Argyle head winemaker Nate Klostermann inspects Pinot Noir grapes beginning cold soak, a process that enhances flavor and promotes extraction of desirable compounds prior to fermentation.##Photo by Marcus Larson
Now only partially filled, the capacity of this barrel aging room at Argyle’s new 65,000-square-foot winery in Newberg will be maximized by using metal stacking racks.##Photo by Marcus Larson

New to Newberg

Move doubles Argyle’s production capability

By Karl Klooster

Since 1987, the first year Argyle Winery made wine, everything was done at a former nut processing factory on Highway 99W in Dundee. Areas within the old agricultural complex housed their winery and aging cellar, while an adjacent Victorian residence was repurposed for a hospitality room and offices.

That is, until this year.

For the 2014 harvest, after 28 seasons, Argyle has moved its winery into new, much larger quarters in Newberg, expanding its processing capabilities at least two-fold over the Dundee facility.

At 65,000 square feet, the Newberg winery is capable of processing up to 120,000 cases annually. In 2013, 60,000 cases were produced at the Dundee facility, making it Oregon’s 11th largest winery and ninth largest brand.

Interestingly, just as Argyle was the first winery to begin operations within the city limits of Dundee, so is it also the first to do so within the city limits of Newberg.

Wines will no longer be processed in Dundee; however, the tasting room and hospitality areas will be expanded to meet what marketing director Cathy Martin has described as the never-ending arrival of overflow crowds.

Argyle’s tasting room, conveniently located on Highway 99W in Dundee, allows the brand maximum exposure to the greatest number of visitors to wine country.

Fed by the Portland metro area and well beyond, this annual influx continues on the upswing. And though exact counts are not available, it seems apparent that Argyle has the most visited tasting room in Oregon.

Nate Klostermann was in charge of getting the Newberg operation up and running for the 2014 harvest. Klostermann, who began working under Argyle co-founder Rollin Soles in 2006, took over as head winemaker in 2013, when Soles decided to relinquish his management role for one as a consultant while redirecting his primary efforts to the operation of ROCO Wines. He founded the Dundee Hills winery, with his wife Corby Stonebraker-Soles, in 2003.

The year before his departure, the team of Soles, Klostermann, Maintenance Director Todd Hooker and Commercial Operations Director Luke Higgins, began exploring needed expansion options for Argyle. One was to build a new winery at one of their Eola-Amity Hills vineyard properties, another was to expand the existing Dundee facility, and the third was to buy another building in the Newberg/Dundee area.

During that time, a suitable building in Newberg came on the market. It met the criteria of proximity to Dundee, convenience to highway shipping and, most importantly, ease of conversion to a wine production facility.

Klostermann says, “We like this site because of its consistency with our prior investments to promote sustainability, preservation of existing space and limited impact on natural resources.”

The team decided on the Newberg building and it was purchased in mid-2013. Waterleaf Architecture and Alegis Construction, both of Portland, were contracted to design and carry out the project.

Blane Hansen of Compass Builders in Newberg was hired as the project manager and owner’s representative. Hansen had previously served as project manager on the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg.

Every harvest season is hectic. But the first time in a new facility is obviously even more so. Assessing 2014, Klostermann said. “The bigger — twice the size — cold room was definitely a benefit this year.

“Given the fact that it was such a warm year and most of the fruit was ready within a short period of time, it was nice to have the extra space.”

He explained how all of Argyle’s Pinot Noir is fermented in small fermentation vessels, which take up a lot of floor space. Utilizing 65,000 square feet compared to 35,000 made a major difference.

Argyle produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Several series have been introduced over time, all bearing the Argyle name but with different designations — growers, artisans and masters — consecutively escalating in cost and presumed quality.

Nuthouse, after the original facility, has long been a defined brand. More recently, Spirit Hill was launched to showcase the winery’s 180-acre, Eola-Amity Hills vineyard of that name, first planted in 2008.

The still table wines constitute the majority of Argyle’s production, but they are probably best known as Oregon’s largest producer of sparkling wines.

Although only a tiny player on the world bubbly wine scene, the brand’s styles are all in the premium and ultra-premium categories and have garnered international attention for their quality.

Producing Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Rosé and Extended Tirage Brut, Argyle is a classic méthode Champenoise producer of wines gaining wide acclaim. Rivaling the long-heralded Champagne houses, the vintage-dated, Argyle Extended Tirage Brut has been among Wine Spectator magazine’s annual “100 best wines” four times since 2008, ranking between No. 17 and 25.

After this year’s move and early harvest, everyone at Arygle deserves to pop open a bottle, or two, celebrating even greater future vintages.

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