This past August we had a delightful time hosting wife-and-husband wine and travel writers Pam and Gary Baker. The pair were visiting Willamette Valley wineries on assignment for Winetraveler.com, the largest wine tourism-focused website in the U.S. Based in California, the Bakers have visited and reported on several famous wine regions. The pair is also a member of the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association. In short, they know their stuff.
It was, therefore, an honor and a surprise to be listed at the top of their picks for Boutique Wineries and Intimate Tastings in the article, “Best Willamette Valley Wineries to Visit for Wine Tasting This Year.” They write:
What Guests Like About It: Boutique, exclusive tastings with the winemaker, unique varieties, musical theme
Bells Up Winery offers guests who seek out small wineries an approachable wine tasting experience led by the winemaker. Exclusive wine tastings, limited to no more than six guests, are conducted in the winery’s barrel room or on the outside deck with sweeping views of the vineyard. Three sessions are offered daily, by appointment, starting at 11 am.
Bells Up owners Dave and Sara Specter, a couple of transplants from Ohio, started their winery in 2012 with 9 acres of vines. The name “Bells Up” refers to a musical term – a dramatic moment in a classical music score instructing French horn players (of which Dave is one) to raise their instrument’s bell and project sound with maximum intensity.
As if responding to a symphony conductor’s command, Dave and Sara completely transformed a former Christmas tree farm into a very productive wine making property. It’s replete with vineyards, a winery, and a barrel room neatly composed on a south-facing hillside in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Today Bells Up remains deliberately small-scale, micro-boutique and un-domaine production of 600 cases annually.
Hence, it’s fitting that with Dave’s musical background, the wines are also named after symphonies of famous composers. Equal to the great symphonies they are named after, Bells Up wines reflect handcrafted, classically styled expressions of maximum intensity.
Dave conducts the winetasting personally as he sits across the custom-made varnished wood tables from his guests. He serves each wine one at a time as he expertly and enthusiastically describes the characteristics of each one and then explains the musically-derived name for it. Bells Up, like many other wineries in Willamette, serves wine in large, tulip shaped glasses, affectionally known as “Oregon Pinot glasses,” to capture and enhance the aroma and flavors of the wine.
No tasting fees are charged. However, because the winemaker personally guides the party through a genuine, personalized, and private tasting, each guest is requested to purchase a minimum of three bottles each. A $100 non-refundable fee is charged per person in advance when making reservations, then applied back to the three-bottle minimum purchase.
Tastings typically include a sampling of five to six wines like Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a single vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir sourced from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Dave also produces a Syrah with grapes sourced from the Walla Walla Valley. Unique to the Bells Up tasting, there is also an estate grown Seyval Blanc. And soon to be available, an obscure Northern Italian varietal, Schioppettino, will be on the menu.
We look forward to hosting Pam and Gary again, and can’t wait to host you too!