KinectAir is jetting to wine country, and affordably.
Chartering private planes has generally been for high net-worth individuals; business people, financiers, celebrities, sports and tech professionals. KinectAir aims to change that. Can you imagine pulling out your mobile phone and using an app to hire a plane for a weekend trip to wine country with friends?
KinectAir is an online marketplace that delivers on-demand private air travel to regular citizens – typically groups of 4 to 8 passengers – by using small airports, abandoned commercial carrier routes and underutilized planes, while optimizing fleet utilization and leveraging economies of scale. KinectAir app-based technology and data help match timing, destination, equipment and pilots. Uber, Lyft and Airbnb launched the “sharing economy,” democratizing easy-access direct booking with no middlemen. They match demand with providers. KinectAir is using this very model to revolutionize air travel.
#Winetravelers can schedule flights with a designated pilot and plan winery visits over the course of two days. This article reviews a tailored trip that KinectAir helped make possible, which anyone could replicate. KinectAir can also help coordinate package tours with travel agencies on request. They will be introducing “The Flight of Flights” package where customers visit three Oregon wine regions in 2-3 days, such as Eugene-McMinnville-Walla Walla.
I had the opportunity to join the Walla Walla wine country inaugural flight, a weekend trip from Eugene, Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington. The first voyagers in this case were four women from Eugene, all professionals in early-stage careers. Two were Moms. They all agreed that a “Girls Weekend Getaway” for two full days of wine touring and luxuriating would be nearly impossible using traditional means of transportation. The drive takes as much as 7-10 hours, and direct flights to Walla Walla have been discontinued. Flying commercial through Seattle takes nearly as long as driving. The trip on KinectAir was 60 minutes, with no early check-in, TSA security, baggage issues, crowds, and no “Momming!”
I found this fun video on the KinectAir site featuring a competition pitting on-road driver, commercial air, and off-road bike against its charter flights. You can take a look at this video “The KinectAir Amazing Race”; and judge for yourself. Future wine country travel excursions may include Willamette Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, and Napa Valley and Sonoma.
KinectAir: What About Costs vs. Logistics?
KinectAir’s vision to scale down the wealth chain to upper-middle-income folks is best described by CMO, Johnny Corbett. “A trip like this is pretty much impossible to achieve without a personal aircraft at your fingertips. Wine country is incredible, but you’d never have time to fit it all in. Driving a 10-12 hour round-trip and the same trip on commercial airlines includes a long layover in Seattle, with queues and crowds, not to mention the hassle of returning with bottles you might buy!”
The math pencils out when you fill most of the four or eight-seater planes. Research on commercial flights from Eugene to Walla Walla shows that they include a stop in Seattle and average $500-$600 per person, whereas a non-stop flight on KinectAir to Walla Walla might average $1,000-$1,200 for each member of the group. That’s about double, but what is the value of your time? A fully scheduled 2-day trip like is not possible otherwise.
Corbett adds, “KinectAir flights can fly to-and-from more than 5,000 airports and airfields across the country; at this link, you can quickly see how long it would take to get to Walla Walla from wherever you are in the US.”
Here’s a review of our Eugene-to-Walla Walla weekend agenda for your consideration and planning.
First stop, Caprio Cellars “Hospitality Center” in South Walla Walla. Caprio was a logical way to start our adventure given its proximity to Walla Walla Regional Airport, and the fact that they serve small homemade plates of food with each of their wines. It’s hard to believe, but I think Caprio Cellars is one of, if not the only winery, that does not charge for this tasting experience. That’s right, you taste wines paired with dishes from their executive onsite chefs, and at no cost or obligation to you. It’s a “pay it forward” approach to hospitality according to General Manager Emily Kiefer. Proof of concept is their 5-star Google ratings, almost 1,500, which far exceeds other wineries’ traditional tasting room ratings.
Open Wednesday-Sunday by appointment only. Choose seating indoors or on the outdoor firepit patio upon arrival. Expect a special greeting!
Va Piano Vineyards
We moved on to Va Piano Vineyards, just celebrating its 20th Anniversary. “Va Piano, Va Sano, Va Lontano” is the motto here. Go slowly, safely, and go far! We loved the chill vibe and great wines. Outdoor seating seems to be the way to go when you visit. You can expect to taste Sauvignon Blanc and a stellar Rosé of Cab Franc. All the reds including the Syrah, Cab Sauvignon, and red blends are well produced. Justin Wylie is the proprietor, a 4th-gen native of Walla Walla. He got his wine legs in Florence, Italy as a young man and never looked back. Expect to see Justin chilling out with guests.
The Va Piano Wine Club is very popular and may be approaching waitlist, so get in now. Members get free tastings and cheese/charcuterie plates when they visit. Appointments are required for all tastings at both the Walla Walla and Bend, Oregon locations.
Pursued By Bear
If you have experienced this Pursued By Bear, you’ll know it’s not a bad thing! Pursued by Bear Wines is the passion project of actor Kyle MacLachlan, a native son of nearby Yakima, WA. You might remember Kyle as the quirky mayor of Portland in the Portlandia series, now streaming on multiple platforms. You might also recognize Kyle in Twin Peaks and Desperate Housewives. You can visit the tasting room bear and taste the wines in downtown Walla Walla.
Open by appointment Thursday-Monday. They will be offering a cleverly named subscriptions program – First Folio and Second Folio subSCRIPTions – in the near future. The site is fun to visit with lots of acting puns and stage references, and of course, Kyle posing with the bear.
Our second day of touring, a casual Sunday, started with breakfast at Maple Counter Café’, and a walkabout in downtown Walla Walla (both described below. Fortunately, we had sustenance and some exercise before our first winery visit to Doubleback Winery. The winery was founded in 2007 by Drew Bledsoe, famed NFL quarterback, and Walla Walla native son. He “doubled back” to Walla Walla! The 80-acre property will have you doing what-ifs if you were famous and fabulously wealthy, but no worries, you can enjoy it all vicariously. It’s a stunning site with a bocce’ ball court and firepit and a few interior spaces for private group tastings. The wines are exceptional, albeit on the ultra-premium spendy side. But you can brag about your NFL connections for the $50 tasting fee which includes a cheese plate.
Access to the wines is an Allocation List only. You can sign up for immediate purchase and expect to receive annual allocations based on the winery’s current releases.
The Walls Winery
Imagine being stuck within four walls, aka “The Penitentiary.” This is not that. The Walls Winery is a contemporary urban winery facility with an updated tasting room and a belief that good wine and hospitality “break down walls between people.” The old tasting room used to look across to the Walla Walla Penitentiary, famous for its attempted escapes in the late 19th century. Anyway, consider this tasting space an escape from all the urban tasting rooms on Main Street downtown. Try the Rosé of Grenache, Blend and Martins Gold Chardonnay if you like whites. They also have some GSM blends that are representative of Walla Walla-style Rhone varieties. Finally, fall in love with their labels, so cute, creative and rife with stories to tell your friends.
Open Daily by Appointment 10 am – 4 pm. There is a kitchen on-site for flatbreads, cheese, charcuterie plates and salads. Recommended during lunch window to refresh for the afternoon.
I’m a winery publicist by trade, so looking at unique branding and messaging is natural for me. Some of the best I’ve seen recently is coming from a unique source, that is SMAK. That’s right, in your face. It’s a “Rosé All Day”, Girl’s Weekend, SMAK your lips, and Guys Welcome too but behave type of place. I’m getting carried away for good reason. SMAK derives its name from Fiona S. Mak, the Chinese-American proprietor and winemaker. All she makes is Rosé, but, be prepared to become enamored of the full spectrum of her single vineyard Rosé varieties – and the lovely season-themed labels presenting them – Rosé of Sangiovese, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Syrah and even Winter bubbles. Fiona settled into “The Incubator” project, which sports five tasting room buildings at the Port of Walla Walla Airport. There you will not only find wineries, but also brewing, distilling, cider-making and food carts.
The tasting room is open Friday & Saturday 11 am – 4 pm. A tasting fee of $22 is waived with 1 bottle.
After lunch at Caprio Cellars and cheese plates at Va Piano I wondered about my appetite for a gourmet American bistro dinner. TMACS (no relation to SMAC) did not disappoint, and I easily rallied to the dining cause. This is an upscale restaurant off Main Street with a killer wine list and “Rat Pack” vibe. Steaks, chops, fresh seafood. Expect excellent service and a space that promotes lively conversation.
Maple Counter Cafe is the apparent reigning champion of over-the-top mega breakfasts, burgers, sandos and brunch. But it’s the bigger-than-your-head house specialty “The Apple Pancake” that you’ll be talking about. Fear the pancake, people! If you do order one, the kitchen will ring the bell for you, as in the end of Round 1. I suggest you stay down for the count.
We all loved The FINCH on downtown Main Street. The rooms are hip and upscale, with a funky mid-century modern edge. Morning coffee is stellar, and there are always salty snacks on hand in case you’re sipping in your room, the lobby or the outdoor patio. Another downtown option to consider is the historic downtown Marcus Whitman Hotel for a more traditional and formal experience.
Other Fun Things to Do in Walla Walla
There is so much to do in addition to eating and drinking in Walla Walla. However, we were on a mission, that is, eating and drinking. Here are some ideas to consider based on interests beyond wine.
- Marcus Whitman Hotel, a landmark on Main Street and its various art collections and exhibits
- Whitman Mission National Historic Site has Oregon Trail exhibits and a history of early settlements
- Shopping anyone? Downtown Main Street is a boutique mecca, with shops, galleries and cafes
- Fort Walla Walla Museum showcases pioneer-era history, artifacts and Native American culture
- Pioneer Park and Rooks Park offer scenic quiet surroundings if you have time to relax and ponder
- Blue Mountain Lavender Farm is stunning during the bloom season, typically June-August
- Walla Walla Symphony is a must if you appreciate classical music
- Walla Walla Sweet Onions are available during summer months and worth seeking out
- Whitman College Campus is worth a walk and tour to remind you of your student days
Parking is typically complimentary at most private flight terminals such as Atlantic Aviation in Eugene and Walla Walla where our flights are connected. Car rental is available – if you want to arrange your own transportation through Avis/Budget or Enterprise – all available from the Walla Walla terminal. You can compare car rental prices on Kayak here. You can also leverage assistance from local transportation and limo companies.
Take a look at our detailed wine travel guide to exploring Walla Walla for more insight into some of our favorite wineries, places to stay and travel logistics.
Carl Giavanti is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 15th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley and the Columbia Gorge.