When Life Handed Us Lemons, We “Called A Cab” – And The Drunken Cyclist Loves It

The secret is out. In 2020, we made a Cabernet Sauvignon. It was Dave’s first time touching that grape in more than 10 years, since he last made a Cab as an amateur winemaker in our Cincinnati basement.

Now, how did this happen, you might ask?

Well, like so many things that were true of 2020, we “called a cab” after a series of unfortunate and unexpected events turned our harvest plans (as much as anyone can actually “plan” for harvest) upside down.

Obviously the pandemic was a nightmare for everyone on the planet. But closer to home a series of wildfires struck Oregon, including our little corner of the Willamette Valley. Among them was spot fire at Nemarniki Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, farmed by Diane Nemarnik. We sourced heritage Pinot Noir clones Pommard and Wadenswil from Diane for many years as we waited for those clones to reach maturity in our own estate vineyard.

Thankfully, Diane (along with her neighbors, strangers passing by on the road who pulled over and came running to help, and the fire department) was able to extinguish the fire caused by a power line falling on her deer fence, saving both her home and her vineyard. However, she had concerns about potential smoke damage to the Wadenswil we were contracted to purchase in 2020, and released us from the agreement. Unfortunately, this brought our long-standing and exceedingly wonderful buyer-seller relationship to an abrupt, unexpected and sad end, as we planned to harvest our estate Wadenswil in 2021.

Time To Call A Cab

With this turn of events happening just two weeks left ahead of our harvest plans, Sara subsequently spent several days on the phone searching for replacement Wadenswil. By day three, when it was starting to look like nothing was going to pan out, she and Dave had the same idea: Call vineyard manager Tom Waliser at Summit View Vineyard in Milton-Freewater — the site from which we have sourced our Firebird Syrah since the beginning back in 2013 — and see if he had any unsold fruit still hanging on the vine. Luckily, Tom had both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; it was an easy decision to add a ton of the Cab to our standing Syrah contract.

On another note, the next day Sara got lucky again and was miraculously able to source Wadenswil from none other than Zenith Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. This highly-regarded and well-known site happened to have had a California winery back out on them at the last minute, and we were thrilled to nab the most beautiful Wadenswil fruit. Look for single-vineyard 2020 Candide Reserve Zenith Vineyard Pinot Noir coming next year (it will exclusively be available to members of Fanfare Club).

Additionally — and clearly again the result of sheer dumb luck — none of our 2020 Pinot Noirs are showing any smoke impact on nose or palate. We’ve been told we’re one of the few wineries that made Pinot Noir in 2020, and we’re really pleased with how the vintage has turned out. We’re excited to share it with you next year.

The Drunken Cyclist Reviews Our Summit View Vineyard Wines

Wine writer Jeff Kralik with Bells Up winemaker Dave Specter.

In yet another stroke of luck, we happened to have twisted wine writer and reviewer Jeff Kralik’s nose and palate into tasting our entire lineup of Pinot Noir when he visited the Willamette Valley in July. Jeff, who blogs as “The Drunken Cyclist,” had also sampled our 2020 Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir in the spring as part of his annual blind tasting of “True Rosés.” While we had him in the tasting room, we shared both the 2019 Firebird Syrah and a barrel sample of the 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon (named “New World” after Antonin Dvořák’s New World Symphony). As it turns out, Dave hasn’t lost his winemaking touch for Cab.

Jeff shared his thoughts on both wines a few weeks ago when he featured Bells Up in his regular Wednesday Winery Spotlight post:

2019 Bells Up Firebird Syrah, Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley OR: Retail $52. 1,150 elevation vineyard in Milton-Freewater. Rich and juicy on the nose with just a hint of spice. Rich red berry fruit. The palate is intense. After a wave of fruit, the spicy intensity takes over and gallops on through the finish. Holy cow. Not your typical heavy-ish Syrah. Not a Walla Walla Syrah either. They call it a Pinot lovers Syrah and they’re right. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2020 Bells Up New World Cabernet Sauvignon, Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley OR: Barrel sample. Retail $68. Fanfare Club Only. Not even on the website yet. Dave wanted to make more of a new world cab. Thus, New World. Dvořák. From the same vineyard as the Syrah and will be bottled this fall. Shy on the nose but lovely fruit eventually coaxed out. Also described as a “Cab for Pinot lovers.” Fantastic. Fruity with depth and complexity. Yowza. Tannins are soft and mostly integrated. Another whoa. Outstanding. 93-96 Points (Barrel sample).

Fall shipping is nearly here! To purchase 2019 Firebird (available in 750mL and magnum formats) or any of the other wines currently available, contact us by phone at 503.537.1328 or email info@bellsupwinery.com to receive them before the holidays.

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Bells Up Winery | 27895 NE Bell Road | Newberg, Oregon 97132 | 503.537.1328 | info@bellsupwinery.com

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