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Bells Up Winery's new releases are cause for celebration. Tastings are by appointment only, schedule your private tasting now.

Dave Specter, Bells Up winemaker, with a tank sample of the winery's very first estate wine: 2017 Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir.

You might think that winemakers go fishing or head to sunny beaches as soon as the Thanksgiving Open House weekend is over. Though they might zip away for a short recharge of the batteries, winemakers find themselves just as busy in winter as any other time of year. The dormant vineyards just allow them to turn their attention to other aspects of winemaking, like fermenting, racking, filtering and bottling activities. You know — the activities that signal we will have new wines to sample soon.

I was delighted to get an email from my friend Sara Specter at Bells Up Winery in Newberg about their spring releases, along with an invitation to try them.

"We're bringing back the pinot blanc this year, which sold out at this time last year," Sara wrote. "And we are debuting our very first Estate wine, a Rosé of Pinot Noir made of Pommard and 667. We also harvested 100 pounds of Estate Seyval Blanc last fall — the Willamette Valley's first planting of that varietal, and the second in the state — and we have a five-gallon experimental batch we'd love to have you sample."

STAFF PHOTO:  - Dave Specter, winemaker at Bells Up Winery in Newberg, shares his notes about blending his Titan pinot noir with Ken Smith, Barb Randalls brother-in-law.

As luck would have it my sister and brother-in-law, Carol and Ken Smith of Kent, Wash., were in town the day I was scheduled to visit Bells Up, and were invited to visit the winery with me.

Bells Up is a charming boutique winery located appropriately on Bell Road just minutes from downtown Newberg. It is owned by Sara and her husband, Dave, who is the winemaker for Bells Up. An attorney by profession, winemaking is Dave's second career. He started making wine at home, then hired himself out as an apprentice to wineries in their home state of Ohio. The couple had visited Oregon for wine tasting vacations and bolstered by his success and the experience gained through working with his mentor, the couple moved to Oregon to start Bells Up about four years ago.

You might remember from previous articles I've written about Bells Up that Dave played French horn in high school and college, and the term "bells up" has significance as a musical term. "Bells Up" refers to the dramatic moment in classical music where the composer instructs French horn players to lift the bells of their instruments up and project sound with maximum intensity. Dave says the winery is his "Bells Up" moment. The couple also invite consumers to share with them their "Bells Up" moments — how they enjoy Bells Up wines — on their social media accounts.

Ken, Carol and I enjoyed many a "Bells Up moment" as we sampled the spring releases. Here's what you can look forward to:

2017 Rhapsody Eola-Amity Hills AVA Pinot Blanc — Named for George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," this pinot blanc is very special. It is made of grapes from the five-year-old vines in the Bieze Vineyard, and will age six months in steel tanks on lees.

2017 Prelude Estate Vineyard Chehalem Mountains AVA Rosé of Pinot Noir — This wine is named for Franz Liszt's "Symphonic Poem No. 3: Les Preludes." It has a lovely hue and taste and is made of 50 percent each Pommard and 667 from the four-year-old estate vines.

The 2015 Titan Willamette Valley Pinot Noir will be released Labor Day. It is named for Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D Major, "Titan." This is Bells Up most popular wine and one sip and you will know why. It is made of 42 percent Yamhill-Carlton Pommard (six-year-old-vines) and 29 percent each Yamhill-Carlton 115 and 777 (16 year-old vines).

Bells Up Villanelle Reserve Pinot Noir was Barb Randalls choice for the Valentines Day dinner she had with her husband, Mark. She will also serve it for Easter paired with lamb.

The wine Dave loves the most (and the bottle I bought to share with my valentine Mark) was the 2015 Villanelle from the Tonnelier Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Ava Reserve Pinot Noir. It is named for Paul Dukas' duet from French Horn and Piano, "Villanelle," and made of free-run 115 and 777 (16 year-old vines).

Bells Up Firebird is a syrah wine made from Walla Walla Valley AVA grapes. The wine is named for Igor Stravinskis Firebird Suite.

And the final delight we sampled was the 2016 Firebird Summit View Vineyard Walla Walla Valley AVA Syrah, named for Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite."

All of the wines are wonderful. The Rhapsody, Prelude and Firebird are being sold now only on futures; they will be available Memorial Day weekend. You can purchase and enjoy Titan and Villanelle right now. Just call 503-537-1328 or visit to arrange your own special tasting event.

Tastings are by appointment only, and you are welcome to bring foods to go with the wines.

Sara shares that some of the pairings are rather surprising (Doritos with Titan, anyone?) but she is not one to question what anyone considers a perfect Bells Up moment.

I believe both the Titan and Villanelle would pair beautifully with lamb for Easter dinner, so I share this recipe for Herb and Garlic Lamb with Green Olive Salad.

Bon Appetite! Make eating an adventure!

Herb and Garlic Lamb with Green Olive Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ask your butcher for lamb backstraps, an interior cut from the loin that is lean and exceedingly tender.

2 sprigs rosemary

10 sprigs thyme

6 sprigs oregano

1¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

4 lamb backstraps

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

1½-2 cups green (Sicilian) olives, pitted and chopped

1 Lebanese (Persian) cucumber, chopped

1¼cup mint leaves

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1½ cup crumbled fresh goat cheese to serve

Tie the rosemary, thyme and oregano together with kitchen string. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the herbs and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside. Place the lamb on a tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brush with some of the herb oil, using the herb bunch as a brush. Preheat a char-grill pan or barbecue over high heat. Cook the lamb for 2 to 3 minutes each side for medium rare, or until cooked to your liking. Place the olive, cucumber, mint, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the herb oil in a bowl and toss to combine. Slice the lamb and serve with the green olive salad and sprinkle with goat cheese.

Recipe courtesy of Epicurious, March 2017.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 503-636-1281 ext. 100. She is the author of "Willamette Valley Wineries" published by Arcadia Publishing. Learn more online at and follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.

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