When you hear the name Airfield Estates, the thought of airplanes most likely springs to mind (in addition to award winning wine, of course). But what about asparagus? That’s right; Airfield Estates and asparagus go hand in hand.
The story begins before the United States entered into WWII, when H. Lloyd Miller leased his property to Olympic Air Transport for the construction of a pilot training facility in Prosser that was completed in 1942. After a couple of years, the airbase was no longer used and H. Lloyd was able to move back onto the property and with the help of his crew set out to turn the airbase into a farm.
“They removed sagebrush and leveled the surrounding acreage of the airbase, installed irrigation delivery systems, and commenced farming activities in 1946, when the first deliveries of water from the newly installed Roza Irrigation District were made,” said Mike Miller, grandson of H. Lloyd and current Owner/Grape Grower. “The hangars all went up for public auction and H. Lloyd purchased all of the original hangars, barracks and support structures, creating the infrastructure needed to support the new farm.”
Calling it like it was, H. Lloyd named the farm Airport Ranch (a name that would later be softened for the wine crowd to Airfield Estates). Some of the first crops he planted were designed to improve the soil while others were chosen for their financial returns.
“Initially my grandfather decided to plant cereal crops and legumes, which would help develop soil structure. He also recognized that potatoes and onions were high value crops and could give good returns back to the farm,” Mike said.
Once the soil changed and became less sandy, potatoes were no longer the viable cash crop they initially were and it was Mike’s father, Don Miller, who steered the direction of the farm toward sugar beet and mint farming. It was also Don who oversaw the initial planting of grapes. “In 1967, Don purchased grape vines from a California Nursery, planting them on the farm in the spring of 1968. The planting was less than three acres and consisted of three varieties,” Mike said. “In 1970 he planted his first commercial vineyard. It consisted of three varieties grown on fourteen acres of land.”
When the company that controlled the Washington state sugar industry, U and I Sugar, announced in 1978 that it was closing down all manufacturing in the state, growing sugar beets no longer made much sense. Around the same time, the Yakima River watershed went through its first water shortage so the Miller family began considering crops that require less water.
“Asparagus was a crop that my grandfather had begun growing in the 1920s, and became one of the crop choices early in the development of the Airport Ranch. My dad continued to produce asparagus, despite many struggles with the labor supply throughout his years,” Mike said.
By the late 1970s Mike was active in the business and said he pushed hard for expansion of wine grapes and asparagus based on consumptive use.
Today Mike grows 27 varietals of wine grapes on about 850 acres. He also grows concord grapes for Welch’s on an additional 350 acres.
And of course, there’s the asparagus. While I was initially surprised to see Airfield’s offer of free asparagus with the purchase of wine pop up on my Facebook wall this past spring, I now appreciate that it represents the continuation of a dying institution in the U.S.: the multi-generational family farm.
As for the next generation, Mike’s kids Marcus and Lori are both active in the family business as well. In addition to being co-owners, Marcus is Airfield’s Winemaker and Lori is the Marketing Director.
If you can’t make it to Prosser to visit the winery, stop by and sample the wine at the Airfield Estates . While the asparagus was a seasonal offering, you’ll still be treated to an aviation-themed experience all year long.
Here’s Woodinville Patch’s Guide to this week’s events, June 24 – June 30
- Covington Cellars, 2010 rosé
- Dusted Valley, 2009 mourvedre
- Sparkman Cellars, 2010 sauvignon blanc, 2010 chardonnay, 2010 rosé, 2009 pinot noir, 2009 syrah, 2009 malbec
- Woodhouse Wine Estates, 2010 rosé
Friday, June 24
- , 16110 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE, Suite 5, invites you to meet its new Winemaker, Brian Wavernek, during this Winemaker’s Dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $65 and you can reserve your spot by calling (425) 481-4081.
Saturday, June 25
- , 12280 NE Woodinville Dr, is hosting its Summer Cigar Dinner from 7:30 – 10 p.m. This dinner is going to be held on the deck outside the winery with Owner/Winemaker Mark Newton pairing four courses with wine and cigars. The cost is $125 per person and space is limited. Call (425) 487-1648 or fill out the online registration form to sign up.
- , 16116 140th Pl NE, welcomes back Mary Jane Landau of Landau Catering as she teaches this month’s Appetizer Cooking Class from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person which includes instruction, appetizers and a sample of Matthews Estate’s current releases. Reserve your space online.
Thrusday, June 30
- and , 17721 132nd Ave NE, are pairing up to bring you Grillin’ 101 at Woodinville Wine Cellars from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. You get demonstrations, four courses and wine for $40. Register online or email Caylee Betts at caylee @ italianissimoristorante.com to make alternate payment arrangements.
- Winemaster (and Brewmaster) Festival of Washington at the Red Hook Brewery grounds, 14300 NE 145th St, takes place on July 27 from 5 – 9 p.m. Tickets cost $49 and are on sale now. In addition to cheering on your favorite winemakers and brewmasters as they compete in the Winemaker Olympics, you’ll enjoy food from favorite gourmet food trucks and live music. This event raises funds for Heartbeat, serving wounded warriors.
Tasting Room Happenings
- Dusted Valley continues to reward Passport to Woodinville holders with a special Midweek Boondoggle: Stop by with your passport, stamped or not, Wednesday – Thursday from noon – 5 p.m. to enjoy winery-only offerings on Dusted Valley.
- Matthews Estate has a big jar of corks in the tasting room and wants you to guess how many are in it. Stop in any day of the week to submit your entry, the closest guess wines a three year vertical of the 2006, 2007 and not-yet-released 2008 claret. Must be 21 or older to participate.
- Otis Kenyon Wine is offering Merlot Vertical Gift Boxes, only 24 available, at a special price of $100, wine club members receive another 15% off. Included are the 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages.
- Hollywood Schoolhouse Wineries J. Bookwalter, Mark Ryan Winery, Pepper Bridge Winery/Amavi Cellars and Ross Andrew Winery are hosting B.Y.O.P (bring your own picnic, pork, party…) every Thursday in June from 4 – 8 p.m. The wineries will provide the grills and you’re encouraged to bring dinner that can be thrown on the barbie. No cost to attend; each winery will be pouring their latest releases which you can purchase by the flight, glass or bottle.
- Red Sky Winery is beginning Summer Sundays; the tasting room will be open every Sunday in June from 1 – 4 p.m. and will feature the 2010 rosé, 2009 semillon and 2008 Sunrise.
- Tefft Cellars is hosting The Art of the Vine, vineyard art by local photographer Richard Duval through the end of the month beginning on Friday, June 4.
Friday, June 24
- , 16116 140th Pl NE, hosts Friday Night Live from 7 – 9 p.m. Gather your friends and head over to the tasting room for an evening of live music by local musician Mikel Rollins and enjoy glass pours starting at $6.
Saturday, June 25
- , 19501 144th Avenue NE, Suite D300, is pairing a different cheese with each of its wines on Saturday and Sunday from 1 – 5 p.m. The $5 tasting fee is waived with wine purchase.
- , 14465 Woodinville-Redmond Road, is releasing its highly anticipated 2009 mourvedre from noon – 5 p.m. A limited number of cases were made and sold out in days last year, so come by and get it while it you can.
- , 19501 144th Ave NE, Suite D500, invites you to celebrate St. Jean-Baptiste Day on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. You don’t have to be French-Canadian to need a reason to enjoy French-style wines and hors d’oeuvres. 10% discount on three bottle purchases.
- , 19501 144th Avenue NE, E400, is releasing several wines this weekend at the Warehouse district tasting room during its Summer Release Party. Come by on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. for a down-home good time complete with music playing, food on the grill and a six wine line up.
Sunday, June 26
- , 18580 142nd Ave NE, is hosting its Summer Bash from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. where you can sample four different pours paired with the culinary creations of the resident Chef. Enjoy the patio, music and the newly released 2010 Josie rosé while you welcome summer to the Pacific Northwest. $10 at the door.
- Woodhouse Wine Estates, 15500 Woodinville Redmond RD NE, Suite C600, invites you to its first ever public Release Party from 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. For $20 you’ll get a glass of the newly released rosé and a selection of sweet and savory crepes by La Crêperie Voilà (from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.) and a Woodhouse logo wine glass while supplies last.