About Bells Up Winery
Dave Specter, a recovering corporate tax attorney who spent more than a decade at two Big 4 accounting firms, and his boss (wife) Sara Pearson Specter, a freelance business-to-business marketing consultant and writer for nearly 20 years, chucked Cincinnati suburbia in 2012, relocating to Newberg, Oregon to establish Bells Up Winery — where their winemaking dreams took root.
The pair began with a box of kit wine in their Cincinnati basement to celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary in 2006. One six-hour class and six gallons of drinkable Rioja later, Dave was hooked. He quickly moved from kit wine to wine from wine grapes, sourced both from the Southwest Ohio region, and through a local amateur vintners’ club that trucked in grapes from California.
Then, the “wine vacations” started. Never big fans of the usual suspects, Dave and Sara visited Texas Hill Country, the Finger Lakes Region and — in August 2008 — the Willamette Valley. There, while staying in the Rose Garden Room at Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast (a mere 400 feet up the side of the mountain from the future location of Bells Up Winery), Sara announced that they would move to property on Bell Road in Newberg, plant a vineyard, open a winery, Dave would be the winemaker, and this would all happen in 20 years time.
But life has a funny way of reminding us how short it really is.
A month after returning from that Willamette Valley vacation, on Dave’s 35th birthday, Sara’s professional mentor Kelly sent word that she’d just been diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer a few days after her 40th birthday; she died a scant 10 months later, leaving behind her husband, three small children, and a gaping hole in the hearts of everyone who knew her.
Then, a few months later, Dave hit the wall with his career. Emotionally and physically spent, he essentially had a nervous breakdown. With a newborn in their household and at the lowest point of the 2008/2009 recession, Sara insisted Dave leave his job to pursue winemaking full time.
After visiting all six wineries in the Cincinnati area in hopes of Dave hiring on, he was hired by Joe Henke of Henke Winery to work as an unpaid cellar rat. Henke — whose urban winery produces 2,000 cases of wine annually in the basement of a 100-year-old house — nurtured Dave’s talent, answered countless questions, offered sage insight and advice, and ultimately guided Dave from amateur hobbyist to professional winemaker in three years.
In the interim, Dave worked at a boutique retail wine shop in Cincinnati and completed an 18-month distance program in enology, earning a certificate from Washington State University.
And, he kept making wine.
After winning two amateur national winemaking competitions with two vastly different wines (a Syrah/Petit Sirah blend and a Seyval Blanc) in the space of two months, Sara decided he actually might know what he was doing and the Cincinnati house went on the market. As soon as it sold, we moved to Newberg. Dave worked the 2012 harvest under Bryan Weil, winemaker at Alexana, while Sara looked for properties — ultimately landing our little piece of heaven by essentially ringing the doorbell.
The name “Bells Up” ties together our location on Bell Road with Dave’s 20-plus years as a French horn player who performed throughout high school and college. The musical term refers to a dramatic moment in classical music where the composer’s score instructs the French horn players to lift the bells of their instruments up to project their sound with maximum intensity. The winery, says Dave, is his #bellsupmoment.
Today, we invite guests to experience their own #bellsupmoment in a Maestro Class with Winemaker Dave as we share our wines and our story. One of the best parts of being a micro-boutique winery is the opportunity to build lasting personal relationships with each and every person who comes through our door. That’s why we exclusively offer private wine tasting experiences that are dedicated solely to your group—and never double-booked. We look forward to hosting you here.
About the Bells Up Estate Vineyard
The 9-acre Bells Up estate vineyard—comprised entirely of Jory soil and located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA just north of Newberg—is being planted in phases and primarily in Pinot Noir.
The first 3 acres of Heritage clone Pommard and Dijon clone 667 were planted in April 2014, with posts and wires added in March 2015. A third block (0.5-acre) of the Willamette Valley’s first planting of Seyval Blanc was established in March 2015. Three additional blocks (2.5 acres) of Heritage clone Wadenswil, and Dijon clones 113 and 943 were planted in March 2016. In fall 2020 the Seyval Blanc block was expanded and an obscure Northern Italian varietal added in a new block. The remaining acreage, closest to Bell Road, is anticipated to be planted at a future date.
In Fall 2017 the first harvest of estate Pinot Noir occurred, with the Pommard and 667 made into Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir. Fall 2019 saw the first harvest of the same estate fruit for production of Rosé and Bells Up’s debut estate Pinot Noir, Jupiter. We harvested the Seyval Blanc for the first time in Fall 2017 and continue to do so annually.