airfield estates takes off!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Marcus Miller is the owner and winemaker of Airfield Estates. The winery tasting room is easily spotted from I-82 as you drive past the Prosser Vintner’s Village. It’s the one with the control tower on top.

Marcus is a fourth generation Yakima Valley farmer and grape grower. But his education and work experience took him far afield before he did a three point landing back home. He earned a B.A. in Business Administration from Principia College in Illinois, worked for a small brokerage house in Plano, Texas, and next completed an MBA in finance from North Texas University. In early 2003, Marcus returned to Washington and began attending meetings and conferences dealing with the wine industry. It was at one of these that he and I first met.

In the winter of 2007 he sent me this note:

“I attended the 100 point seminar and thought I would send you an update on my family’s winery project. We are building Airfield Estate Winery in Prosser. It is a 13,000 square foot facility that will focus on premium red and white blends using Bordeaux, Rhone, and Italian varietals (the 2007 vintage will kick off most of our blends as the grape vines are now mature).

We plan on opening for Spring Barrel Tasting. Wines include a Riesling Ice Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and a Merlot. I am particularly excited about the way the Merlot is tasting. If and when you make it to Prosser I would enjoy showing you around our new facility and tasting you on some of my barrel samples.”

Marcus has followed up regularly, keeping in touch and sending new releases. As with many new wineries, results at first were spotty. Despite the advantages of estate-grown grapes, an agricultural background, and time spent working at Canoe Ridge, Tsillan Cellars, and Montana Brancott Winery in Marlborough, it seemed that the sheer number of different wines he was producing almost guaranteed that there would be failures as well as successes. My reviews went up and down, but Marcus accepted the bad with the good, and kept working away at his craft.

The Airfield Estates story is a compelling one. You can read all about it here. My most recent tasting of Airfield Estates wines showed clearly that Marcus has settled down and has a good grip on everything he’s doing. The packaging is engaging and practical (screwcaps!); the wines are very well priced and deliver excellent, true-to-variety flavors. Here are some highlights. As always, full reviews and scores will be published in an upcoming issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Airfield Estates 2011 Lightning; $18
Lightning is a Rhône-style white, half Viognier and half Roussanne, with a splash of Marsanne. In this light vintage the alcohol drops down below 13%, to good effect. It’s mix of stone and light tropical fruits, especially pineapple, peach and green banana, with highlights of toast and a streak of vanilla.

Airfield Estates 2010 Estate Merlot; $20
This is a fine effort, culled from a single block of 15-year-old vines. Firm and tannic, it shows focused flavors of blackberry and cassis, highlights of clove and cacao, and admirable precision.

Airfield Estates 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; $25
This is a fine-tuned, pure varietal Cabernet, sourced from a vineyard planted in 1989. Boysenberries, cherries, red and black licorice, and notes of coffee and pepper are all in play, buoyed by lively acidity and brightened with light baking spices.

PG Pick of the Week: Airfield Estates 2012 Flygirl White; $13

This is a great, all-purpose white blend, half Pinot gris, a third Viognier, and the rest a mix of Sémillon and Marsanne. Piercing flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and lemon peel shoot through the firm mid-palate. The skin flavors add a pleasantly light frame of bitter citrus around the finish. Grab it, chill it, and swill it!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

i discovered airfield estates when i was a wine buyer at whole foods. great quality wines at a great price, they were always popular with my customers. glad to hear they are getting the recognition they deserve

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