Wine Review Online’s Michael Apstein Calls Bells Up’s Wines “A Delight”

Prominent wine reviewer Dr. Michael Apstein—who curates his own wine review website “Apstein on Wine” as well as contributes a column to Wine Review Online—recently sampled three of our latest releases. He filed the same review article on both sites, (here and here).

Dr. Michael Apstein reviews wines for his own site and for Wine Review Online. (Photo courtesy of

Apstein has been writing about wine for more than 30 years, including producing more than 300 wine columns for The Boston Globe newspaper.  His writing has also appeared in a variety of U.S., Canadian, and U.K. publications, including Decanter, Decanter Premium, Quench Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Magazine, Wine and Spirits, The Wine News, and The Tasting Panel Magazine. He also judges frequently at international and national wine competitions, teaches courses on wine, and—in his spare time—is is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

In “Bells Up: A Tiny New Oregon Estate,” Apstein writes:

With only a 600-case annual total production, Bells Up is tiny, but their wines tell me their imprint will be huge…. The wines of Bells Up, all of which carry musical references on the label, project enormously, but they are not loud.  They sing in a delicate yet persistent fashion….

Specter’s path from tax attorney to winemaker was untraditional, demonstrating the saying that, “where there’s a will there’s a way.”  He was a “cellar rat” at a Cincinnati winery (who knew there was a winery in Cincinnati?), took an online enology course at Washington State University, worked a harvest at a winery in Dundee, and studied viticulture at Chemeketa Community College.

Apstein reviewed three of our wines, noting the following:

2019 Titan Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: Bells Up’s mid-weight 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, named “Titan” for Mahler’s Symphony #1, (93 pts; $44), is a delight, combining bright cherry notes and balancing savory elements.  Weighing in at a modest 13.2 percent stated alcohol, it is not overdone or over extracted.  Rather, it dances on the palate, displaying the charm and elegance Pinot Noir can deliver.  It seems to expand in the glass.  Each sip reveals new nuances, so don’t rush it.  For now, Specter buys grapes to supplement the enterprise’s own plantings, which explains why roughly two-thirds of the blend for Titan comes from Yamhill-Carlton AVA and remainder from their vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA.

2019 Firebird Summit View Vineyard Syrah: Since Bells Up is in Newberg in the Willamette, you’d expect Pinot Noir.  What was unexpected was the stature and poise of their Syrah, the grapes for which come from the Summit View Vineyard on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley.  Another graceful wine, the 2019 Syrah, dubbed “Firebird” as in Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (93 pts, $52) balances plumy dark red fruit with an invigorating saline-like minerality.  Like Titan, the focus here is on elegance, not over-wrought power.  Yet, its power is evident in the enjoyment it delivers.

2021 Rhapsody Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc: Returning to the Willamette, we find a delightfully refreshing, but serious 2021 Pinot Blanc called “Rhapsody,” for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (91 pts, $32).  Pinot Blanc can be disappointing because so many are vapid.  Bells Up has avoided that pitfall with good weight, despite a 12.9 percent stated alcohol, riveting acidity, and a pleasing hint of bitterness in the finish.

All three of these wines are currently included in our tasting flight. Want to sample for yourself? Book a private tasting experience hosted by Winemaker Dave — exclusively for one group at a time — by calling the winery at 503-537-1328 and Sara will get you set up.

Bells Up Winery | 27895 NE Bell Road | Newberg, Oregon 97132 | 503.537.1328 |

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