ADDRESS: 26335 Greenberry Rd, Corvallis, OR
OWNERS: Merrilee Buchanan Benson, Dave Buchanan, and Margy Buchanan
YEARS IN BUSINESS: The winery has been in business for 28 years. The farm was established in 1885.
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 8
WHAT THEY SELL: The farm produces hazelnuts and hay, in addition to their primary business of vineyards and wine making.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For the wonderful wines (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir); the spectacular atmosphere of the Century Farm, complete with hiking trails, 100 acres of native oak and ash, a multitude of picnic spots, resident elk herd and beaver dam; and to support the fourth and fifth generations of Buchanans, who have literally created a paradise that they share with all of us.
Tyee Wine Cellars is an absolute gem only a short drive southwest of Corvallis. Not only will you be able to sample some of the best wines in the Willamette Valley but you will enjoy the hospitality of the Buchanan family, who will welcome you to enjoy their farm and winery as they do every day.
Why did you start your business? (Dave) I grew up on the farm and this was always my dream job. For thirty years, I supported my dream job by working as a fishery biologist, and Margy was an elementary school teacher before becoming a “daytime farmer” and raising our children. (Merrilee) I knew that I wanted to stay in agriculture from the beginning in order to carry on the work and tradition of the farm. I feel privileged that the family has created and grown this business. I have a degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Ecological Horticulture, Viticulture, and Winemaking. (Margy) She never missed a harvest or a crush the entire time she was pursuing her education. In fact, she wrote her thesis on the Natural History of the Farm. In 2006, she became not only the vineyard master but the winemaker as well.
Tell us about your products. What are your specialties? (Margy) For us, wine is food. We have been on the farm for five generations. (Dave) In 1974, I planted my first vines, and I began making wine in 1985. (Margy) The name “Tyee” comes from Chinook jargon, which is loosely translated as “the best” and which we hold to mean “the best of the Northwest.” Each wine label honors the heritage of the valley with a Northwestern Native American legend. We are very proud of the fact that our wines are classed as estate wines—we grow all the grapes on site and make the wine, as well. Our varietals have been cultivated to pair well with Northwestern cuisine.
What does being featured as Local Business of the Week mean to you? It’s an honor, and it’s nice to see folks in Corvallis becoming more interested in local foods and wine. On May 27th we’ll celebrate 28 years in business with a dance party and festivities at Tyee! There will be wine tasting, dim sum prepared by Magenta, music by the Space Neighbors, special discounts, hikes at the farm, and more.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner, and how have you met those challenges? (Merrilee) Being a small business is challenging and farming is always a challenge. You have to be a farmer, plumber, marketer, winemaker, bookkeeper and more just to keep the business going. (Margy) We have purposely kept our business small. Our philosophy is that our wine should first be for Oregonians, which is why we have only one distributor who is out of state. he goal is to be available and reasonable to our community before all else. The transition from generation to generation in a family business is also a challenge, requiring hard work and respect. While Merrilee has stepped in to take the reins from Dave and myself, she is also supported in her work by her husband, Brian Benson, and her 6-year-old daughter, Annelise, and by our son, Paul, who teaches math at Crescent Valley High.
What is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for local independents? (Dave) I like the trend. The future looks good, since more people are talking about local and care about and wish to support local businesses.
What is your relationship to the community? What organizations do you support or participate in? (Dave) We donate to many local causes with in-kind donations. Some examples are the Farm-to-School tours and Wetland Reserve tours that we host at the farm. I’ve also been active as a Nature Conservancy trustee, and active with Muddy Creek School. This is one of the benefits of the vineyard. I love networking with community organizations. [Tyee Wine Cellars is also a member of both CIBA and the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition.]
How important is sustainability to you and your business? (Dave) We are very involved in sustainability issues on both the farm and in the winery. I’ve planted over 10,000 trees on the farm, some of which are located to shade and protect the winery so it will consume less energy. Also, we use traditional winemaking processes that are naturally low in energy consumption. The winery is comprised of old buildings that were repurposed and are tightly insulated. The winery is 100% solar-powered. The entire farm is certified Salmon-Safe, we’ve used organic practices in the vineyard since 1998, and it’s the home to over 150 species of birds, a resident elk herd and a beaver pond that you can see when you take the 1½ mile loop nature trail. You’ll also see some rare wetland flowers on the farm.
(Interview and article by Cindee Lolik – May 12, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).