Besides enjoying a tasting room, our visit to Airfield Estates (www.airfieldwines.com) had the added bonus of being a bit of a history lesson – almost as if we were visiting both a winery and a museum in one. That’s because the first thing you notice when entering the tasting room is a historical aviation and military theme.
The reason for this is that all of the Airfield Estate vineyards are situated near an old World War II airbase at the foot of the Rattlesnake Mountains in the Yakima Valley. Construction of the airbase commenced in the latter part of 1941 and the buildings erected on the site included a 70-foot water tower, several airplane hangars, a mess hall, barracks and several smaller storage buildings. Three dirt runways were also formed, each of which was over a half mile long. The pilots trained primarily on bi-winged Stearman Airplanes. The airbase continued operations until the mid 1940s. Shortly after World War II came to an end, the buildings were auctioned off to the highest bidder and the only bidder was H. Lloyd Miller. Little did the Miller family know – the Rattlesnake Mountains were destined for growing grapes.
The first grape vines were planted by Don Miller in 1968. Today, the vineyards now span over 860 acres and include 27 different varieties of grapes. This means that all of the wines that Airfield offers are 100 percent estate grown fruit with a little bit of aviation history thrown in. In fact, to this day two of the original airbase hangars still exist and are used as a workshop and storage facilities.
Greeting us at the tasting bar was Ellisa, who poured us four whites and four reds. The wines all have really interesting labels with a historic aviation theme. Ellisa also introduced us to Ross, who had a picture of all four of his sons on the wall — all from different branches of the military. To complete the theme, tasting next to us was Jim, a United States Marine. We felt honored to be tasting wine with such an impressive group of people.
Our favorite white was the 2011 Flygirl White, which is a blend of Viognier, Semillon and Pinot Gris. This is a red wine drinker’s white as it wasn’t overly sweet. Instead it is crisp and dry with flavors of melon and citrus fruit. It would make a great wine on a hot day with lighter food such as salad, seafood or poultry.
Also of note was the 2010 Reserve Chardonnay which is aged in oak for 11 months. Flavors of citrus, lemon and cream were apparent. If you like a sweeter wine, try the 2011 Riesling.
Of the reds, there was a tie for our favorite. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from 20-year-old vines and showcased layers of cherry, blackcurrant and toasted oak. This wine is fruit forward and full bodied so would pair well with a good steak or foods with more robust flavors. Also a favorite for us was the signature Aviator blend. This Super-Tuscan blend had hints of both cherry and spice.
Airfield is located on the southeast corner of the main roundabout in the Tourist District of Woodinville. Tastings are $5 per person and they are open from 12-5 p.m. on weekdays and 11-6 p.m. on weekends (Fri, Sat, & Sun).