A WOW member since moving to Newberg from Cincinnati, Ohio in June 2012, Sara Pearson Specter is a freelance marketing consultant (aka “Marketing Mercenary”) who specializes in business-to-business storytelling for industrial and manufacturing companies, primarily in the supply chain and material handling field.
But that’s not why she’s a WOW member; in her official role as “money honey,” Sara has been financing her husband’s pursuit of a winemaking career—which culminated in Bells Up Winery, established in 2013—ever since he left his job as a corporate tax attorney (specializing in mergers and acquisitions) at the beginning of 2009. The estate winery and tasting room on their 10 acres on Bell Road at the intersection of Zimri Drive opened Memorial Day weekend 2015.
What is your background?
I double majored in French and history at a small college in Kentucky, but was drawn to writing and graphic design. I fell into industrial advertising and started my freelancing career after serving as creative director at the last agency I worked at in Cincinnati. Dave and I got married at about that time (almost 15 years ago!). Five years into our marriage we started making wine in the basement as a “cute, couple-y hobby.” I liked drinking the wine and making the labels. Dave was fascinated by the entire process, and “our” hobby quickly became “his” hobby. Little did I know we’d wind up moving to Oregon and establishing a vineyard and winery six years later.
Anything you would like to share about your family?
As an only child and the parent of the only grandchild, my parents followed us out here and now live in Sherwood.
Why did you select the business you are in?
“Living the dream” of owning a winery was decidedly NOT my idea originally; it niggled around in the back of Dave’s head for a long time, but only as a vague notion, not a concrete plan.
When Dave and I came for an Oregon wine vacation in 2008, we stayed at Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast and fell completely, totally in love with the area. I remember saying to Dave: “One day we’re going to move here, you’re going to be a professional winemaker, we’re going get vineyard property on Bell Road because the location and the view are perfect, and we’re going to own a winery—in 20 years.”
Then, shortly after we returned to Cincinnati from that vacation, my professional mentor Kelly called to tell me she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, just two weeks after her 40th birthday (and she died 10 months later). Our daughter was born right before Christmas 2008, and at the start of 2009, Dave—under tremendous pressure from his bosses to go the partner track in a legal career that he hated so much it made him physically sick—essentially had a nervous breakdown.
I decided that I was done: Done with chasing the suburban dream, done with tiptoeing through a struggling marriage to a miserable spouse, done with “what if,” done with fear.
“Life is too short,” I told Dave. “If you’re this successful in a career that you hate, how much more successful would you be doing something you love? That’s what we need to teach our daughter by example.”
So Dave quit his job and went to work, unpaid, at an urban winery in Cincinnati. There, he learned everything he could about making wine professionally. In 2011, we got our “sign” that we were on the right track: he won two different amateur national winemaking competitions with two different wines within two months. We immediately put the house in suburbia on the market and moved here within days after closing.
What do you like most about what you do?
In my personal career, I enjoy making engineers sound like human beings. If I do my job right, they sound like human beings with whom you’d want to share a beer.
As the self-appointed Chief Marketing Officer for my “non-profit” client, Bells Up, I love meeting new people and talking micro-boutique, handcrafted wine. Especially rewarding for us has been how Dave’s wines have been embraced wholeheartedly by the local wine industry. An astonishing number of “wine people” have joined Fanfare Club (Bells Up’s wine club). That means so much to both of us.
Why did you join WOW and what is the most rewarding or valuable aspect of being a WOW member?
I joined WOW thanks to peer pressure from several current members who said: “Have you heard about WOW? Because you need to join it!” I especially value the opportunity to make and grow my connections to so many amazing, spunky, resourceful, spirited, cheerful, warm and welcoming women who call the Willamette Valley their home, and who strive to make this gorgeous place an even better one for all who live here. Everyone I’ve met through WOW is incredibly inspiring.
I have to particularly call out fellow WOW Tina Hammond of Privé Vineyard who—along with her husband Mark—has personally mentored us throughout this winery experience over the past four years, answering crazy questions at all hours and providing endless support and encouragement. We’re fortunate to have them as both neighbors and dear friends.
Who could be an ideal potential client for you?
Focusing on the winery, which is always open by appointment, we love getting to know folks on a personal level because that’s the kind of winery experience we most enjoy ourselves. Due to our small production (400 cases per year) and the fact that it is essentially just Dave and me doing the majority of all the work, we have our most meaningful interactions with small groups ranging from two to ten people.
What do you like to do for fun?
What are five things you cannot live without?
- Our village of family and friends who have supported us every step of the way with their time and care.
- Two ginormous freezers that support my “You Pick Addiction” (admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery).
- Grape pies—I make them to say thank you to the village.
- Disney Junior and PBS, to keep my kiddo occupied when I’m busy meeting client or winery obligations and don’t have any other available childcare. Don’t judge—You’ve done it too.
- Dark chocolate.
Where is your favorite place to vacation?
What’s a vacation? We’re in the stage of life where, because we have a young child, we take “trips.” HER favorite place is Disneyland.
CONTACT: Sara Pearson Specter- Chief Marketing Officer, Bells Up Winery
Location: 27895 NE Bell Road (at the intersection of Zimri Drive) Newberg, OR 97132