Oregon is famous for its delicious wines and scenic vineyards that can provide wonderful escapes from the city. Tyee Wine Cellars near Corvallis is about as “grass roots” as it gets – owner Dave Buchannan, a pioneer in the Oregon wine industry, boasts of five generations of family that have worked their Oregon Century Farm.
He said that in the mid-1970s, he turned away from dairy to plant wine grapes: “Not very many people knew much about wine making back then, and I really didn’t know much. I actually had three or four winemaking books and they all said something different.”
Buchanan chuckles about it now, but he insisted that his family has learned much about growing and producing pinot and chardonnay during the decades. He’s also proud of the fact that they operate an organic winery; no chemical pesticides or herbicides are used across their 15-acre vineyard. He said that his main role is protecting and restoring the forest and wetlands: “Biologists have identified 152 species of song birds here, plus we have western pond turtles in our wetlands – there’s over three miles of stream running through the more than 400 acres and more than 300 acres of that is in a wetlands reserve.”
He added that many visitors come here seeking a retreat of sorts; a connection to the landscape. They can find that along the Beaver Pond Trail – it will do much to settle your soul as you wander through a grove of 400-year-old oak trees. “This is a real farm, a working farm,” added Buchanan. “I think that’s kind of intriguing and peaceful for people.”
Finding peace and serenity in Oregon’s wine country and building a business has proven a winning combination for many of Oregon’s 450-plus wineries. In Yamhill County, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, it is even more!
The Abbey’s connection to Oregon’s wine story is unique. Father Richard Layton explained that they do not grow grapes or make wine at the Abbey, but they store thousands and thousands of cases of bottled wine on pallets that soar to the ceiling. “We are an order of contemplative prayer and meditation,” said Father Layton. “We don’t work in parishes or schools or hospitals; that’s why our means of support are rather odd compared to other religious orders.”
More than 130 Oregon wineries store their wines inside a 40,000 square-foot warehouse. Father Layton added that the space is critical to wineries that must keep their products safe and secure. “We are exactly what the wine industry needs in Oregon: warehouse space. And that was true back in 1991 when we started storing wines for a handful of wineries – we had the electricity, the ventilation and air condition and furnaces to keep the space a constant 60 degrees.”
The Abbey offers even more service to the wine industry: machinery that labels the wine bottles, too. “We have so many wineries in the Willamette Valley that store with us and many take advantage of our labeling services. We could have a couple hundred in a year!” wine technician Jennifer Blanco explained.
And there’s more to this remarkable story: the Trappist Abbey has a bakery that turns out fruit cakes and date nut cakes that are world-famous and based upon prized recipes that were created in the early 1980s. Father Richard said their weekly production keeps up with demand: “About 1,000 cakes – one pound cakes – and we shrink wrap each and put them into boxes that go into our walk in cooler. They are sent out or stored for the holiday season.”
The Abbey’s 1400 acres of mixed Doug fir forest and Oak Savannah offer miles of hiking trails with stunning views. It is the sort of place that is perfect for getting away from it all – and you can. “We do have retreat units and people are able to make a one- or two-day or week-long retreat. They are able to go to the chapel and listen to the monks chant and on a beautiful day like today it’s a great place to be. A lot of silence, a lot of solitude – that’s what the grounds have to offer here.”