Friday, November 22, 2019

Bells Up Winery: Small Lots Made with Heart

When I was twelve I was asked a life-changing question: “What instrument would you like to play?” I had just enrolled in the summer music program and I clearly said I wanted to play the French Horn.

But through some confusion and what I now see as a coup finagled by my mother and the music teacher—“Oh but a French Horn will be so heavy and awkward to carry around. Perhaps something smaller –maybe the English Horn?" (Which gentle reader I assure you, the English horn is nothing close to the French horn and in fact is a reed instrument- a double reed instrument!!) So in my naivety, I said “Okay, English Horn”. But it turned out the music department did not have any English Horns. And so, through this trickery --I ended up playing the oboe! And nobody in his or her right mind chooses the oboe! Trust me on this.

So what does this have to do with wine you may ask? Well, years later, wine is the balm I use to soothe that memory of never getting to play the French horn. And this brings us to the wonderful world of David and Sara Specter and their winery, Bells Up. David was a French horn player and thus the logo and name are a nod to the symphony life. Anyone who’s ever played in a band or orchestra will know “bells up” is the command to get ready, lift up your horn and give it your all.

And David truly embodies a “bells up” life in every way.  When I met David he seemed positively giddy talking about how the winery came to be and his enthusiasm was infectious. I felt at ease immediately upon meeting him.

David showing the compact winery space.
David and his wife Sara did what many of us only dream about. They took the ultimate leap of faith and went all in on starting a winery. They left their secure and comfortable life in Cincinnati, Ohio to chase a dream of wine. What started as a hobby for David became a full time obsession and led them to buy a former Christmas tree farm in Newberg Oregon. Here they toiled to clear the land and plant their first vines. And now instead of playing only the French horn David is a virtual one-man-band performing all the winemaking tasks and running the winery while Sara handles the marketing and business end of the baton.

I was lucky to get the chance to meet with David this past August along with some fellow wine writers to learn about his venture and taste the wines.

Small Lots Made with Heart

Bells Up makes very small quantities, of micro-boutique wines, and what they refer to as “un-domaine” wines.  Most of the allotments are earmarked for wine club members and those who visit the winery. So do yourself a favor and seek them out when you are in the area.

2018 Helios 
Estate Seyval Blanc, Chehalem Mountains AVA

You don’t see much Seyval Blanc in fact Bells Up is only the second vineyard in Oregon to grow it. But this was the varietal by which David won the national amateur winemaking competition prior to relocating to Oregon from Cincinnati, Ohio. One might say David is a bit of a Seyval Blanc whisperer, coaxing the grape to its full glory and expression. Grown in volcanic Jory soils, the grapes were aged sur lie for 6 months in stainless steel –delivering a gorgeous lean mouthful full of acidity with bright citrus and crisp apple flavors and a touch of pineapple and papaya on the finish.

2018 Rhapsody
Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley AVA

Light and bright the Rhapsody Pinot Blanc had a delicious peachy nose with flavors of and lemon zest and a slight nutty almond flavor on the finish along with a surprising yet enjoyable through line of salinity.

2018 Prelude
Estate Rose of Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains AVA

Yow! What a beast of flavor. The color is deep with nose of crushed rose petals and a full and savory mouth full of red currants and cranberries and a hint of mint. Great ratio of acid to fruit, with the body and structure to pair well with hearty foods.

2016 Titan
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

A blend of 35% Pommard (Chehalem Mountains), 34% 115 (Yamhill-Carlton) and 31% 777 (Yamhill-Carlton) clones. Exhibiting highly enjoyable quaffability now with great aging potential. Medium body with notes of clove and violets on the nose. Good balance with fruit forward freshness and a layering of flavors tempered by long deep earthy tannins.

2017 Candide
Nemarniki Vineyard, Reserve Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains AVA

A blend of 71% Wadenswil and 29% Pommard clones both from Chehalem Mountains AVA and grown in Loess soils. Elegant and lyrical everything you seek in a Pinot Noir is here. Bright tart berries with a powerful undercurrent of clove, white pepper, and dark plums.

2017 Villanelle
Tonnelier Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir, Yahmill –Carlton AVA

Although this lovely pinot was named after a duet for French horn and piano—
I like to imagine it was named for my favorite assassin—Villanelle, from the TV show Killing Eve. This wine is dark and brooding revealing deep and dark fruit flavors with great balance. It’s beautiful and intense with a killer finish.

Killing Eve’s Villanelle contemplating the Villanelle Pinot

2017 Firebird
Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley Syrah

Sourced from the Oregon side of Walla Walla in the high elevations of the Milton-Freewater area. I love Walla Walla Syrah and the Firebird rings true with many characteristics from the region. Bells Up makes the Firebird Syrah in a style that echoes their Pinot methodology, giving it a lighter palate, but lush concentrated flavors and vibrating with spicy acidity.

Plan a Visit

Tastings are by appointment only as the winery is small and David himself will guide you through the wines. So plan ahead a make a visit to Bells Up. You will not be disappointed. And don’t be surprised if David’s enthusiasm doesn’t make you consider taking a leap towards a dream of your own.

Many thanks to Carl Giavanti of Giavanti PR and Consulting for arranging all the logistics and hosting a wonderful day trip in Willamette Valley.

Bells Up Winery
27895 NE Bell Road
Newberg, Oregon


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