Earlier this spring we were fortunate to have been paid a three-hour visit by local wine writer and developer of the Winederful iPhone app, A.J. Weinzettel. A prolific writer, A.J. publishes his weekly Oregon Vino Country newsletter on Saturday mornings to an impressive and enthusiastic subscriber base. Each week, he describes his experiences and impressions of one Oregon winery he’s visited, as well as his notes on the wines he sampled.
Here’s how A.J. describes his weekly newsletter:
A couple of things you should know about the newsletter. First, I ramble a little, but in a good way. It is a long newsletter of around 1,500 – 2,000 words every Saturday morning delivered to your inbox at 6:15 am. Why 6:15? Why not? Every week, I dive into a new winery in Oregon, mainly in the valley, focusing on the winery’s people and back story. Yes, I talk a bit about wine in the newsletter, but it’s not the focus. I am a sucker for stories, and to me, wine stories are the best!
On May 15, 2021, his weekly newsletter featured us! Here are a few of the highlights from his feature…
I pull up to the parking lot of Bells Up at 10:00 am on a Friday in April. It’s sunny out, but the air holds a certain brisk chill. Dave is waiting outside, and there is a small talk outside while Sara is inside prepping the tasting. Dave took me into the building where all the wine magic happens, and you can tell he is like a little kid in a toy store showing off his toys. Please don’t misinterpret the last sentence. It is meant in the highest regard in relating to another person who has a spark in their eye filled with excitement. When I notice the spark, it is usually followed by a fire in their belly to push themself outside their comfort zone.
There was a theme I saw repeating itself through the three-hour tasting. With Dave and Sara coming from a business/accounting background, their approach to their Oregon venture is nothing short of methodical. I have zero doubts, if you were to ask them what is your ten-year plan, it is on the tip of their tongue. The fifteen-year plan might be the teeniest bit hazy, but they know beyond a shadow of a doubt where they are going. I mention this because their first vintage was in 2013. With a plot of land full of dead Christmas trees, there is no way 2013 was estate-grown grapes. Partnering with other vineyards sharing the same vision of farming to produce outstanding wines is first and foremost for Dave.
About the wines, A.J. writes…
My first pour was the 2020 Rhapsody Pinot Blanc. If you know me, give me Pinot Noir even on the hot days of summer, but it is nice to have some alternatives. The Pinot Blanc had a great body, acidity, and an everlasting finish reminding me of the very last note of an orchestra.
I wouldn’t consider Bells Up a cult winery, but there is a cult following for the Helios Seyval Dave produces. There are only two producers in Oregon, Bells Up being the only winery in the valley for Seyval. Somehow, Dave got this vertical from New York in 2014. Consider this your inside scoop for this wine; otherwise, it sells out before Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 workday. The nose on this wine was a mixture of floral and fruit while my mid-palate took me back to visiting an exotic garden in Hawaii. I would love to bring this wine to a blind tasting to test the prowess of the blind panel.
The 2020 Prelude Rose of Pinot Noir is darker than most Roses. With 24 hours skin contact, the body is a bit heavier than most which I enjoy.
The first Pinot savored during lunch was the 2018 Titan Pinot. These grapes come from 10-year-old vines in the Chehalem mountains. With a combination of Pommard, Dijon Clones 115, and 777, there is a rounding out of the whole tasting experience. Immediately upon entry, the bright red fruits grab your attention. I enjoyed how the tannin structure was integrated into a significant-finish rounding out the whole experience.
Next was the 2018 Candide from the Nemarniki Vineyard the Chehalem Mountains AVA… The Candide on the nose and palate was filled with dark red fruits, of which I am a big fan. With 75% Wadenswil and 25% Pommard, there are lovely spice notes on the finish.
About the experience, A.J. notes…
I want to mention what to expect when tasting at Bells Up. There is no online ordering when you visit the website, nor is there an online reservation system. Remember earlier how I was talking about a simpler life? When you call to make a reservation or order wine, you will speak with either Dave or Sara. They have you taken care of 124.5%.
During a tasting, Dave will take care of your party, and the best part of that is you are the only party at the winery. You do not have to compete with other parties for attention. The royal red carpet treatment is rolled out just for you! The dynamic duo also has a super-secret extraordinary power, which they refused to disclose all the details of this said power. They do this thing called build a relationship with their customers and get to know them. For example, if you were to call up and say, “I have read amazing reviews, and I want to buy 20 cases of the 2019 Jupiter Estate.” If your palate matches up with the requested wine, they will gladly sell it to you, but if your palate isn’t a match, a more profound discussion is required. They will not sell you a wine they think you will not like. This speaks volumes in this day and age when a winery will turn down your business because they value the relationship over the sell.