Dave Nershi, publisher, writer and reviewer of the Vino-Sphere wine blog recently published his reviews of the 2021 Helios Estate Seyval Blanc and Rhapsody Pinot Blanc in a round-up of several Willamette Valley white wines. Nershi, who featured us previously after a tour of the Willamette Valley, posted “Willamette Whites Gaining Critical Acclaim,” noted the following:
If you assume that Willamette Valley is strictly Pinot Noir, you’re in for a delicious surprise. In fact, 30% of Willamette Valley’s grapes are those other than Pinot Noir. The quality of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and lesser-known white grapes is capturing the attention of wine critics with their balance, elegance, and higher acidity…
Nershi was joined by a panel of tasters to sample a handful of whites from the region, including our two. Their reviews:
BELLS UP RHAPSODY 2021 PINOT BLANC: This wine immediately gained fan-favorite status with our group. I was expecting a more austere wine, but the Rhapsody (named for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue) delivered nectarine and lemon zest flavors in a jazzy way. The wine gets six months of sur lie aging for a fuller body without dampening the crispness. =
BELLS UP HELIOS 2021 SEYVAL BLANC, CHEHALEM MOUNTAINS: Bells Up has the first and only Seyval Blanc planting in Willamette Valley (second in Oregon). The variety is found mainly in the Midwest and East. Tropical fruit and green apples surround a swirling minerality. There is a unique flinty twang on the finish. Minimal availability of 64 cases.
He also included an interview with Winemaker Dave about the white wines of the Willamette Valley:
Dave Specter is the owner and winemaker at Bells Up Winery, a micro-boutique winery he operates with his wife Sara. Dave is a former corporate tax attorney who won two national amateur winemaking competitions, encouraging the couple to purchase a former Christmas tree farm north of Newberg, Oregon, to establish their vineyard. Today the winery produces about 600 cases annually.
“Regionally—and broadly speaking—there is a tendency toward producing crisper, balanced white wines that showcase the minerality of the area’s soils,” said Specter. “You don’t see many oaked whites made here compared to other winemaking regions, which makes them distinctive.
“For whites, I’m trying to achieve approachability and elegance through balanced acidity with a creamy texture that comes from a few months spent stirring the wine on its lees. That gives them a fuller-bodied presence, allowing our white wines to be enjoyed solo or accompanied by a meal. We’ve seen great pairings with oysters or creamy Mediterranean lamb stew for the Rhapsody Pinot Blanc, and fish tacos or asparagus with lemon for the Helios Seyval Blanc, which is the only planting of that varietal in the Willamette Valley (thereby making it a very unique white here).”