New Discoveries in the Willamette Valley

9:43 am Oregon, Tasting Notes

Looking for new wine discoveries in the Great Northwest?   Bells Up Winery (in northern Willamette Valley) and Iris Vineyards (at the southern end) are two of my latest noteworthy finds within the Willamette Valley AVA.  Each one broadens my positive impression of this significant and ever-expanding wine region.

Bells Up Winery

After years of exploring wine regions and delving into home winemaking in their spare time (while Dave was a corporate attorney), Dave and Sara Specter felt a change of career was in order.  They had become infatuated with the Willamette Valley, and that lead them to establishing Bells Up Winery in Newberg, Oregon in 2013.  The name Bells Up stems from their location on Bell Road, and Dave’s two-decades of playing the French horn.  “Bells Up” in a music piece calls for the horn to be positioned with the bell up, which results in a more dramatic and striking level of sound.  And now they are on their way to building a loyal following with the striking and dramatic wines they are crafting.

The Specter’s 9-acre estate vineyard, located within the Chehalem Mountains sub-AVA of the Willamette Valley, is being planted in phases.  It began in 2014 with three acres of Pommard and 667 Pinot Noir clones, followed by half an acre of Seyval Blanc in 2014, and in 2016 Pinot Noir clones Wädenswil, 113 and 943 were planted.

Dave, with his award-winning home winemaking experience behind him, is the winemaker.  He and Sara opened their tasting room in the spring of 2015 with the release of their first wine.  The first estate wines came from their 2017 harvest of Pinot Noir.  In the Spring of 2018, their 2017 vintage Prelude Rosé of Pinot Noir was released.  This year brings the release of their 2018 Helios Seyval Blanc (Willamette Valley’s first release of this variety). Their boutique winery is now producing about 500 cases of wine per year.   Dave and Sara have captured something very special here.  Wines currently available include:

2018 Rhapsody Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley:  This gorgeous Pinot Blanc sourced from Plum Hill Vineyard opens with inviting scents of tropical fruit.  Blossoming on the palate are focused flavors of Bartlett pear, pineapple, Melogold grapefruit and fresh kiwi, with lime zest accents.  Sur lie aging contributes to the complexity and rich mouthfeel, and the finish is persistent.  SRP:  $28

2018 Prelude Rosé of Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley:   This elegant, bone dry Rosé boasts an engaging floral aroma.  Elegant and multi-layered on the palate with watermelon, citrusy elements, cranberry, and Rainer cherry flavors intermingling with delicate herbal notes.  Fresh and crisp with nice balancing acidity, it remains bright through the last sip.  SRP:  $22

2016 Titan Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: This expressive Pinot Noir combines florals with a touch of earth on the nose.  Wild cherry, loganberry jam, red raspberry, a hint of earth, savory herbs, sweet tangerine notes, and a touch of candied cherries unravel seamlessly onto the palate.  Well-balanced and ethereal with fine grained tannins and a satin-like texture, it flows harmoniously to a long and gratifying finish.  SRP:  $40

For additional information check out their website at www.bellsupwinery.com, or give them a call at 503 537 1328 to schedule a visit and/or purchase wine.   You can also reach them via email at info@bellsupwinery.com.

 

Iris Vineyards

Richard Boyles and Pamela Frye share a passion for fine food and wine.  Together they spent time experiencing wineries throughout Oregon and Washington, before a career move sent them to Europe.  After spending a few years in France, Germany and Switzerland, and learning more about wine regions while they were there, Richard and Pamela returned to the Northwest.  That move lead them to choosing a prime site to root vines.  Their 870-acre southern Willamette Valley property, Iris Vineyards, sits southwest of Eugene, Oregon. Upon the property sits their Chalice Estate Vineyard (50 planted acres) along with hundreds of acres of forest, a large garden, and their residence. The first vines were planted in 1996, and 2001 marked their first vintage.  At present, they produce 14,000 cases a year.

Richard’s draw to wine dates back to making wine with his grandmother, from grapes grown at their home on the Umpqua River in Roseburg, Oregon.   The grapes were pressed with a wood press Richard’s father made as a high school woodworking project.  He recalls memorable meals paired with wine at family gatherings over the years.

Winemaker Aaron Lieberman began making wines for Iris Vineyards in 2008, bringing with him 12 years of previous experience gained at wineries in the Willamette Valley, including Amity Vineyards, De Ponte Cellars, and Owen Roe.  The wines he crafts have earned Iris Vineyards multiple top tier medals at prestigious wine competitions around the country, and the current vintages that I recently tasted were impressive as well:

2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley:  Exquisitely layered and wildly aromatic, this Rosé from their Chalice Estate Vineyard is stylish.  Scents of forest berries and exotic spices lead the way.  Well defined on the palate as a core of pomegranate, red cherry, and Sunkist orange entwine with berry-herbal tisane and a trace of lemon verbena.  Aging in 43% stainless steel and 57% French oak barrels prior to final aging in stainless adds deeper textural qualities, and the wine finishes with verve.  Their 2017 Rosé took a Double Gold medal at the New Orleans International Wine Awards competition.   SRP:  $17.99

2017 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley:  Fragrant aromas and delightfully rich with nice balancing acidity, this finely tuned Pinot Gris comes from Chalice Estate and Confluence vineyards fruit.  Grilled pineapple, homemade Golden Delicious applesauce, savory tones, and lemon-lime citrus accents enliven the palate.  Zesty on the finish, with a subtle note of crushed pink peppercorns.  Their 2016 Pinot Gris scored a Double Gold medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.   SRP:  $15.99

2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley:  Forest floor aromas awaken the senses with this enticing and easy to quaff Pinot Noir.   Silky smooth on the palate, where red cherries, wild mushrooms, black and red raspberries, a tinge of spice and a suggestion of vanilla bean wrap around supple tannins.  Nicely integrated oak nuances (from 98% French oak [15% new], and 2% American oak aging) add further dimension.  Their 2015 Pinot Noir earned a Double Gold medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.  SRP:  $21.99

Seek out the Iris Vineyards website, www.irisvineyards.com, for further details or give them a call (tasting room 541 242 6588, or winery 541 942 5993).  You are welcome to pop into their tasting room, overlooking Chalice Estate Vineyards in the Oregon Coast Mountain Range, which is open daily from 12 noon to 6 pm, too.


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