Award-winning wine writer and journalist Elizabeth Smith, who hails from the Napa/Sonoma region, recently paid us a visit as she was working on an assignment for the Napa Valley Register. The article, “Three Oregon AVAs in a Day” was recently published in the “On Wine” section of the newspaper. It features two other wineries in addition to us (Lenné Estate and Utopia Vineyard) whose vineyards were planted “from scratch” by their winemaker-owners.
A former community college professor who also happened to have a musical background, we clicked with Smith right away. Which might explain her first sentence about her visit here. In the article, Smith wrote:
Visiting Bells Up Winery was like coming home. If you are a former musician in a band or orchestra, you will understand the meaning of the name. The joyous and warm welcome by winemaker and former French horn player, Dave Specter, and his wife, Sara, who manages the business and marketing side of the Bells Up, is heartfelt and genuine.
During a difficult time in their lives over a decade ago, when Dave had a mental and physical breakdown from his career as a tax attorney, and Sara watched her mentor battle pancreatic cancer at age 40, she turned to Dave and said, “If you’re this successful in a career that makes you sick, stressed, and miserable, how much more successful would you be doing something you love?”
This question set the wheels in motion for Dave to pursue his winemaking hobby as a full-time career, with Henke Winery in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they lived. Shortly thereafter, Dave won two amateur national winemaking competitions with two different wines. After traveling to up-and-coming wine regions like the Finger Lakes, Texas Hill Country, and Oregon, they fell in love with the latter. In 2013, they founded Bells Up Winery in Newberg. The winery is the couple’s “bells up moment” on Bell Road.
Sara describes Bells Up Winery as “micro-boutique, un-domaine and always open by reservation.” Everything is also in one place – the family home, estate vineyards, winery, office, and indoor/outdoor tasting space. Dave and Sara host the tastings.
Dave makes Pinot Noir, Rosé, Pinot Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah from the estate in the Chehalem Mountains AVA and other grapes from other Oregon micro-sites. Each wine is named for a classical musical composition, some of which feature the French horn. “You taste wine, you hear it,” said Dave. “In each of my wines, I strive for harmony and balance.”
For example, the Helios Seyval Blanc – the Willamette Valley’s first planting – is named after Carl Nielsen’s “Helios Overture, Op. 17.” The Specters decided to plant Seyval Blanc in homage to Dave’s amateur winemaking when he won a 2011 competition with his 2010 Seyval Blanc.
When asked about his favorite Pinot Noir clone, Dave did not have one. “I consider them to be like different instruments in a symphony orchestra. Each brings something unique to the total composition.”
Wines to try, if not sold out, include the “Helios” Sevyal Blanc, the “Rhapsody (in Blue)” Pinot Blanc, and the winery’s first all-estate “Jupiter” Pinot Noir (named for Gustav Holst’s The Planets, Op. 32: IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity).
As to suggested food and wine pairings, Dave said, “When our daughter was younger, It was a point of pride that all our wines paired beautifully with boxed mac and cheese (they still do, but her tastes have expanded). We’re real people. We don’t eat foie gras or caviar. We pair our ‘Prelude’ Estate Rosé with a bacon cheeseburger—and it’s delicious.”