Wine Bulletin’s Joe Campbell recently interviewed three representatives of three different Willamette Valley American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), including ours — with Bells Up winemaker Dave Specter discussing the Chehalem Mountains AVA (where our vineyard and winery are located). Based out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Campbell is a software consultant by day who spends his weekends and evenings working on the family farm while providing color commentary and insight within the wine industry, both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry.
The article, entitled “Willamette Valley: Small Producers Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead,” captures insights from three different winemakers about the “interesting growing season” experienced in 2021, including COVID, the unprecedented 115-degree heat dome that hit Oregon in June, and other challenges faced across the 3.4 million acres in the region.
About Bells Up and his interview with Dave, Campbell writes:
For Dave and Sara Specter, winemaking started off thousands of miles away in Cincinnati, Ohio as a hobby. Spending a vacation in the Willamette Valley, the couple fell in love with the region. Working as a tax attorney for a decade and traveling a ton, Dave was looking for something different. He started taking classes in wine and working in a cellar locally. Eventually the Specters would purchase a dead Christmas tree farm in Newberg.
Located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA at the northernmost end of the Willamette Valley, bordering high mountain peaks, deep valleys and challenging pockets of terrain, Bells Up Winery consists of nine acres of planted grapes. The parcels of property in the Chehalem Mountains AVA are usually smaller in size than those found further south in the Willamette Valley where the vineyards generally tend toward larger acreage.
“I sometimes think the word microclimate was developed to describe this AVA,” said Dave. “There are lots of geographic nooks and crannies throughout the mountain ranges that impact different vineyards — and sometimes different blocks within the same vineyard — in a broad assortment of ways.”
In the cellar, Dave strives for balance and versatility achieving optimal flavor-acid structure in each bottle. The white wines tend to be fuller-bodied while the reds are more elegant and restrained. With regards to each of his Pinot Noirs, Dave composes a blend of Pinot Noir clones to create a distinct mouthfeel to clearly distinguish each one from the other.
The Specters also are one of two wineries in Oregon that grow and make a Seyval Blanc, a white wine primarily grown in England and northern parts of the east coast. “We believed it would grow well here, and after several harvests that resulted in some beautiful wines, we’re happy to be proven right,” said Dave.
This year’s harvest was tough as virtually every single pick had some kind of challenge from weather conditions to equipment issues. “All in all, the fruit came in great, albeit more than estimated. Our own vineyard’s oldest two blocks produced 50% more than we anticipated,” said Dave.
Campbell also reviewed two of our Chehalem Mountains grown wines, writing:
2019 Bells Up Winery Candide Reserve – sourced at 800 feet in elevation, this wine showcases bright acidity with flavors of cherry and raspberry followed up by a smooth finish.
2020 Bells Up Winery Prelude Estate Rosé – beautiful lush pink in color with floral aromatics. Flavors of grapefruit and strawberry while showcasing great acidity.
Wine Bulletin is published by the Craft Wine Association in support of the wine industry, particularly small producers who want to stay updated on trends and topics that help them thrive. The association is based in Sacramento, California.