PROSSER - In April of 2007 the Miller family of Sunnyside opened Airfield Estates Winery in Prosser. Three years later, in April of 2010, the Millers have expanded their operations to the west side of the mountains.
Co-owner and wine maker Marcus Miller said the decision to open a retail store in Woodinville, which is north of Kirkland, took about 18 months to make. He said the winery in Prosser did a lot of research before making the move.
Part of that research included looking through Airfield Estates Winery's customer list.
"70 percent of our members were from the west side of the state," he said. "We wanted to engage them more and there are already wineries established in Woodinville."
Miller said the winery experiences lean times during the winter months when west side drivers balk at traveling over the pass in the snow. Bringing the wine to them just made sense.
The Woodinville area has experienced a recent explosion of winery tasting rooms, much like Prosser has experienced in recent years. He said one year ago there were between 35 and 40 tasting rooms in Woodinville, a figure Miller said has doubled.
"Just within our little neighborhood in Woodinville, 10 new tasting rooms have opened."
This is since Airfield Estates Winery opened up its retail store there.
That's not a bad thing. Miller said the cluster concept has worked well for his winery in Prosser and believes it will work in Woodinville, as well.
There are two districts in Woodinville where a majority of the tasting rooms are, the Warehouse District and the Hollywood School House District.
Miller said the Hollywood School House District was chosen as the site for the Miller family retail store because the tasting rooms there are open seven days a week. In the Warehouse District, most wineries are only open two days a week.
"Those five extra days make a big difference," he said.
The retail store in Woodinville is staffed with a tasting room manager and five tasting room employees. The retail store offers all 26 varieties of wine Airfield Estates creates.
The move has paid off for the Miller family.
"So far it's been pretty good," Miller said. "We're seeing a really nice trend. Sales are higher each month and that's unusual.
"Usually there is a peak during the harvest months and then there is a drop off in November and December. These months are shaping up to be really big months in Woodinville.