Thursday, April 15, 2010

Airfield Estates Winery

Remember a couple months ago when Josh posted a two part article about our mind-blowingly awesome dinner at Picazo 7Seventeen in Prosser, WA? Mmmm...firecracker prawns...

While we've ranted on and on about how great dinner was, I've completely neglected to write about what we were up to right before we hit up Picazo 7Seventeen. Gwynne had just made it to town, so Clive, Josh, Michael, and I met up with her to scope out some wineries for dinner. Clive had been communicating a bit with the folks at Airfield Estates Winery, so we set forth and decided to check it out. Like any visit to a winery, we all expected the usual stop in for a bit and chit chatting over a few pours. What we ended up with was another one of those experiences that completely transcends anything we imagined.

I have to admit that I didn't do any research before coming to Airfield, but wow, they take their name very seriously. The entire establishment looks like a hangar and it really sucks you into a 1940s WWII airbase feel - probably because the property actually used to be a WWII airbase. They even take this so far as to paint lines in the parking lot as if you're driving on a runway.

The airbase feel extends even more upon entering the hangar/tasting room. I'll go on record saying that Airfield's tasting room is both one of the most creative as well as beautiful tasting rooms I've seen. Plenty of comfortable seating is spread about the room with various pieces of merchandise, WWII artifacts, and bottles of wine adoring the outer perimeter. This isn't The Oregon Interior Decorating Blog, though, so we put that aside and bellied up to the bar.

At this time I'd also like to point out that we were those guys that showed up about 20-30 minutes before closing. We also tend to talk whoever is pouring's ear off, so I was tentative in expecting an especially warm welcoming. This, however, was not the case when we were greeted by Mike Miller - owner, grape grower, and the man with some of the best pours in the industry. Our timing didn't seem to matter at all as Mike went well out of his way to pour almost everything in their inventory, explain each wine, and answer every question we had.

Airfield's wines are divided about two thirds between single varietals and blends. While their single varietals are phenomenal (and easily identifiable by their screen-printed labels), I was personally blown away by their take on blends. Take these for instance:

2008 Mustang: 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, 2% Mourvèdre

2008 Spitfire: 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 5% Petite Verdot

2008 Lightning: 50% Viognier, 25% Roussanne, 20% Chardonnay, 5% Marsanne

Did your eyes just light up a bit like mine did? I'm a huge fan of blends and get incredibly excited when I see wine makers in the Northwest experiment outside of the relatively safe and proven Rhone varietals. Even more impressive is the huge difference between the blends themselves. Mustang, for example, is a bold and spicy wine that would be perfect to pair with something like a steak. Spitfire, however, is more subtle and refined, which makes it an incredible wine to sip by itself.

After tasting almost their entire inventory and staying way past closing time, we thought we were set to leave. That is, until we were offered a tour of the tower. What I figured would have been a quick trip to the top of the observation tower visible from the outside and back down ended up being something much more. We entered into their production facility and were lead past the usual wine making equipment until we reached a door to their Officer's Wine Club. This is the first thing we saw:

What is this magical place and why don't we have one at home? Airfield's Officer's Wine Club (or The Bat Cave as we have began calling it), makes homage to Airfield's creations as well as providing a place to conduct business. Think of it as part museum and part board room.

It's also home to the coolest chandelier ever:

To say we were all impressed with Airfield is a gross understatement. Not only are the wines original and delicious, but the staff is incredible as well. Definitely make Airfield a destination if you're in the Prosser/Yakima area and tell them we said to stop by. Who knows? It might get you into the Bat Cave.


  1. I agree with your writing, totally. I've been a big fan of Airfield Estates since they opened in 2007.

    Outstanding grapes, grown by Mike Miller. Finely crafted wines by the son, Marcus Miller. Marketing by the daughter, Lori Miller.

    It is a family affair. Great people, a compelling story, well marketed, and outstanding wines.

    They were named by Wine Press Northwest as the 2010 Washington Winery to Watch.

    No surprise there!

  2. Wow that looks like an amazing stop! I will have to add it to my list for my next trip up to WA!