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Tyee Wine Cellars
Kathy and Terry Sullivan

Tyee Wine CellarsSummary: Tyee Wine Cellars is a boutique winery located on a “Century” farm. The winery and vineyards are in the Corvallis region of the Willamette Valley AVA. The tasting room is located in the now renovated historic milking parlor. Wine enthusiasts can enjoy a wine tasting, a great site to picnic and a stroll along a nature trail.

Tyee Wine CellarsLocated on a designated Century farm, visitors travel a long narrow gravel road leading past vineyards to the Tyee Wine Cellars’ tasting room. We met Merrilee Buchanan Benson (pictured left), winemaker, the fifth generation to live on the property. The Buchanan family farm was purchased in two parts; with the first section purchased in 1854 and the second adjacent farm purchased in 1885. Since 1885 the farm has progressed through several types of farming including: wheat, animal feed and livestock. The third generation raised Jersey cows and added the milking parlor. The 4th generation, Dave and Margy Buchanan, began planting grapes in 1974. They founded Tyee Wine Cellars in 1985. They also raised sheep and planted hazelnuts.

Merrilee knew she wanted to return to the family business. She began working as the vineyard manager and eventually became the winemaker. In 2019, Merrilee and her husband, Brian Benson manage the vineyards and winery.

Tasting Room

The tasting room is located in a delightfully, renovated milking parlor. The walls are painted yellow and enhanced with golden wood accents. The building is divided into two adjacent rooms with two steps leading from one to the other. Wine tastings take place in the first smaller room and visitors can enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing in the second larger room. Energy to the winery and tasting room is supplied by solar power.

The Name Tyee

Tyee Wine CellarsMerrilee discussed the name for the winery. Tyee means chief and the best of. It comes from the northwest trade language. The language could be found from Alaska to Northern California. The word Tyee made it easier for traders and others to communicate with each other despite different northwest languages. Merrilee offered a different more modern day example of the northwest trade language - potluck. Wine bottle back labels summarize the concept of Tyee and the relationship to the winery, “Tyee, an early Northwest word meaning ‘chief’ and ‘best’ symbolized our commitment to produce excellent estate wines to complement local cuisine."

On the farm, the majority of the land that can support vineyards is planted. Merrilee mentioned that a portion of the farmland is submerged under water during certain times of the winter. The farm also has acres of commercial hazlenuts.

Tyee Wine Cellars was also used as a teaching winery in association with Oregon State University. In 2006 the winery became an estate grown winery. Today the winery is producing 2,000 cases.

Tyee Vineyards

Tyee Wine CellarsThe vineyards consist of 15 acres. The vineyards are sustainable and Certified Salmon Safe. Merrilee’s father helped to start Oregon’s Certified Salmon Safe program. The soil is Willamette soil and is comprised of silt, clay and loam. The grapevines planted in 1974 are on their own rootstock. More recent plantings are on grafted rootstock. The vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer.

The Tyee Wines

All of the wines we tasted in the tasting room had 13.5% alcohol.

The Estate Pinot Gris 2017 Willamette Valley AVA had a light yellow color. The aroma was of citrus and tropical fruits. The taste included notes of grapefruit and papaya with some pineapple. The finish was crisp and fruity with predominant notes of grapefruit.

The Estate Chardonnay 2017 Willamette Valley AVA is an unoaked Chardonnay. The wine was produced from old vines on their own rootstock from the 1980s. The wine was a yellow color. The aroma was of apple. The taste was also from apple with some citrus. The finish was crisp with a lot of fruit.

Tyee Wine CellarsGewürztraminer 2017 Willamette Valley AVA had 4 g/L residual sugar. The light yellow colored wine offered an aroma of flowers and spice. The taste was of white roses and white peaches. The finish was crisp with flowers and fruit.

Estate Pinot Noir 2016 Willamette Valley AVA was a translucent ruby color. The aroma was of raspberries. The taste included raspberries, cranberries and a hint of baking spices. This was a medium/full-bodied wine with mild tannins. The finish was crisp and fruity with a hint of spice.

Estate Barrel Select Pinot Noir 2015 Willamette Valley AVA was produced with grapes from old grapevines planted in 1974, 1981 and 1985. The wine was a translucent red color with an aroma of cranberries and raspberries. The taste also had cranberries and raspberries with subtle baking spices. The full-bodied wine offered medium/bold tannins. The finish was fruity.

Merrilee would like wine enthusiasts and visitors to know that the family is proud of being a small family business. They practice sustainable farming. They want to let the vineyard create the wines, and use minimal interventions in the winery.

Enjoy a visit to a small boutique winery in Oregon’s beautiful countryside. Spend some extra time and hike along the Tyee's Beaver Pond Loop Nature Trail.

Tyee Wine Cellars
26335 Greenberry Rd.
Corvallis Oregon 97333

GPS: N44º 27.5494’ W123º 19.4287’



Article written November 2019.

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