Wine Tasting by Helicopter

Let me be your designated driver.

I started doing wine tasting tours by helicopter in North Central Washington’s wine country back in the summer of 2011, but really got into full swing in the summer of 2012. Back then, I offered two-, three-, and four-winery tours. I’d pick passengers up at one winery and fly them to another. Then I’d wait around for them to finish and fly them to the next. Repeat until done.

I soon learned that doing a three- or four-winery tour was a really good way to waste an entire day of my time for very little financial return on that time investment.

And I don’t get me started on the couple from hell, who managed to turn a four-winery tour into a full day that included five wine tastings, forced me to do four deadhead flights, and pushed me over the edge when my nerves and emotions were already frazzled.

Still, it wasn’t until nearly a full week of seemingly nonstop cherry drying in June that I realized I really didn’t want to do wine tasting tours like that. I wanted a quick and easy day where I’d be compensated properly not only for the helicopter’s flight time but for for my time. A full hour of flight time with just one destination.

After doing some research, I realized that the best destination would be Tsillan Cellars Winery at Lake Chelan. I’d do scenic flights there and back with time on the ground for my passengers to enjoy a wine tasting and a meal in their very nice restaurant. The flight was outrageously beautiful and the destination was someplace I really wouldn’t mind spending a few hours of down time. Perfect.

On Sunday, I took three passengers to Tsillan Cellars. They were the same ladies who were supposed to do a four-winery tour late last summer with me. Unfortunately, the destination winemakers had pulled the plug on the scheduled date — for reasons I still can’t comprehend. (That was an eye-opening experience that taught me to be careful about who I partnered with for winery visits. I do not like disappointing my clients and won’t do business with people who disappoint me.) I offered this trip as a long overdue substitute and they agreed. I picked them up at Wenatchee Pangborn Memorial Airport at 11 and we made the flight in beautiful weather.

I had the helicopter’s nosecam set up with my new GoPro Hero 3 Black camera and it was running for the entire flight up there. On Monday, I edited the video down to a 2:45 promo with music and captions. I put it on YouTube. Here it is:

I haven’t finished updating Flying M Air’s website with information about the Tsillan Cellars wine tasting flights, but I hope to do it soon. And I hope to be doing lots of these flights throughout the rest of the summer and into autumn.

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