The June Asheville Wine Focus Group @MetroWines was a great night of history, fun and, of course, great wine! Mark Orsini of Orsini Imports took us on a vicarious trip back to Yakima, Washington, circa 1940s. The property that now yields extraordinary vines was once used to build planes for the war effort.
If you shop @MetroWines, you know the great Italian wines that Mark brings us and it was Mark that brought us Marcel Servin and his magnifique Chablis last month. Mark wanted to show us that his portfolio also includes some great west coast wines. And that he did! We tasted and reviewed four wines: Chardonnay, Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Bordeaux Blend.
The Focus Group, while all wines were hits, thought two stood out. The price to amazing quality ratio for the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon was high. And both wines were thought to be wines that, no matter your preferred style, you could enjoy. In other words, you can serve these wines to guests with confidence. And both are the kind of wines you can and should! buy by the case. Just that good. Worth it!
Mark shared personal stories of his visits with the family as well as the history of the property and the generations of owners. This text from the website is some of what we learned.
HOWARD LLOYD MILLER
Founder of our Family Farm
H. Lloyd Miller was a successful businessman and pioneer of the Yakima Valley. Noting the potential for the valley to become one of the nation’s leading agricultural producers, he began acquiring dry farmland with the hopes that someday it would have access to water. Eventually, H. Lloyd became the chairman of the Roza Irrigation Canal Board, and he saw the project through to its completion in 1951. At that time, he was able to begin farming on his property and devoted the rest of his life to managing our family farm, which became known as Airport Ranch.
DONALD DEETS MILLER
Founder of our Estate Vineyard
Don Miller, son of H. Lloyd, was born and raised in Sunnyside, Washington. During his junior year of college at Washington State University, Don enlisted in the military and was stationed overseas through the duration of World War II. Returning home, Don joined his father on the ranch in 1950 and helped develop a diversified farm consisting of asparagus, alfalfa, potatoes, onions, oats, hogs, cattle, mint, and sugar beets. In 1968, Don planted Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Cabernet Sauvignon marking the early beginnings of our estate vineyard.
MICHAEL LLOYD MILLER
Founder of Airfield Estates Winery
Mike Miller, son of Don Miller, was born and raised on the family farm. During the Vietnam War, Mike enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Japan. Upon returning home, he graduated from Washington State University, married his wife Kristeen, and became the third generation to carry on the family’s farming legacy. Facing the demise of the sugar beet processing plants in 1978, but seeing a bright future with Washington’s Wine Grape Industry, Mike took grape growing to a whole new level. Mike gradually transitioned our farm into what it is today – 830 acres of wine grapes and 350 acres of Concord juice grapes. In 2005, Mike founded Airfield Estates Winery, and he brought his son, Marcus, and daughter, Lori, on board to help manage the daily operations. Airfield Estates Winery and Tasting Room in Prosser opened its doors in 2007, the Tasting Room in Woodinville opened in 2010, and after outgrowing the Prosser Winery, the Production Facility was relocated to our farm in 2014. The pride, passion, and enthusiasm that Mike expressed for our vineyard, grapes, and wine is something that we hope to share for generations to come.
With the onset of World War II, the Olympia Air Transport Corporation began looking to lease land in the Yakima Valley to establish a civilian flight school. H. Lloyd Miller, the founder of our family estate and a successful realtor and landowner, knew that it would be several years before the arrival of irrigation water on his farmland so he signed a lease agreement for a portion of his property.
Construction of the flight school commenced on December 21, 1941. The airbase included three dirt runways, each over a half mile long, and several buildings including a 70-foot water tower, multiple airplane hangars, a large mess hall, four barracks, and several smaller storage buildings.
Initially, the training was part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which was sponsored by the United States Government. It offered primary, secondary, and cross-country courses, and the pilots trained on various types of biplanes. In mid-1943, the school changed to the War Training Service Program, and they confined the training to the secondary phase only, which focused on aerobatics and other evasive techniques. According to government records, over 500 Army Air Corps pilots trained at the airbase on our family’s property until the flight school closed in 1944.
Shortly after the war came to an end, the pilots moved off-site and the recently constructed buildings were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The only bidder turned out to be H. Lloyd Miller. With a bid of $1, he got one heck of a deal for all of the buildings on the property. These unique buildings became the headquarters of our family’s farming operations, which today is known as Airport Ranch. Over time, many of the buildings began to deteriorate, but two of the original hangars still exist and we continue to use them as workshop and storage facilities.
And now, drumroll please...Focus Group Favorites!
TASTING NOTESThis lightly oaked Chardonnay unites layers of Asian pear and green apples with hints of marzipan and toasted marshmallow contributing to a round mid-palate and a smooth, well-balanced finish.
VINEYARD DESIGNATION100% estate grown
PRODUCTION NOTES65% fermented and aged in stainless steel, 35% fermented and aged in French oak (40% new).
PAIRINGSRoast Lobster with Tarragon-Lemon Butter
Braised Pork with Pearl Onions and Grapes
Fresh Corn Soufflé with Bacon and Comté
Brie or Camembert
AWARDSGold, 2018 Seattle Wine Awards.
TASTING NOTESThis classically styled Cabernet Sauvignon showcases pronounced aromas of cherry and blackcurrant with undertones of toasted oak. A smooth, well-balanced palate framed with lingering tannins on the finish.
VINEYARD DESIGNATION100% Estate Grown
PAIRINGSGrilled Steak with Salsa Verde
Beef Tagliata, Arugula and Trevisana Salad
Port Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs
Sharp White Cheddar or Roquefort