August 26, 2015

Argyle connects with its past

Newberg Graphic

by Colin Staub

For Argyle Winery, the project of expanding its tasting room and hospitality facility had a focus on blending the past with the present.

While that intent included retaining the “feel” of the production facility that formerly stood on the Dundee campus, it also extended into a very literal sense of utilizing the same building materials from the old structures, which were carefully deconstructed by crews over the past eight months.

One of the large buildings, home to the crush pad equipment, was built in 2008 and therefore was still in great condition when the project began. With the new plans for the site, though, it wasn’t needed as an indoor space.

“It would have been criminal to tear it down,” Argyle director of sales and marketing Chris Cullina said.

So the building was partially deconstructed, with the sheet metal from the walls later to be reused in the new construction. And the recycling didn’t stop there.

That and especially the older buildings, Cullina explained, “turned out to be pretty generous.” Not only were the materials plentiful, but they had retained an impressive level of quality.

For example, housed within the building that hosts the spacious new tasting room is the wine library, holding bottles from each vintage since the winery began production three decades ago. In the small room a centerpiece table shows off just how well-preserved the wood was from the old buildings.

“We found absolutely pristine Douglas fir that was hermetically sealed in the ceiling in our bottling room,” Cullina said.

When it was sent to The Joinery in Portland to be crafted into a table for the wine library, Argyle received a call that the wood was still too wet to work on and had to be sent back to the kiln a second time — despite being installed in the building 60 years earlier. It had been sealed so well between pieces of plywood, it was virtually untouched by the elements. Even now in its table form, it still leaches a small amount of resin.

Turning up materials of that quality had a role in shaping the rest of the project.

“When things were discovered through the process, work stopped and we went into preservation mode,” Cullina said.

Crews ended up finding 40 lengths of 20-foot, true, rough-sawn 2 x 12 boards.

“We started tearing it apart and went, ‘That’s worth saving,’ because it’s old growth,” contractor Tim Collins of Leach Crutcher Lewis said.

The craftsmen on the job began eagerly anticipating the next rare and pristine find that would turn into a story. Another memorable discovery and blast from the past came when workers ripped a wall board off its studs and unearthed a small compartment, completely filled with hazelnuts — a reminder of the facility’s early life as a filbert processing plant.

Beyond building materials, the blending mantra resulted in preserving other elements of the campus, including the footprint of four large wine tanks that now reside at the winery’s Newberg production facility. Formerly located in what is now an entrance pavilion to Argyle’s tasting room, their foundations remain and are now often interpreted as seating features for visitors.

“We wanted to hang onto some artifacts of the former space, that were intended to be a reminder of what was here before, so we don’t lose touch with the function of this building for 30 years,” Cullina said.

And some of the existing and repurposed building’s oddities have been kept and even highlighted as well. When it was built decades ago, nothing was ever connected to a foundation, including support beams running from the floor to the high ceiling. Over the years some of the beams warped and twisted, not having a strong base to sit on. Rather than hide this structural flaw, the design allows the beam to protrude from the wall and display its spiraling shape, again in a sort of homage to the building’s history.

The $2.6 million project began in January, ramping up construction much more in the spring as the weather improved. Seven months after work began, the project wrapped up on Aug. 14 and the tasting room opened up for visitors the next day.

With the pavilion, large outdoor space with landscaping and intricate planting, and of course the all-new and much expanded tasting space, wine tasters at Argyle are in for a different experience. The renovated campus has even been a surprise to Argyle employees, who watched the transformation in progress.

“One thing I learned during this project is that nothing is impossible,” marketing director Cathy Martin said.

But although the space is much larger and is quite a jump from where it was seven months back, in some ways the renovation and expanded tasting room already feels like it’s been part of the winery all along.

“Three or four months ago (I was) standing at the crush pad trying to envision what this all was going to look like,” Cullina said. “Now I’m really trying to remember what it was.”

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