Posted by Josh Gana on Tuesday, August 3, 2010
If you didn't know any better, you would have thought that Stage 3 of Le Tour de Pinot was actually the crash-laden Stage 2 of the Tour de France, that is, if you count the number of riders who dropped out for a variety of reasons within a week before the ride. Illness...last minute travel...family issues...and mechanical issues resulted in a peloton comprised solely of Le Tour founders, Rick and myself, for a ride to Tyee Wine Cellars on July 17. Indeed, fate (in the form of couple of pitchers of beer the night before) attempted to even knock Rick and me out of the running, but with some ibuprofen, water, and a little sunlight, we were on the saddle ready to rock, after all, one of the finest wineries in the Willamette Valley was waiting with the red spandex rolled out.
The ride started at Avalon Wine in downtown Corvallis, a tour sponsor and the source for Northwest wines in Corvallis. After a few photo ops, some autographs, and a rousing chat with a local about Andy Schleck's chances of winning in Paris, we hit the road at a considerably faster pace than Le Tour's Tyee stage last year. I'm positive that 15 degrees cooler, a newer lighter bike, and some awesome padded bib shorts had absolutely nothing to do with the faster pace. We're just that metal. Exactly 10 miles later, we rolled up to the Buchanan Family Century Farm, home of Tyee Wine Cellars and Estate Vineyard.
We were quickly met by Merrilee Buchanan Benson, Winemaker, and our support drivers Megan and Kathryn who would have happily scraped us up off of the road if needed at any point during the ride. Merrilee started out by taking us through the standard lineup of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Tyee is all estate fruit, and the 2008 Pinot Gris really popped for me. We have a long standing love affair with Tyee's whites, and this tasting was no exception. The Noir of course is excellent, but whenever we find a white that us red-heads enjoy, it sticks out. The 2007 Barrel Select Pinot Noir is also quite special; with only 100 cases you better pick some up while you can.
After the tasting, Merrilee had a special treat in store for The Oregon Wine Blog. She led us to the barn behind the tasting room, where winery founders David and Margy Buchanan had set up a spread for lunch with local produce and of course, wine. A nice cheese plate was complemented by an unreleased 2008 Chardonnay that magically appeared on the table; and a delicious asian chicken salad paired perfectly with the barrel sample of the 2008 Pinot Noir that Merrilee skillfully poured for us. Seriously, Margy, I want that recipe! Hazelnuts grown on the farm were plentiful, and the conversation was lively and enjoyable as the trio behind Tyee shared the spirit that makes the winery special. We learned, for instance, that Tyee is now 100% on solar power, and has a strong commitment to sustainable practices. The were one of the first salmon safe wines in fact. Another cool feature of the vineyard is the use of grass in the aisle ways instead of dirt, the subject of a current OSU study that is indicating more complexity to the wine as a result.
A quick aside about Buchanan Family Century Farm. Founded over 120 years ago and having passed through 5 generations of Buchanan's, the wine component of this property is a relatively infant stage with first plantings in 1974. Infant in terms of years, that is. There is absolutely nothing infant about the matured, complex, and delicious wines being poured at Tyee. The farm boasts a woodland / wetland conservation area with a nature trail that is the destination for many a school field trips. Just don't let the children near my wine ;)
Stage 3...success. Tyee is for real, and, we didn't wreck on the way back. That is always a plus. Up next, Airlie. Keep your eyes open for our suave Le Tour de Pinot jerseys, sponsored by the fine folks at Avalon Wine, Mahlum Architects, and Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery, and the tour poster coming soon to an interweb near you.