During my recent visit to Willamette Valley we spent four days exploring the region and were able to visit 10 wineries. A private tasting at Bells Up Winery was a perfect way to begin our first full day of wine tasting.
Sometimes what you are looking for all along makes itself know when you least expect it. This is what happened to Dave and Sara Specter in August of 2008 during a wine tasting trip to the Willamette Valley. Dave, who was making wine in his basement at night while working as a corporate tax attorney during the day and Sara who was working as a freelance Marketing consultant, both enjoyed taking “Wine Trips”. On this trip traveling from their home in Cincinnati and staying in the Rose Garden Room at Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast which is a mere 400 feet up the side of the mountain from the current location of Bells Up Winery, Sara formulated a plan and announced that they would move to property on Bell Road in Newberg, plant a vineyard, open a winery. With David as the winemaker this would all fall into place in 20 years. Fortunately for wine enthusiasts, things don’t always work out as planned. In 2012, Dave and Sara seized their opportunity to begin their winery, Bells Up.
The Specters chose the name “Bells Up” both to reflect their Bell Road address, and more importantly to signify Dave’s 20-plus years as a French horn player. “Bells Up” is a musical term which refers to a dramatic moment in classical music where the composer’s score instructs the French horn players to lift the bells of their instruments up to propel their sound with maximal force.
Bells Up Winery is best known for their Classic Oregon Pinot Noir; however, they also make some other fantastic varietals that don’t typically appear in a Willamette Valley flight. For that reason I want to Introduce you to some of these unique Bells Up wines, and to display that there are more varietals to discover in the Willamette Valley in addition to the abundant Pinot Noir wines.
The grapes for Rhapsody are sourced from Plum Hill Vineyard in Gaston, Oregon and this vibrant white wine is aged sur lie in stainless steel tanks for 6 months. This isn’t your typical white wine, this Pinot Blanc is a fuller bodied wine that has a crisp acidity, but some spicy attributes spring forward that resemble a red wine. On the nose you find yourself walking through a warm summer garden nestled among ripening citrus trees with aromas of mineral rich freshly turned soil. The long finish on this Pinot Blanc is both surprising and delightful and you want to savor each layer of the pineapple upside down cake flavor. Each sip introduces a new note that also brings back elements of the aroma. This is a lovely sipping wine but would also pair well with a Summer Snap Pea salad and Fish tacos with fresh made guacamole.
The 2018 Bells Up Prelude is like a sunny summer day picnic in a bottle. All of the flavors of a picnic in each sip, like a blanket layed out with strawberries, watermelon and pink lemonade. A well balanced Rosé with citrus undertones and a dry finish. This musical Rosé was named for Franz Liszt’s “Symphonic Poem No. 3: Les Preludes” and will be a Romantic Era addition to any summer picnic. I’m going to pretend that this is the end of an Opera Aria (and not a Symphony score) and give a loud hearty “BRAVO” to this Prelude.
“Firebird” is aged 12 months in French oak with grapes that were sourced exclusively from Summit View, at 1150 feet it is one of the highest elevation vineyards in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.
This 2017 Firebird Syrah from Bells Up delivers amazing aromas of fresh blueberries and blackberries and a spicy dark chocolate bar enjoyed during a walk among the cedar trees. A powerful punch of black cherry cola on the tongue with a long extraordinary finish of mocha and wild mint flavors. To be honest, this is a bottle that I purchased to bring home because I couldn’t get enough of the flavors in this Syrah.
There are so many benefits to becoming a member of Bells Up Winery’s Fanfare Club, such as exclusive rights to by special limited production wines. During my tasting I had the opportunity to try two of the club exclusives, “Helios” and “Candide”. Both of these wines secretly became my two favorite sips of the day.
2018 Helios is produced from Chehalem Mountains AVA Seyval Blanc Estate Vineyard grapes. This wine is ONLY available to members of Fanfare Club and ONLY 15 cases were produced. This limited edition vintage is the first bottling and is named for Carl Nielsen’s “Helios Overture, Opus 18. For “Research Purposes” I was given the special opportunity to purchase a single bottle of this rare Oregon Hybrid grape wine. I became very intrigued with this wine after tasting it and really wanted to explore the story and making of this wine more for a future blog post.
Do you know that feeling of sitting in a meadow on the first sunny day of spring with the smell of wild flowers and green grass surrounding you? Now imagine that aroma with the addition of a tropical citrus bowl of fruit. My first thought was a glass of sunshine and aroma of spring. Bright, clean and a cascading flood of fruit flavors greet you on the first sip. Flavors of pear, lemon and soft stone fruits all try to push each other aside to be the prominent flavor. I most appreciated the long finish, and welcoming a new flavor taking over each sip. Special.
Each year, winemaker Dave crafts a limited edition vintage available only to members of Bells Up’s Fanfare Club. The 2016 Candide is this year’s selection. Sourced from the Nemarniki Vineyard of the Chehalm Mountains AVA Reserve Pinot Noir and only 33 cases were produced. Candide is a blend of two heritage clones of Pinot Noir, 75% Wadenswil and 25% Pommard. Candide is named for Leonard Bernstein’s operetta of the same name and which was based on the 1759 novella by Voltaire.
This 2016 Candide is like a fresh cup of coffee, not in the aroma but in the sense that you just want to keep smelling the amazing blend of scents that greet you with each sniff. Chocolate covered cherries, a selection of herbs and a hint of smoke have you anticipating the first sip. The flavor of this wine reminded me of a Christmas wine with ripe dark fruits and vanilla spice, like a slice of cinnamon toast. Warming and down to earth with a feeling in the finish of a walk through the woods.
*Last minute Update: Unfortunately for my readers (but fortunately for me!) I got the last of the 2016 Candide! The new Club exclusive Pinot is 2017 Villanelle, and 2017 Candide is now available in the Bells Up tasting room in their flight.
Tasting the fantastic array of wines at Bells Up would not have been the wonderful experience that it was without having the opportunity to sit down and talk with Dave and Sara. Their story, from conception of the winery to where they are today, is a true example of taking the chance to follow your dreams. Dave’s passion as a winemaker is complimented by his true belief in building lasting personal relationships with each and every person who comes through the tasting room door. Sara’s enthusiasm is contagious, and her welcoming personality instantly gives a homey feel to their winery. I would encourage anyone making a trip to Newberg and the Oregon Wine Country to make an appointment to visit Bells Up Winery.
Visit https://bellsupwinery.com/ to learn more about this Oregon Winery.
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