June 2016 Issue of Wines & Vines

Stoller Family Estate

Green construction for the budget-minded in Oregon

by Peter Mitham
Stoller tanks around the perimeter
The arrangement of tanks around the perimeter of the new winery ?creates a central space for working with barrels and equipment.

Perched on a knoll overlooking the town of Dayton, Ore., and the Willamette River in the distance, the boutique winery Bill Stoller built in 2006 is a local landmark.

Nestled among 373 acres of rolling oak savannah, Stoller Family Estate was the country’s first winery to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Designed by Portland, Ore.-based architect Ernest Munch, the original building’s stringent design guidelines and certification program were a mark of distinction that both expressed Stoller’s sense of himself as a steward of the family property and distinguished the winery from others

Bill Stoller “wanted a sustainable building,” Munch told Wines & Vines during a tour of the facility in 2008. “He wanted some guidance to do that, and then you have certification. And that brings you here rather than another winery, which may do the same thing but it’s not certified.”

A new direction

But as vineyard acreage approaches its designated limit of 215 acres of the Stoller estate, it occurred to Stoller and Gary Mortensen, who joined the winery as president in 2011, that a new element could be added to Stoller’s story.

Rather than sell fruit from its vineyards to others, a second winery on the property could use the fruit for a more affordable tier of estate wines.

“We realized there was a real limit to how much we could grow the LEED winery. The LEED winery is wonderfully energy-efficient, but it’s not necessarily efficient for scaling,” Mortensen said this spring, as the first vintage made in the new winery awaited bottling. “We started to realize we had an opportunity to grow the brand, and the only way we were really going to grow the brand was going to be through creating a facility that could handle true growth.”


  • Stoller Family Estate's new winery handles a second tier of estate-grown wines.
  • The new winery aimed to be sustainable without being expensive.
  • Stoller opted against LEED certification to maintain control of how the building could function.
  • A solar array and wastewater-treatment system reduce the building's environmental impact.

The new winery, situated just below the original facility, is low-key and self-effacing. Portland architects Mildren Design Group detailed a structure that reflects Stoller’s refined approach to winemaking without breaking the bank. The 32,000-square-foot structure includes a 10,000-square-foot production area as well as warehouse space and offices for Mortensen, the executive team and national sales. Production in its first vintage of operation was 33,000 cases split between rosé (5,000 cases), Chardonnay (8,000 cases) and Pinot Noir (20,000 cases).

Overhead and inside
Ben Howe joined Stoller from King Estate in March 2015 to oversee winemaking in the new facility, then six months into construction. He played an integral role in outfitting the new winery, refining infrastructure as well as selecting and ordering processing equipment such as the Willmes Sigma 8 press, which sits in a corner of the 3,750-square-foot crush pad awaiting the coming harvest.

The crush pad faces northeast, and together with a canopy equipped with drop-down electrical outlets and other infrastructure, it protects workers and incoming fruit from autumn rains that blow in from the south.

“We have plenty of coverage here,” Howe says. “We rely heavily on the hand picking crew in the vineyard for a large part of our sorting, but we also sort fruit at the cluster level for red processing.”

The crush process
White juice flows into four 2,000-gallon tanks to settle prior to moving indoors for racking, while the red processing line runs directly into the winery. A series of “gravy servers” lets gravity deliver fruit into 12-ton open-top tanks from Harvest Valley Specialties in Eugene, Ore. Stoller buys locally when possible, both for ease of servicing as well as to support the domestic industry.

Compressed air for punchdowns is available at locations around the perimeter, with a track-mounted pneumatic pump system from Harvest Valley Specialties running from tank to tank.

“Given that the tanks are 12 tons in capacity, punching down by hand is not practical,” Howe says. The track system “allows us to quickly accommodate cap management.”

By routing lines for compressed air as well as water and glycol around the perimeter, the design ensures that the winemaking team have everything it needs close at hand while keeping the floor space clear. This is similar to the original facility, where infrastructure along the walls had the added benefit of being deemed equipment, and therefore was eligible for depreciation. This helped account for the construction cost while providing a sophistication the newer, spartan facility also possesses.

Extra space
A firewall separates the production area from the barrel room and dry goods storage. Both are designed to accommodate growth as production increases. The barrel room currently has about 700 barrels, with room for another 1,060. The warehouse space, meanwhile, is equipped with floor drains and fixtures that allow it to accommodate either barrels, production or a bottling line in the future (right now, Signature Mobile Bottlers Inc. of Clackamas, Ore., handles bottling).

“When we were building this and we had it laid out, Bill Stoller said, ‘You’ll never have cheaper building costs than right now, so just add on,” Mortensen recalls. “What this really does is let us take advantage of our vineyard. This building now allows us to leverage; if it was all to come back to us, we could make around 50,000 cases.”

Efficient practices
Stoller’s oversight also led to the incorporation of several features that allow the building to work with the environment, reducing power use and operating in a manner consistent with the original LEED-certified facility—but without the certification.

Natural lighting alternates with LED lighting in the ceiling, which is motion-activated. Water use is kept to a minimum even though the property sits atop a significant aquifer. Wastewater is treated onsite, and the water is applied to the estate. Temperature sensors trigger passive cooling that draws in night air and helps maintain a constant temperature throughout the facility, which uses highly insulated panels in its ceiling.

Mortensen says the elements reflect the keen eye that Bill Stoller brings to the facility. “He’s all about energy efficiency,” Mortensen says, noting that he’ll often ask why lights are on in the evening or check the temperature levels. “He doesn’t come in here and ask, ‘What wine are you making?’ he’ll come into the office and go, ‘What’s the thermostat at?’” Mortensen says. “Because it’s important to Bill, it’s important to all of us.”

Many of the energy-saving features are incorporated within the fabric of the building, leaving little for the winemaking team to manage.

Vents in the roof open to allow warmer air to escape while floor-level fans draw cooler air in. The slab floor, which encases plumbing, provides an insulating layer that helps regulate interior temperatures.

“We are barely actively cooling anything,” Howe says. “It’s about 55° F in here most of the time, so it’s a good temperature for wine.”

Regulating costs
The features combined to deliver a facility at a cost in line with the retail value of the wines being made. Stoller’s Legacy tier retails for $70 per bottle, while its reserve tier retails for $35 to $45 per bottle; by contrast, the Dundee Hills tier made in the new building sells for $25 to $30 per bottle. (Stoller declined to disclose specific costs per square foot.)

The biggest expense was a 309 kilowatt solar array made from 944 photovoltaic panels on the building’s roof, but it also has the potential to pay for itself because the winery’s energy requirements are low enough that the array often generates more power than the winery needs at any given point in time.

“We’re kicking back to the grid most of the year,” Howe says. Portland General Electric credits Stoller for excess energy returned to the grid; if Stoller supplies more energy than it uses, PGE donates the credits to the utility’s low-income assistance fund.

Being responsible
Other elements also reflect the winery’s commitment to socially responsible business practices that check many of the boxes consistent with LEED certification as a matter of course. Together, they’re a sign of just how much green construction has become standard operating practice in the decade since Stoller built its original winery.

The cement and insulation that general contractor Perlo Construction used both have reclaimed content, not to mention a higher efficiency rating than what was available in 2006.

“The advancements in just the last 10 years in the efficiencies you can get in the building design and building products allows us to create a much more efficient building,” Mortensen explains.

Mortensen compares the original winery building to a Tesla electric vehicle, while the newer facility is more like a brand-name hybrid auto.

“This is designed to be energy-efficient and everything without it having the badging of a $70,000 car,” he says. “It’s a $35,000 car. But the quality that’s been put in—wherever we could install cost-efficiently the most efficient products, we did, throughout the building.”

Aside from some occasional puddling on the crush pad, Howe is satisfied with the resulting structure. With one vintage out of the way, the only change he would make is in scheduling work crews. (See “It’s OK to Plan: Preparing for Harvest” on page 32.) “I think everything kind of worked as we expected it to and we wanted it to,” he says. “There’s not a lot of changes I would make to the infrastructure or the facility.”

The big question, of course, is where production might head once the final 15 acres of the existing estate are planted. “We have such rapid growth,” he says. “Do we acquire more property, or do we just hold our guns and maintain this one estate?”

Whatever happens, the flexibility of the new winery lays a sustainable foundation for the future.

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