Flâneur Wines at the Carlton Grain Elevator

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An Iconic Landmark with a Revitalized Purpose

Explore the history and restoration behind one of Willamette Valley Wine Country’s most unique hospitality experiences, Flâneur Wines at the Carlton Grain Elevator.

The historic Madsen Grain Elevator was originally built in 1890 and operated through 2001 as an integral part of the Yamhill County farming community where farmers would bring their seeds and grains for cleaning, sorting and mixing. For a decade the space sat unused in the center of downtown Carlton. Recognizing its potential, Flâneur Wines’ Founder and Owner, Marty Doerschlag, purchased the building in 2013 from neighbor and Winemaker, Ken Wright with a promise to breathe life into the Carlton community with a thoughtful and intentional restoration of the site.

Three years after breaking ground in 2017, Marty’s vision came to life forming a new wine-centric hospitality center that retains the beauty of the past. The project, restored thoughtfully by hand, represents all that Flâneur Wines strives to create: an unforgettable experience that slowly unfolds like every great bottle of wine.

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Historical photo

Carlton’s Iconic Landmark, Preserved

The Carlton Grain Elevator is a repurposed, historical space to taste, collaborate, and host events.

  • Built in 1922
  • In use until 2003
  • Sold to Ken Wright in 2006
  • Purchased by Flâneur in 2013
  • Re-opened in 2019

We renovated this building into a unique space to fit the needs of Carlton and the Willamette Valley.  We utilized significant amounts of reclaimed materials from the Grain Elevator itself as well as importing material from around the world to ensure the structure maintains a distinct, historical look and feeling. The story of this iconic building will not be lost, but rather serve as the backdrop for all that Flâneur Wines is trying to create: wines with a sense of place, not just in the glass, but in the surroundings you, our guest, have come to visit.

The History Behind The Madsen Grain Mill

Historically, the Carlton Grain Elevator has been a fixture of the Carlton landscape since 1890 when it was first erected as the Madsen Grain Mill. For the next 115 years the Madsen Grain Elevator played an important role in the area by providing jobs for locals and a place for farmers to buy and sell seed. Throughout the decades the structure would expand. In the 1920’s and 1950’s its owners would add the South and North Towers to keep up with the rapidly growing business. In the 1970’s, local Carlton resident Bob Nistler, having worked at the Madsen Grain Mill his entire life, purchased the Madsen Family business along with the Madsen Grain Elevator.

Its lore and importance in the region would continue to grow until it ceased operation in 2003. That year Bob Nistler would sell the iconic structure to legendary winemaker and Carlton business owner Ken Wright. Under Ken’s ownership the building mostly sat idle and unused. Wright sold the northernmost structure, a one-time dairy, to Scott Paul Wines owner Cameron Healy who remodeled it as a local wine tasting room and office. That building, at 128 South Pine Street, was utilized as the tasting room for Flâneur Wines up until construction concluded and the company moved into their new home Flâneur Wines at the Carlton Grain Elevator in 2019. 

Photo Left: previous owner, Bob Nistler, outside the Grain Elevator.
Photo Right: The historic Madsen Grain Elevator when in operation.

Explore a Rolodex of Grain Elevator Facts & Stories by owner Marty doerschlag

  • The original section of the Madsen Grain Elevator was built in the 1890’s.
  • The South Building, which is now our Tasting Room, was added onto several times from 1890-1930. As the business grew they would just hammer up another section onto the existing building. Business was so good that in 1950 the North Tower was built. The entire Madsen Grain complex was extensive in town. It included the former Scott Paul Winery across Pine Street. That was referred to as the Chicken House, because it had an ad for chicken feed on the side. They also bought the current Big Table Farm tasting room and made it their offices. It was originally built in the 1920’s as a dairy creamery. After the North Tower was consistently full, they built the grain silos just East of us which are used by local farmers for grain and seed storage today. 
  • The heavy timbers in both towers are from 400-500-year-old Doug Fir Trees. In the years the elevator was built they were still logging first growth Douglas Fir trees. Very few if any trees of that age are alive today. Some were floated in the Carlton Reservoir and sank to the bottom. They were dragged from the bottom of the lake and used in our building in the early 1900’s. Our structural engineer said they are as strong as steel and would not burn through if they caught on fire because they are so densely tight grained.
  • The main construction method used in the building of the grain bins is 2×4’s and 2×6’s stacked, known as cribbing or box construction. It’s been used since the early 1800’s. The 2x’s are laid flat and then stacked one on top of the other, holding them together by nailing them every 18 inches or so, overlapping the corners so they would be weaved together. The North Tower is all grain bins, 36 in total, because it was used only for storage. The South Tower was used for multiple purposes, cleaning, mixing etc. so there was an open area, where the current seating area is and 30 storage bins, we tore out 6. There are 24 bins remaining. The four bins above the light fixtures in the front would be dumped directly into trucks that would pull up to the front of the building using the pulleys and the chutes on the front of the building.
  • When the building was originally built they did not use a Structural Engineer. We did, and maybe the original owner not using one was a good thing for us. I asked Bob Nistler, a former owner, how he would determine where to put a column or a beam and what sizing. He said they would guess and then double the amount or size of the timber just to be sure. Our Structural Engineer verified that to be the case. There is way more structure supporting everything than needed.
  • The building functioned a as a very integral part of the farming community in the Valley. People would bring their seeds and grains there for cleaning, sorting and sometimes mixing. Like Wall Street or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange the farmers were very much in touch with prices. When prices increased they would hustle their crops to the grain elevator to sell. The farmers would pull the trucks into the building and before dump trucks existed, the trucks were hooked up to a motorized cable and lifted into the air. That motor and cable currently sits in the same place, above the front doors. The grain was dumped into the former grate in the floor and then into the basement. Once the grain was in the basement, it was moved with the scoops you see throughout the elevator attached to canvas belts. Those scoops moved the grain up an elevator to the top of the building then guided by shoot into their designated grain bin. You can see the wear marks of the grain pouring into the bins in the back stairway up to the top floor. There were 24 of those bins in the south tower and 36 in the north tower. The canvas belts were geared by the wooden gears, “wheels” that now make up the light fixtures in the front area. There was a train track behind the building where grain and seed would be loaded directly onto cargo cars to take to Portland or Seattle to move across the country or across the Pacific. You can see the shoot still propped up outside the back of the North Tower.
  • The seeds were mixed there on-site as well. If you wanted sweet peas mixed with grass seed, those seeds were cleaned then loaded into a mixer and then bagged. They used the same red mixer that’s in the front of the building, with a bag hanging at the bottom to catch the mixture. They also mixed seeds and grains for animal feed. Mike Etzel of Beaux  Frères’ and Sequitur Wines told me when he first moved to Oregon, he was a pig farmer and he bought his pig feed there. If you look to the right side of the red feed mixer you will see “Don and Norm, if you bust a sack pick it up” painted on there.  A small detail, but something that can’t be replicated and adds to the uniqueness of the space. 
  • Bob Nistler is the the gentleman photographed on the bike outside the Grain Elevator. As a summer job, in 1950 when he was in high school, he cut the boards that went into making the North Tower. He worked there after high school and eventually bought the company and building from Myron Madsen.
  • The Madsen’s business continued to grow after the North Tower was built so the back silos were then built. After they outgrew those as well, they moved the entire operation just outside town on North Main Street where they still operate today as Carlton Seed Co. The Madsen Grain Company last operated in our buildings in 2001. Ken Wright bought the building from Bob in 2006.
  • I bought the building in July of 2013. When I first showed Julie around the valley in late 2012 we drove through every town. It was a dreary rainy week. When we drove through Carlton she right away noticed and commented on how this town has great potential. When she saw the grain elevator she asked, “what’s that?” I told her and she said you need to buy that it, that building is all you. So, it’s her fault! When I asked about the building I was told that Rick DeFerrari was looking at it for his barrel company, Oregon Barrel Works. I asked Ken Wright if he would sell it to me and he said sure as long as you don’t take away the mural on the North side. We shook hands on it and that was that.
  • The Carlton City Mayor at the time I purchased the Grain Elevator, Kathy Oriet asked me if they could use the building for the annual Haunted House. I said sure and she thanked me with a delicious batch of Chocolate Chip cookies. I couldn’t even get our trash in DC picked up without a hassle and now I have this small-town Oregon mayor baking me cookies. I think I’m going to like it here! The haunted house was there in 2013-2015. They raised $25k for the local food bank each year. It won awards for how scary it was. They found actual mummified animals in the grain bins and used them as part of the decoration. I guess that’s called being authentic. The volunteers did an amazing job with special effects. It was as scary as it gets. The goal of the volunteers was to make at least 10 people a night cry or freak out. The safe word was asparagus. When someone would shout ASPARAGUS, the lights would go on and they were escorted out, usually in tears. It was nuts!
  • You can see now the current framing of the columns and beams projecting from the current building extended out into where the parking lot is today. The current Mezz Library level extended to the south and held several grain and seed cleaning machines similar to the one on the patio. I put an ad on Craig’s List, that any farmer who wanted to clean their own seeds or grain could come and take away any machine for free. They took up too much space and were so filthy with 100-year-old grain dust I couldn’t wait to get them out of there. People came from all over the State with heavy duty flatbeds. One guy fessed up that he was going to use his shaker machine to sort through muck for his gold claim in Southern Oregon. Cool! We had a crane on site for the demo going on so we could load anything no matter how heavy onto their trucks. People told me for weeks Carlton was a cloud of grain dust as people drove the dust laden machines out of town. One gentleman called me emotionally thanking me for the gift and that cleaning his own seed would save him $25k a year. That was pretty awesome. It’s hard getting rid of the history, but knowing the machines are being put to good use was worth it.
  • The building was finally cleaned up enough to ease my concern of a potential fire in 2015. Now what? Other wine and vineyard work took priority for the first vintage from La Belle Promenade getting Grant setup with the new winery on Kutch Street. I did what I always do when confronted with a heady renovation project, I watched the movie The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. I made a Hardhat with Shirk Bros. written on its side and gave it to Grant as he loves that movie too.
  • During the entire renovation process it was pretty overwhelming as to how this going to happen. Some people told me to my face, I was nuts! But, I knew no matter what it takes, I’ve got to do this. I honestly can say that not living locally during that time period was a huge help. Sometimes I would be in town for 10 days and by the end of my trip I needed distance to have better perspective. The old question, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”, kept coming to mind.
  • We worked through the design. Jim, our contractor, did a great job. Russell played an integral part in the design with his restaurant/wine bar experience and lent his expertise on the design and flow of kitchen too.
  • Even after the initial demolition/lumber reclaiming was complete, we were still looking and smelling the fact that there was remaining grain in 6 of the 24 grain bins. We poked and tried to move the grain out the openings but during the demotion it became wet and soggy. Wet old grain doesn’t smell great. It also starts to give off aromas that are better left to the imagination. Fermentation, rotting and ammonia gas are a few of the smells still seared into my memory. We finally got most of the grain out by cutting holes in the side of the building. No one would take the grain for compost so we had to call a hazardous materials company to haul it away. Problem still not solved. It was still dirty and smelly. Another job for Craig’s List. It just so happened there was an ad selling the “largest hot water power washer in the country” listed. We called to inquire about it and told the owner, we don’t want to buy it but we want to rent it. He reluctantly agreed to drive it up from California and set it up but he wouldn’t be doing the washing. At the time, our Cellar Master was James. He had a lot of interesting jobs in the past, one of which was teaching rope skills to kids at Summer Camp. He still kept in-touch with some of the other instructors and gave them their mission. Climb to the top of a grain elevator and repel down 24 grain bins with a hot water gun spraying hot water all the way down. No questions asked. They were in! Up from California drove an 18-wheel semi and sat there for a week feeding hot water to the team of rappelers and over that week they hot water washed it head to toe 2 times. I was amazed how well it worked. It got out 98% of the smells and dirt. In retrospect demo and cleaning was about 50% of the entire project. The rest was relatively straight forward. The table was set.
  • The construction began July 2018. It was performed by Blue Spruce Construction. A great team headed by Rich Moore out of Dallas, Oregon. It was incredibly difficult working on such a tall building on such a small site. Also, no building that tall would be built from wood today. Building codes wouldn’t allow it. We were allowed because we were technically doing a renovation, not a new building. It was small crew but they did whatever it took to get the job done.
  • I wanted to make sure the inside of the building stayed intact, and looked the same as it did 100 years ago. That meant building a new building on the outside of the existing building to protect the integrity of the inside. A new foundation was poured and then a new structure framed around the outside of the exiting hugging the original and bolted to the new foundation. Since we are in a seismic zone, we had to add a steel brace fame to the inside front, which is bolted to a concrete beam in the basement. Russell and I spent some time on weekends painting it red to match the Constantin capsule color. We also installed a fire suppression system, which made me extremely happy and relieved.
  • Most all the light fixtures were reclaimed from the original buildings. They were designed and modified as required by GKA Lighting in Milwaukie, OR. The marble for the bar was purchased at an architectural salvage company in Philadelphia. They had purchased all the original marble paving around Independence Hall, the first capital building of the U.S. It was a very controversial renovation plan designed and organized by Edmund Bacon, father of Kevin Bacon. We’ve jokingly referred to it as the 6-degrees bar or the Bacon Bar. At the same Philadelphia company, I purchased several pieces of furniture used in the Grain Elevator. Other furniture was purchased in Portland at Rejuvenation, Look Modern, 1st Dibs online and other places.
  • When putting together the interior of the building I wanted to express comfort and elegance, not too country and not too casual, also not too fancy. I want people to feel like guests in our home. I’ve been to towns with restaurants in old mills or some old structure and it’s always the building that’s the focus. The food and service are usually mediocre at best. The building certainly has a story but it’s an expression of our values and philosophy as a company. We value the town where we work. We respect the history and the buildings that were an integral part of the town. We went above and beyond to renovate this building and will do the same to earn your wine business, your trust and we want you to come back. We want to continue that tradition of being an integral part of Carlton and the winemaking valley that’s becoming world famous.
  • We had the same company who drew the South mural reproduce the lettering MADSEN GRAIN COMPANY on the front of the building for the same reasons. We could have written FLÂNEUR WINES in large letters for all to see on the top of the tower. That’s about ego. I didn’t want to that out of respect for the history of the building and the town.
  • The pavers on the exterior patio are from Burgundy. I was looking for architectural salvage dealers and found Cedric Liebert from Burgundy living in Los Angeles. He had an Architectural Salvage company bringing architectural antiques over from France. I flew to LA and met the model, motor cycle racer and all-around charming Frenchman at his warehouse. We went through his warehouse and he had all kinds of beautiful artifacts from all over France. The pallets of terra cotta pavers from Burgundy caught my eye. He said in Burgundy people were modernizing their homes and landscapes and are throwing the tiles away because they were so common and too old-fashioned. He decided to import them to the U.S. People were happy to have his Uncle come over and remove the tiles and haul them off site, so they were given the tiles for practically free. I brought him a bottle of our 2017 La Belle Promenade Pinot Noir. He called me after opening it and was thrilled that the pavers were going to be used at a place that makes such fantastic Pinot Noir that reminded him of home.
  • The Grand Opening was September 7, 2019. We were opening no matter what. We had no furniture installed yet, no fence around the garden, and the pavers were literally being installed the day before. Jaime and I were painting all the exterior railings and fence posts the day before opening. On the day of the opening everything looked great! We had tasting tables setup inside with a great bluegrass band playing away. The weather was so/so typical fall Oregon liquid sunshine. We opened to a nice crowd of friends and new friends. Who knew that 5 months later we’d be shut down for a global pandemic.
  • The building’s history continues to be made. At some point in the future we will renovate the North Tower. For what use, I am not sure at this point. Carlton certainly has the opportunity to become the shining star of towns in the Willamette Valley. I am thrilled that we get to be a part of it.

Flâneur Wines at the Carlton Grain Elevator

Marty acquired the property from legendary Winemaker, and local Carlton hero, Ken Wright, in 2013 with the grand visions of rehabilitating and repurposing the structure to transform it into a unique wine center for our rapidly growing winery. After purchasing the building with a promise to breathe life into the Carlton community, Marty spent 5 years meeting the rigorous demands of seismic upgrades, code, and reinforcing the 110-foot-tall south tower to its newly designed and sound footing.

Throughout the years of construction, Marty was able to upcycle reclaimed materials taken from the Carlton Grain Elevator to complete other Flâneur estate vineyard projects. Using the reclaimed lumber, we rehabilitated a 1920’s era barn – named the Blue Barn – in addition to creating an ingeniously designed vineyard perch – dubbed the Ghost Barn – with a roof that transforms into a bench that offers up to twelve guests one of the most majestic views of the Coast Range found in all of the Willamette Valley. The Blue Barn and Ghost Barn reside on our 54-acre estate, La Belle Promenade Vineyard, located in the renowned Chehalem Mountains AVA and are available for seasonal private wine tastings, vineyard tours and private events.

By 2019 the Grain Elevator was fully restored and ready for the community to enjoy. We were able to advance our quaint, wine-centric town of Carlton by offering a multitude of high-quality wine and food options for both locals and tourism alike. The multi-level 2,500 sq ft layout is fully dedicated to high-end wine hospitality. At capacity, it comfortably seats 50-75 wine lovers inside and an additional 50 guests outside in a variety of configurations and settings. Guests can experience casual wine tastings, private parties, curated private wine tastings & tours, bottle service, bottles to-go and a variety of culinary options.

Inside of the Flâneur Wines tasting room

Although built in a 125-year-old rehabilitated and rustic structure, the interior aesthetic consists of a unique series of creative vignettes executed by using iconic and compelling mid-century modern furniture. Intentionally, this space creates both warmth and whimsy in a one-of-a-kind space without losing the rustic authenticity of the structure. Thoughtful modern and cathedral design intersect with first-rate wines and top-notch hospitality.

A full, chef-inspired commercial kitchen fuels exciting culinary offerings. A light every day food menu offered during experiences serves to accentuate our already highly regarded wines. In addition to member events, private events, catering and other culinary offerings, our winery and hospitality team creates a series of themed wine dinners with notable and award-winning guest-chefs from the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Outside to the south, a large, beautifully crafted wooden deck opens to a landscaped garden-like patio showcasing hand-placed 100-year-old reclaimed terra cotta tiles that were imported from the Burgundy region of France. We welcome guests to leisurely enjoy bottle service and tastings al fresco next to the large fire pit or under the pergola.

Today we are open every day from 11am to 5pm. We welcome walk-ins looking to enjoy us for a Classic Tasting Experience or bottle service with Tour and Culinary experiences available with advance reservations. We welcome you to come experience the unhurried and curious lifestyle of the Flâneur over a glass of gorgeous wine accompanied with world-class hospitality in an environment rich with history and beauty.

Please contact us today for inquiries regarding reservations and private events by calling (503) 899-4120 or by using the button below to email our team!

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“Karen and I purchased the elevator in 2003 for the express purpose of controlling the eventual development of the property,” stated legendary winemaker Ken Wright. “Marty was exactly the person we hoped to find. The Doerschlags share our desire to improve and repurpose the beautiful and original agricultural buildings of Carlton. The elevator is a central and iconic structure. We utilized the north side of the elevator as a canvas to paint the historical mural that defines this community.”
ken wright
Winemaker & Carlton Icon
Carlton Grain Elevator Restoration Flâneur Winery

Flâneur Wines is Breathing New Life Into an Iconic Landmark in the Northern Willamette Valley

An excerpt from a press release upon opening.
September, 2019

Carlton, OR ♦ Flâneur Winery & Vineyards – located in the heart of the world-famous Willamette Valley wine region – is set to make history this summer by opening a full-service wine tasting and hospitality center in a rehabilitated 125-year-old Grain Elevator located just off the city square. Flâneur Wines at the Carlton Grain Elevator will open as a one-of-a-kind, multi-level facility that will offer exclusive wine tastings, wine & food pairings and elevated experiences to local wine collectors, connoisseurs and visitors traveling to Yamhill County. Its opening, scheduled for mid-summer 2019, is set to change the face of Carlton and the northern Willamette Valley by adding a truly unique, high-quality wine and food offering in a structure that has become iconic in the region’s long history and heritage.

“In approaching this once-in-a-lifetime project, my focus was respecting the historic architecture of the structure. When I purchased the property in 2013, it had sat empty and idle for the past seven years. The more a structure sits empty the more it degrades,” says Marty Doerschlag, Founder & Owner of Flâneur Wines. “With the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of this project, my hope is to breathe new life into this historic building to preserve and protect the local heritage and history of the region while embracing its identity as the wine capital of the Willamette Valley. With the opening of Flâneur Wines at the Carlton Grain Elevator, we are building a world-class wine and hospitality center that advances the entire community.”…cont.

read full press release

More About Flâneur Wines

Flâneur Winery & Vineyards was established in 2013 by former design and architecture firm owner Marty Doerschlag. Flâneur, a term used to describe leisurely wanderers in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century by renowned poet Charles Baudelaire, encapsulates the idea that the mind functions best at a slow pace, and that curiosity can uncover a life of significance. It was that aspirational, connoisseur’s approach to life that resonated with Marty and led him to establish roots in the wine industry in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Later, in 2016, Flâneur Wines advanced their winemaking program by adding Grant Coulter as the Winemaker & Director of Vineyards. Prior to joining the team, Grant spent nine years as the award-winning winemaker for Beaux Frères Winery where he developed a large following and crafted the #3 Wine in the World in Wine Spectator’s 2016 Top 100. His experience, along with his never-ending creativity and innovative approach, make him one of the most exciting rising stars in the Willamette Valley wine industry.

Now in their sixth year of production, Flâneur Winery & Vineyards has been built with a focus on innovation, authenticity and hospitality. Today they craft wines from 44 acres of organically dry-farmed estate vineyards; the Flanerie Vineyard in Ribbon Ridge and the La Belle Promenade Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.

The 2019 opening of their transcendent hospitality center Flâneur Wines at the Carlton Grain Elevator will further advance their place as a premier winemaking operation and provider of truly bespoke hospitality in Oregon, and beyond.

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