It's May — Oregon ?Wine Month!
That means its time to participate in the hundreds of events the Oregon Wine Board has planned to celebrate bud break, which officially kicks off the winegrowing season. It is the perfect time to visit tasting rooms, restaurants and retailers across the state to enjoy Oregon wines.
I couldn't help myself — I jumped the gun by visiting Bells Up Winery the last part of April. It is always a treat to spend time with owners and winemaker Sara and Dave Specter. They are building a winery on premises, and they are looking forward to inaugurating it at harvest this fall.
And there is more happening at Bells Up to get excited about: namely the wines.
We can all look forward to drinking Helios Estate Vineyard Chehalem Mountains AVA Seyval Blanc in 2019, but this year it is a Fanfare Club exclusive.
Dave and Sara added a half-acre of Seyval Blanc to their vineyard in 2015 — the first and only planting of the varietal in the Willamette Valley. Seyval Blanc is a hybrid with characteristics similar to Sauvignon Blanc. In fact when Dave and Sara first introduced the wine to me I thought it was Sauvignon Blanc.
Seyval blanc is a varietal that is near and dear to the Specters' hearts. As an amateur winemaker in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dave worked extensively with Seyval Blanc sourced from the Lake Erie AVA and Ohio River Valley AVA. In 2011, prior to relocating to Newberg to start Bells Up, he won an amateur national winemaking competition with Seyval Blanc.
The couple said the 2018 harvest yielded 700 pounds of fruit which produced 15 cases, which explains this year's limited availability.
"The 15 cases is a big leap from our original harvest in 2017, when we only picked 100 pounds and made an experimental batch that yielded 23 bottles," Dave said.
"We are looking forward to producing and releasing more Helios as the vines continue to mature in the coming years," Sara said. "Ultimately we plan to produce enough Seyval Blanc to make it available to all guests."
We may have to wait for Seyval Blanc but they have ample quantities of fantastic pinot blanc, rose of pinot noir and pinot noir.
¦ The 2018 Rhapsody Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc is named for George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and sourced from Plum Hill Vineyard in Gaston. This jazzy white wine is aged sur lie in stainless steel tanks for 6 months to produce a fuller-bodied wine. No malolactic fermentation allows crisp acidity, subtle minerality and spicy characteristics to take center stage.
¦ The 2018 Prelude Estate Vineyard Chehalem Mountains AVA Rose of Pinot Noir is their second estate wine release. This fuller-bodied rosé is named for Franz Liszt's "Symphonic Poem No. 3: Les Preludes." It features equal parts heritage clone Pommard and Dijon clone 667 soaked on the skins for 36 hours, then pressed prior to fermentation — producing a fuller-bodied rosé. After fermentation, the wine was transferred to neutral French oak barrels for an additional malolactic ferment to smooth its acidity.
¦ The 2015 Titan Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has aged beautifully. Named for Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D Major "Titan," this edition of Bells Up's flagship Oregon pinot noir mingles 42% Yamhill-Carlton Pommard (6-year-old vines) with 29% each of Yamhill-Carlton Dijon clones 115 and 777 (16-year-old vines), all grown in sedimentary Willakenzie soil. Aged seven months in French oak (30% new), this bold, fruit-forward, well-structured Pinot is a result of 2015's extremely hot summer, with 25 days of 95-plus-degree heat during the growing season and very little rain. The small clusters and berries yielded intensified flavors and aromas. This wine earned a Wine Enthusiast score of 90.
¦ 2016 Titan Willamette Valley Pinot Noir combines 35% Chehalem Mountains Pommard (8-year-old vines) grown on wind-blown loess with 34% Dijon clone 115 and 31% Dijon clone 777 (16-year-old Yamhill-Carlton vines) grown in sedimentary Willakenzie soil. Aged 12 months in French oak (39% new), this delightfully balanced pinot reflects the Willamette Valley's early spring and an extended growing season characterized by warm days and cool nights. Gentle temperature shifts and low humidity combined to produce a wine with the rare combination of early drinkability and considerable aging potential. This wine earned a Washington Wine Blog score of
¦ 2017 Firebird Summit View Vineyard from Walla Walla Valley AVA Syrah is named for Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." These grapes were sourced exclusively from Summit View, one of the highest elevation vineyards in The Rocks at Milton-Freewater AVA —at 1,150 feet. This site's vines are rooted in Ellisforde silt loam, a deep, well-drained glacial soil that produces full-bodied fruit with concentrated flavors and vibrant acidity. Aged 12 months in French oak.
Sara and Dave invite all to Taste the Estate from noon to 4 p.m. May 18, 19, 25, 26 and 27 at the winery and tasting room located at 27895 NE Bell Road in Newberg. The tasting room is also always open by appointment.
Love bacon? Plan on attending their Bacon Winemaker Dinner featuring Subterra on Saturday, June 1. Every dish — from appetizers to salads, sides, entree and dessert — features bacon paired of course with Bells Up wines. Reserve a seat by calling 503-537-1328.
There are literally hundreds of wine events taking place throughout Oregon during May. Visit oregonwine.org to view the complete schedule and to enter the Garagistes & Gourmands Sweepstakes. The term garagistes refers to a group of winemakers in France's Bordeax region who produce "vins de garage," or garage wine. The group emerged in the mid-1990s in reaction to the traditional style of red Boreaux wine, which is highly tannic and requires long aging in the bottle to become drinkable. The garagistes developed a style more consistent with perceived international wine taste, which translates to "bigger, bolder, fruitier wines," sometimes with a higher alcohol content.
The winner and a guest of the sweepstakes will spend four days and three nights exploring Portland's urban wineries and inventive culinary scene before spending a day in the Willamette Valley's vineyards and farms.
To enter the sweepstakes and learn more about all that Oregon Wine Month entails visit oregonwine.org.
The website also includes recipes and suggested pairings to enjoy during May. I am out of room today, so visit the website for recipes to pair
with your bottles of Oregon wine.
Bon Appetit! See you in the tasting room!
Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.
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