers trying to figure out how to winch the truck out of the vineyard. After an hour or so of head scratching, the guys figured out that despite all the damage to the truck, it was still operable, and were able to get it into four wheel drive and with help from the truck winch, drove it in reverse, back up the hill to the southwest corner of the property, where they were able to guide it to a flat spot, and get it out the corner gate and onto the flatbed car carrier.

We are so very grateful for our good friends who were staying with us that weekend. They pitched in and helped tote, setup, pour wine, and load up after the event while Sue was on the injured list and Neil was otherwise occupied with the accident in the vineyard. One even chauffeured Sue to Urgent Care in Corvallis on Sunday while Neil, having returned to Newport from Bluebird Hill finished up the event.

If bad things always come in threes, we have been lucky, there was nothing of the magnitude of Sue’s fall and the vineyard accident following those two events. Sue has healed up pretty well, and only now, about sixty days later, is the fence repaired, damaged posts replaced, and wires reconnected and restrung. It remains to be seen what kind of permanent damage there will be to some of the grapevines. For sure, a few dozen have lost their fruiting canes and won’t produce any fruit in 2022, but also, there may be some undetectable damage in some of the main trunks that may take a year or two to show up.

I guess only now, in the writing of this blog post, have we figured out what that ‘third bad thing’ was. On the early morning of April 15th, most of Oregon experienced a significant frost event. This happened, unfortunately, about one week after a majority of our vines had started into bud break. In our location, we dropped to about 29-30F, but other cooler areas nearby, and around the Willamette Valley, dropped to lower temperatures, we know some areas reported temperatures as low are 25-26F. This impact? Well, the juicy buds that were just popping open did indeed suffer some degree of damage. As we write today, some two weeks later, we’re just seeing our vines recover and now seeing good shoot growth. The jury is still out regarding what quantity of fruit we will lose due to the frost damage, and if, and how much harvest will be delayed. We’ll need another couple of weeks of good shoot growth, into flowering time, to get an idea of what the harvest will look like.

We’re planning on bottling our 2021 new releases, our Rosé, Duology, and Pinot Gris. We’ve only waited this long because of … can you guess?

The Wordle clue would be S _ _ _ _ Y C _ _ _ N. Yep, our label supplier has informed us that Supply Chain issues have impacted their ability to get out labels to us in a timely fashion.