The Hedonistic Taster | № 31 | Bells Up Winery – Willamette Valley, OR.

The Hedonistic Taster |  № 31 | Bells Up Winery – Willamette Valley, OR.

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML


“Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer

Today’s Tasting: Bells Up Winery – Newberg, OR

Sara & David Specter, proprietors of Bells Up Winery in Newberg, OR.

“We all have two lives, and the second begins the moment we realize we only get one.” – Confucius

In another life, winemaker Dave Specter didn’t drive a forklift. Or a tractor. Or make wine in the Willamette Valley.

In a previous life, Dave Specter and his wife Sara suited up, sucked it up, and slugged it out in the corporate Midwest –  the former as an attorney, the latter in advertising.

Until 2008. By then, Sara had endured three miscarriages within 13 months, Dave’s work obligations associated with his law career had devolved into a nightmare, and the couple’s seven-year marriage hung on life-support.

A couple of years earlier, a well-meaning marriage counselor had suggested that they find a ‘couples project’ to help resuscitate their relationship. They chose wine making. That project eventually restored Dave’s equilibrium, recalibrated their relationship, and catapulted the couple across country for a visit to Willamette Valley in 2008.

There, snuggled into a cozy B & B in Newberg, the couple dreamed aloud about someday buying land in the Willamette Valley and making wine professionally.

Shortly after they returned from that trip, Sara’s mentor and friend Kelly was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer, which ended her life 10 short months later. Explains Sara, “Kelly’s life, and her fight for it, was a key inspiration for our decision that Dave would leave his career as an attorney and chase the winemaking dream.”

In 2009, events dominoed with alacrity, and irony. Dave gave his notice, and found a professional winemaking mentor in Cincinnati, under whom he worked for three years. After Dave won two amateur national winemaking competitions, the couple sold their home in Ohio, and decamped to Oregon in 2012. Once in the Willamette Valley, while Dave worked a harvest internship at Alexana Winery,  Sara discovered and purchased a site on NE Bell Road in Newberg –  very near the B & B where they’d previously stayed.

The winery name “Bells Up” refers to a specific moment by classical music composers when they instruct French horn players to lift up the bells of their instruments in order to project sound with maximum intensity. Dave, a former French horn player in high school and college, alludes to the winery as his “Bells Up” moment.

I first met Dave and Sara at their winery for an exclusive tasting while in town for IPNC this past summer. These samples include some of their pinot noirs, as well a bonus syrah.

Note about serving Bells Up wines: I highly recommend decanting these wines approximately 30 minutes prior. Like any Burgundy-inspired wines, these require a little time to open up and best reveal their secrets.

Award-winning Bells Up Winery 2014 Titan Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR.

Wine:   Bells Up Titan Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, OR.

Vintage: 2014

Alcohol:  13.5%

Suggested Retail:  $40 (128 cases produced.)

Producer Specs:  “Named for Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major “Titan,” this classic Oregon pinot noir mingles 24% Chehalem Mountains Pommard (25-year-old vines) grown in volcanic Jory soil, with 38% each of Yamhill-Carlton Dijon clones 115 and 777 (15-year-old vines) grown in sedimentary Willakenzie soil. Aged 10 months in French oak, the harmonious result epitomizes 2014’s perfect growing season.”


Robe:  Clear ruby robe.

Nose:  Red fruit aromas – currant, cranberry, raspberry.

Palate: Red fruit notes carry through on the palate. Light body, balanced acids and tannins, light finish.

Suggested Pairings:  This lyrical, light-hearted wine pavanes across the palate with melodious ease. Inspired pairing with pan-seared sea bass, cranberry beans and celery coulis.

Rating: 91

Bells Up 2015 Titan Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR.

Wine:   Bells Up Titan Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, OR.

Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  13.3%

Suggested Retail:  $40  (116 cases produced.)

Producer Specs: “The 2015 edition of Bells Up’s flagship Oregon pinot noir mingles 42% Yamhill-Carlton Pommard (6-year-old vines) with 29% each of Yamhill-Carlton Dijon clones 115 and 777 (16-year-old vines), all grown in sedimentary Willakenzie soil. Aged 7 months in French oak (30% new), this bold, fruit-forward, well-structured Pinot is a result of 2015’s extremely hot summer, with 25 days of 95-plus-degree heat during the growing season and very little rain. The small clusters and berries yielded intensified flavors and aromas.”

“Both vineyards/growers [used] are side-by-side on Cooper Lane in Yamhill…Tonnelier Vineyard  and Yamhill Vineyards (also a B&B)…The Pommard came from the one due south of Tonnelier. There’s a bit of a slope but it’s not dramatic. There’s definitely a little micro-climate right there that keeps it a touch cooler.”


Robe:  Clarion ruby robe.

Nose:  Savory black olive, dusty red fruit, potpourri on the nose, with an aromatic back note.

Palate: Red cherry, currant and cranberry carry through from front to mid-palate, with spicy back-palate notes. Light body, well-balanced acids and well-structured tannins, medium finish. Suitable for both early drinking  and cellaring.

Suggested Pairings:  A lovely harmony between dark and light notes, this wine adds coloratura to any meal, spurring lively conversation.

 I’d recommend Bells Up 2015 Titan Pinot Noir for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, given its savory notes and crescendo of cranberry and spice on the palate.

Rating: 92


Bells Up 2015 Firebird Syrah – Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley AVA (Oregon side.)

Wine: Bells Up Winery Firebird Syrah – Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley AVA (Oregon side.)

Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  15%

Suggested Retail: $36 (70 cases produced.)

Producer Specs: “Released in April and named for Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” these grapes were sourced exclusively from Summit View, one of the highest elevation vineyards in Milton-Freewater, Oregon—at 1,150 feet. This site’s vines are rooted in Ellisforde silt loam, a deep, well-drained glacial soil that produces full-bodied fruit with concentrated flavors and vibrant acidity. Aged 7 months in French oak.”


Robe:  Opaque porphyry robe.

Nose:  Black fruit, ‘funk-free’, fragrant violet aromas.

Palate: Black currant, blackberry, brambled bouche. Medium body, well-balanced, plush tannins, lengthy finish.

Suggested Pairings:  A deep-tenored wine of subtle power that pairs well with hearty winter fare in front of a roaring fire.

As a Burgundy and pinot noir aficionado, I do find occasional sucor among syrahs from of Walla Walla Valley and The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater.  This wine ripples across the palate with surprisingly suppleness and grace.

Bells Up 2015 Firebird Syrah wine talks softly and carries a big finish.

Rating: 92 

Bells Up Winery | 27895 NE Bell Road | Newberg, OR 97132 | P: 503.537.1328

 Link here to find out more about Bells Up Pre-Thanksgiving Weekend Open House Events.

Link here to find out more about Bells Up Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Open House Events.

Link here for more Hedonistic Taster.


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Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes. All Rights Reserved.

5 thoughts on “The Hedonistic Taster | № 31 | Bells Up Winery – Willamette Valley, OR.

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