Part 9, Washington State: visiting one of North America's leading wine
visit was at Airfield Estate, where we met with winemaker and owner
Marcus Miller (below) and assistant
winemaker Pamela Solis.
Marcus' great grandfather, H Lloyd Miller, came here from Illinois.
At this time JC Penney was just starting, and Lloyd, who was
managing the Pendelton (OR) store formed a bond with Mr Penney. He
heard about the Yakima Valley: it was a fertile place where you
could grow anything. So Lloyd parted ways from Mr Penney, and came
here with some cattle from Penney's ranch to start afresh.
involved with real estate, selling land. He bought some for himself.
There was a problem, though. It was just the valley floor that had
the essential irrigation. A second irrigation district was needed
higher up the valley. Lloyd managed to convince President Roosevelt
to sign off this new irrigation project in 1937.
Shortly after, Lloyd sold his property to a client who was looking
for an airbase. Between 1942 and 1944, troop barracks and a hangar
were erected, and 1300 pilots were trained here. After 1944 they
left and there was an auction for the building. Lloyd was the only
bidder, and got it for $1. So the airbase became the heart of this
Assistant winemaker Pamela with
first winegrapes were planted here by his son, Don, in 1968. Things
took off in the mid-1970s when Chateau Ste Michelle started buying
their grapes. Now they farm 1200 acres, 900 of which are vinifera
varieties and 300 of which are Concord (a hybrid variety).
Airfield began making their own wines with the 2005 vintage, and
currently make 40 000 cases annually. 'I think the future is bright
for us,' says Marcus. 'For our estate, I want us to be the pound for
pound champion when it comes to value.' They process around 700 tons
of their 4500 ton production. They sell grapes to Chateau Ste
Michelle at $850 per ton. Marcus says that the calculation should be
that grape cost should make 12 c per dollar of the wine's sale
are two labels: Airfield and Lone Birch (the value range). Last year
Marcus produced 28 different wines: 6 in the Lone Birch range, 10 in
the main Airfield range, and 12 Airfield wines that were tasting
room focused. 'Washington is in this weird state of being able to do
a lot of things very well.'
Airfield Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Very aromatic, fresh and open with clean tropical fruit notes as
well as some citrus. A bright, modern style with lovely fruitiness.
Airfield Chardonnay 2014 Yakima Valley, Washington State
70% stainless steel with the balance neutral French oak. Fresh
pear fruit with some nice white peach and a hint of spice. This is
direct with nice texture and lovely focused fruit. 88/100
Airfield Viognier 2014 Yakima Valley, Washington State
There are just 5 acres of this. It has a bright fruity nose with
fresh, youthful pear fruit. Maybe this lacks a bit of Viognier
Airfield Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2014 Yakima Valley, Washington State
They have 160 acres of Pinot Gris. Lively with sweet pear and
grape. Rounded, fruity and quite delicious with a hint of sweetness.
Clever commercial winemaking. 87/100
2014 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Varietal Sangiovese. Nice pale pink colour. Fruity, clean and
modern with a hint of creaminess, and notes of cherry and
strawberry. Some supple green notes. 88/100
Airfield Merlot 2012 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Fresh and vivid with juicy berry fruits on the nose. Sweet berry
fruits on the palate with a bit of spiciness and hints of tar.
Direct, ripe and juicy with nice supple fruit. 89/100
Airfield Merlot 2013 Yakima Valley, Washington State (barrel sample
of final blend)
Supple, juicy and vivid with nice direct berry fruits. Ripe and
fleshy with some spicy structure and a hint of tar. Fresh and
Airfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2102 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Deep coloured. Lovely blackcurrant fruit. Ripe, sweet and supple
with a bit of spiciness. Subtle green notes add interest. A nice
vibrant wine with lovely fruit intensity. 90/100
Airfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Barrel sample of final blend. Juicy, vivid and very fruity with
pure, bright, focused fruit. Supple and a bit green, and made in a
more elegant style. Juicy direct fruit. 90-92/100
Airfield Aviator 2012 Yakima Valley, Washington State
A Cabernet-based Bordeaux blend. There's a spicy, tarry edge to
the sweet, dense but fleshy black fruits. Juicy and focused with
lovely blackcurrant and black cherry notes. Sophisticated and
Airfield Lone Birch Red Blend 2013 Yakima Valley, Washington State
A Merlot-based, inexpensive Bordeaux blend. Juicy and berryish
with sweet supple raspberry and cherry fruit. Very drinkable and
nicely balanced. 87/100
Airfield Syrah 2013 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Supple, rounded, sweet and juicy with nice texture to the ripe
fruit. Sleek with some sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit.
Approachable and ripe. 89/100
Airfield Cabernet Franc 2013 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Varietally true with sweet, supple, rounded black cherry fruit
and a nice hint of green. There's a soft, broad mid-palate here, and
lovely fruit purity. Polished but with some personality. 90/100
WASHINGTON STATE WINES
du Cheval Vineyard
with Kevin Pogue
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com