Bells Up Winery: Wine Music Hits All the Notes

Bells Up Winery Vineyards

Music is an essential part of the wine message at Bells Up Winery in the Willamette Valley. Music comes in many forms for Dave and Sara Specter, owners of the winery. As you enter the winery, you first encounter the wine music with their logo of the French Horn. I would say in their own way; Dave toots one’s own horn in a modestly good way.

Wine Music and the Specter’s

The French Horn was the instrument of choice for Dave. He played throughout high school and college, thus making the horn a very important factor in the Specter’s life. One has to wonder what Bells Up means. The name refers to a crucial moment in classical music when the conductor or composer signals the French horn players to lift the bells of their horns up and project the sound. You might say it is the French horn crescendo. For Dave Specter, the winemaker, it is his “Bells Up” moment when he took a leap of faith and left his job as a corporate tax attorney in Cincinnati to start his winery.

Fortunately for Sara, because she was a freelancer, she could move her work as a business marketing consultant anywhere. She is the backbone behind the inner workings of Bells Up.

David and Sara Spector, Bells Up Winery
Dave and Sara Spector, Bells Up Winery

Sara and Dave’s passion and love for their winery are evident. Visiting with them at the winery makes you almost feel like they are newlyweds because of the excited persona they exude.

Located on nine acres in Newburg, the music of the Chehalem Mountains AVA echoes in every bottle of wine. Dave planted his vineyards in 2014, 2015, and 2016 with Pinot Noir, both Pommard and Dijon 113, 943 667, and Wadenswil clones of Pinot Noir. He also planted Seyval Blanc, which is a hybrid that is atypical for the area. Perhaps Dave chose Seyval Blanc as a tribute to the days he worked in wineries in Cincinnati. Although Dave sources grapes, his first harvest of both Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc was in 2017.

Seyval Blanc Grapes - Bells Up Winery
Seyval Blanc Grapes at Bells Up Winery

Music plays many parts in the winery. Each wine they produce is named after a piece of classical music that pairs effectively. In some cases, it is a piece of music that features the French Horn.

Bells Up Wine and Musical Pieces

We started with the 2018 Rhapsody Pinot Blanc, a wine named for George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Like the music, with its jazzed-up sounds, the wine has a spice that gives it life.

Having visited many Missouri wineries, I am very familiar with Seyval Blanc. Of course, it was new to taste; it was grown in Jory soils in the Willamette Valley. The 2018 Helios Estate Seyval Blanc is named for Carl Nielsen’s Helios Overture, Opus 18. Like Helios, the mythical Greek God of the sun, this wine shines as an achievement of the first planting of this hybrid grape in the Willamette Valley.

Bells Up Helios-Wine Music
The wine music of Bells Up Helios

The 2018 Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir represents Franz Liszt’s Symphonic Poem No. 3: Les Preludes. In this case, the wine is symbolic of the reds coming up. The wine is the Bells Up, signaling the full-fledged Pinot Noirs. Composed of both Pommard and 667 clones, the Rosé ferments in stainless steel and ages for four months in French oak. Think strawberry and watermelon with hints of mild spices.

Bells Up Prelude
Bells Up Prelude

Bells Up’s flagship wine is the Titan Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, which is named after Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Titan. Named aptly as the Titan because being the flagship is the most important wine of the winery. Composed of Pommard, 115 and 777 clones deliver flavors of red currant and cherry with hints of spice on the finish.

Bells Up Candid - Wine Music
Bells Up Candid

The 2017 Candide Nemarniki Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir, titled after Leonard Bernstein’s Operetta Candide, features predominantly the Wadenswil clone with Pommard. Like the story of Candide, the wine personifies its youthful vines. I found wonderful aromas of baking spices on the nose and on the palate, a bright wine with flavors of cranberry.

We finished our tasting with the 2017 Firebird Summit View Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Syrah. Entitled after Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. The name describes how David chose a variety considered out of the Willamette Valley realm. Although Dave only produces wine from grapes in Oregon, this one is different because it is a high-elevation, cool-climate Syrah. Dave says he creates this Syrah as if it were a Pinot Noir, giving the wine a lighter texture and a wine an alternative for Pinot Noir drinkers or for those who like varieties other than Pinot Noir. The wine showcases dark fruit with hints of white pepper rather than the typical spicy black pepper finish identified with Syrah.

Although a small boutique winery, Bells Up has a mighty power to ring in the bells of melodious wine music that the lovers of Pinot Noir will embrace with each sip of wine.

For More Information:

Bells Up Winery
27895 NE Bell Road
Newberg, OR 97132
Tastings by appointment only

Note: As is common in the wine industry, this writer was hosted to the wine sampled. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.