Hello friends. Today we have a value Cabernet from the outstanding 2012 vintage, and from a family that has a deep and fascinating history in the Yakima Valley:
On December 24, 1941 (17 days after Pearl Harbor), the United States government began construction of an airbase on land leased from Lloyd Miller in the Yakima Valley. The official purpose of the airbase was pilot training. Unofficially, the airbase was also meant to surveil and protect the highly-classified plutonium-refining project being undertaken at the Hanford Reach Nuclear Reservation.
In 1946, after World War II ended, the Millers’ land reverted back to farmland, and in 1968, Lloyd’s son Don decided to try planting wine grapes on the farm, at a site they called Airport Ranch Vineyards. While the vineyard has been in production since 1971, it toiled in relative obscurity for more than three decades, shrouded by the mists of its largest buyer, Ste Michelle Wine Estates. While the partnership was (and remains) a fruitful one (the Millers have received technical support, and Ste Michelle has received a consistent source of high-quality, Yakima Valley fruit), it had precluded the Millers from exploring the true potential of their vineyard.
By 2005, Airport Ranch was a long-established vineyard that few had heard of, and the Millers decided that the best way to establish a brand for their vineyard was to make estate wines themselves, aiming for substantially lower yields and deeper flavors. To that end, Marcus Miller, the fourth generation of the family to farm in Yakima Valley, began taking classes in Walla Walla and interning with the likes of Kendall Mix (at the time the winemaker at Canoe Ridge; since then the winemaker at Corliss, Goose Ridge, and now Cadaretta). After further winemaking stints in Washington and at Montana Brancott Winery in Marlborough, New Zealand, Marcus returned to the newly-formed Airfield Estates.
In total, they have 850 acres in production, representing 26 varieties. This Runway Cab comes entirely from a 1989-planted block of the estate vineyard, so this is fruit from 23-year-old vines. To see single vineyard, estate-grown Cabernet from vines this old is rare enough in Washington. To see it come with a sub-$20 tag is rarer still. This spent about a year in barrel (mostly neutral), and it clocks in at 14.1% listed alc. It pours inky purple-black in the glass and offers a wonderful bowlful of dark fruits on the nose: dark berries, black cherries, blackcurrant. Complexities of earth (good clean soil) and flower (violet) ramp up the intrigue level. On the palate, this is just clean, delicious, eminently drinkable Cabernet, the black fruits lifted by a lovely minty eucalyptus note. As it rolls along into a solidly Cabernet, medium-grained tannin finish, all espressoey goodness, you have to shake your head at the varietal character and quality on display at this price point. The 2012s continue to dazzle.
First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.