Business news — Dundee-based winery may soon relocate its operations to long-empty former computer component manufacturing site on Brutscher Street

After being vacant more than three years, the former Suntron Corp. building at 800 N. Brutscher St. in Newberg is well on its way to being reinvented as the headquarters of winemaking operations for Argyle GARY ALLEN - Dundee-based Argyle Winery announced recently that it will purchase the former Suntron building and enlarge its capacity.

Argyle founding winemaker Rollin Soles appeared before the Newberg Planning Commission last week in support of the conditional-use permit application, which would allow the site — formerly used to manufacture electronic components — to process grapes instead. And, ultimately, the project sailed through the hearing, with no parties appearing to voice opposition and the vote by planning commissioners going unanimously in its favor.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had such an easy conditional use application before,” Planning Commissioner Philip Smith remarked. “This is an M-1 (zoned for limited industrial) area surrounded by residential uses, and here we have a very light M-1 use. It’s a perfect use of the land.”

The Suntron site is surrounded by a number of different uses, including the Astor House at Springbrook Oaks retirement community to the south, a residential subdivision to the southeast, and Newberg Veterinary Hospital, Newberg Ford and Providence Newberg Medical Center to the northwest, north and northeast, respectively.

In his staff report, Associate Planner Steve Olson said he expects any impact from the winery on neighboring properties to be minimal. He noted that the site would be busiest during harvest time, but even then, he expected any noise generated by the site to be less than Suntron had created.

“The traffic impact will be lower than Suntron, which was fairly busy every day, with trucks and employees coming in and out,” Olson said.

Soles, who founded Argyle with vintner Brian Croser, said his winery was the first to be established within the city of Dundee in 1986, where it has resided every since.

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with the city, with the community there,” he said. “It was the right thing to do, to locate in the city limits rather than carve out some area out in the countryside.”

He cited the fact that Argyle — which was the state’s seventh largest wine-producing label last year, with more than 60,000 cases, according to Oregon Wine Press — has outgrown its current location as the main impetus for moving winemaking operations across town. Still, he admitted the 68,000-square-foot building might be overkill, for the time being at least.

“This site is 12 acres,” he said. “If we were going to build, we’d probably build on four acres instead of 12. But the opportunity and timing are just too perfect for us.”

A memo from the winery that was included with its application before the planning commission agreed, saying, “The footprint of the existing Suntron building is much larger than Argyle will require for quite some time.” Another attachment to the application, a letter from the building’s current owner, STAG II Newberg LLC, indicated that it has entered into an agreement to sell the property to Lion Nathan USA Inc. (which owns Argyle).

Olson said the winery has not yet proposed any changes to the layout of the site or exterior of the building, nor has it applied for a sign permit. However, significant interior renovations are planned, including the installation of sloped floors and floor grates, wine tanks and barrels, grape-processing equipment and HVAC equipment.

“Argyle plans to adapt the Suntron building into a world-class winemaking facility,” the memo said.

At the same time, Soles added, the winery plans to maintain its tasting room in Dundee — a historic building that once served as the town’s city hall — for the foreseeable future.

“I like to say people are like deer — they get on a certain pathway and they stay on that pathway,” he said. “It took 10 years for the Argyle tasting room to actually receive people. … But today, that location has been a great spot and a meeting ground for peopling coming to the valley. So our intention is that that will continue to be our focus for our commercial, direct-to-consumer operations.”

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