Boudreaux Cellars – Part One

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-25-31-amBoudreaux Cellars produces some of the best wine in Washington state, and winemaker Rob Newsom creatively crafts it in his own unique way, off the power grid — specifically in the only bonded off-grid (self-powered) winery in the U.S.

Yes, four miles off the power grid in the Icicle Canyon in Leavenworth, Washington, Rob’s winery is amazing. In a word, wow!

The picturesque property has been the location of both Rob’s family home and Boudreaux Cellars since 1981. Rob’s wine roots began with many long discussions with his extraordinary winemaking friends such as Gary and Chris Figgins (Leonetti Cellars) and John Abbott (Abeja).

Rob is both mellow and one of the most colorful characters in Washington’s wine industry, with a Louisiana drawl and a dry sense of humor. Over the years, we tasted his classic wines, heard his music, read ditties on his wine bottles (“Drink this Merlot, eat smoked Coho, kick off your flip-flops, dance on rooftops”) and listened to his jokes, including those about the Cajun folklore character Boudreaux, after whom the winery is named. Over those same years, Rob asked us to visit the winery but we never had an opportunity. In early September, we finally  made it, and brought our friends, Jenise (a wine expert with an incredible palate) and Bob Stone.

img_4095During our visit, Rob and assistant winemaker Caylan Haehl were busy with harvest, which he said was going well; he still found time to chat with us and be a gracious host. He also introduced us to his spunky and smart daughter, Keely, who is the general manager of Boudreaux Cellars, her adorable toddler and two very friendly dogs (brown Labs). Keely shared stories about how she helped her dad build the winery and spent hours with some of Washington’s finest winemakers over the years. After college, she moved to Walla Walla, where she worked at Dunham Cellars, Revelry, and Forgeron wineries before heading back home to the family business in 2012.

Keely took us on a tour and explained their winemaking process as well as poured some excellent wines. They are stored in a man-made underground cave that is kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Photo: Jenise Stone

Photo: Jenise Stone

According to Rob, “The winery is powered by a propane-fired 15 KW Onan generator. Power is supplied to and from a large bank of Trojan L-16 batteries. Battery power is inverted from DC to AC through a Magna Sine Magnum inverter. The property has 3,000 gallons of propane storage capacity. The winery is heated in winter with propane. Due to our location in the mountains with underground cellars, high ceilings and thick walls, we require no cooling whatsoever.”

Keely added, “The generator only runs a few hours a day at best, and then charges the batteries. This way we’re not constantly running the generator. We try to run as green as possible. We have an appointment with a solar company in the next month or so; we’re hoping we can go primarily solar. We are off the power grid not because it’s currently trending, but because we were fortunate enough to buy property in the middle of the national forest reserve and as a result, the county quits running power about four miles downstream from us at Snow Lakes Trailhead.”

The resulting wines are luscious. Rob sources grapes from some of the finest vineyards in the state; he is one of the few to get grapes from Leonetti Estate Vineyard. Words that came to mind as we tasted through his current lineup: big, powerful, complex, smooth, deep and layered. We loved every one of them, but our favorites are featured in Boudreaux Cellars – Part Two.

We highly recommend that you visit Boudreaux, particularly if you are going to be in the Leavenworth area. Or make a special trip – it’s well worth it. But note that the winery is only open by appointment, so be sure to call ahead to set up a time.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Boudreaux Cellars – Part Two

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-25-31-amAs mentioned in Boudreaux Cellars – Part One, winemaker Rob Newsom sources grapes from some of the finest vineyards in the state; he is one of the few to get grapes from Leonetti Estate Vineyard.

The wines in his current lineup are powerful, complex, smooth, deep and layered. These are wines for a special occasion, with high price-points and lush flavors. We loved every one of those that general manager Keely Newsom poured for us during our visit in early September, but these were our favorites.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Merlot ($50)
A 100% Washington Merlot from four vineyards in Columbia Valley, this wine is elegant and aromatic. In Rob’s words, “Showy, gorgeous body like having a date with a super model, all amazing but more legs than most. This wine is a masterpiece of special blocks blended to perfection after three years of gentle handling and cool underground aging.”

img_40902012 Boudreaux Cellars Syrah ($60)
A classic showing of Washington Syrah, robust, powerful, and spicy. In Rob’s words, “This is the one I’ve been trying to make. Shows typical Syrah ‘good stinky’ on the nose, full mid-palate, and nice long finish of dark fruit flavors. Balanced with good acidity. Bring me some smokey ribs, saffron quail, and roast a pig. A am ready now.” (Read in southern drawl.)

2011 Boudreaux Cellars Malbec ($60)
This is a smooth, plush, full-bodied Malbec, compelling and textured, with grapes sourced from Gamache Vineyard. It will pair well with spicy food and chicken dishes, or share a bottle during an evening with friends.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
An outstanding, rich and complex Cab Sauv, this excellent wine is sourced from ten, yes ten! Washington state vineyards and aged three years. In Rob’s words, “I will basically drive my Silverado to Egypt to get the best Cab possible if I have to. Our Cabs have become famous for being full-bodied, long, and fine. There is not another one like it in the world. No one would go to the trouble of getting grapes from ten vineyards for the blend, working hard to get the oldest, best blocks in the state.”

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($115)
Our favorite, this luxe wine showcases what an experienced, talented winemaker can craft with good fruit and Washington state terroir. Balanced, bold and beautiful, supple and velvety, this magnificent wine drinks very well now and will continue to develop for years. In Rob’s words, “Get ready to smile big with the high-toned, smoky, toasted pecan, molasses, cassis with dried cherries and violets. Tastes like a giant smooth Old World Cabernet Sauvignon. You will smell and taste plenty of deep fruit, with some backyard dirt, and gorgeous long fine tannins. We have held it for a long time so that when you get it you will have a freak-out in your glass. Do not be afraid to drink some now but definitely plan to cellar some for another ten-fifteen years.”

As we noted earlier, these are special-occasion wines, to savor, pair with excellent meals and enjoy with like-minded friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Sbragia Family Vineyards

Sbragia Family Vineyards began in 2006 but its roots are in the love of wine by owner Ed Sbragia’s grandfather who moved to California from Tuscany in 1904. Much later, Ed’s father acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg, growing zinfandel. And Ed himself began working for Beringer Vineyards in Napa in 1976.

The family tradition continues today, with Ed’s son and the rest of his family involved in Sbragia in the Dry Creek Valley. A 10th anniversary celebration is set for this fall.

The brand is well-known, so we were delighted to receive samples of two wines to taste.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.56 AM2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
This beautiful red comes from old vines planted in the 1880s in an historic California vineyard, and was rated 93+ from Wine Advocate.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) was blended with 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot to give it structure and depth.

This is a big red, with notes of cedar, dark berry, black licorice and a bit of earthiness — a ripe, juicy wine that is drinkable now through 2022.

Pair it with steak, grilled meats, savory stew or dark chocolate. Delicious!

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.14 AM

2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay ($30)
Home Ranch Vineyard is located at the southeast end of Dry Creek Valley, where temperatures are cooler than most of the appellation. This results in bright fruit flavors of apple, pear and citrus, a hint of oak with a gravelly minerality, good structure and balanced acidity.

On the nose of this 100% Chardonnay, you’ll find aromas of tropical fruit, pear and toasted almonds in addition to apples, vanilla and baking spice from the oak.

Pair it with smoked salmon or trout, crab, prawns, seafood pasta or with creamy vegetable soups in the cooler evenings.

Ed Sbragia is well-known for his Chardonnays. He established the Beringer Reserve Chardonnay program and currently serves as Winemaster Emeritus there. Robert Parker said, “Sbragia has always demonstrated a Midas touch with Chardonnay.”

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Murrieta’s Well

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.18.34 AMTwo years ago, we wrote about how we enjoyed Murrieta’s Well 2011 The Spur from Livermore Valley ($25). We just tasted the 2013 vintage, and we liked it even more. While the price has increased to $30, so have the flavors, with a higher percentage of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc, and the addition of Merlot this year.

Crafted by the new director of winemaking, Robbie Meyer, this unique red wine blends 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon,10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot,  8% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc. In other words, the Petite Sirah forms a beautiful foundation for the classic Bordeaux varietals.

Each type of grape was harvested, fermented and handcrafted separately to achieve their greatest varietal expression, and then blended into The Spur. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“Beautiful fruit aromas of black cherry and blueberry are highlighted by subtle notes of sweet oak and earthy spice. A ripe tannic structure and balanced acidity make this wine perfect by itself or paired with your favorite recipes from the grill.”

We think this big blend would pair well with roasted or grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.32.58 AMThanks to Murrieta’s Well for sending us a sample of The Spur, as well as 2014 The Whip, a white wine blend also from the Livermore Valley. While white blends aren’t our favorites, we know many people who would enjoy The Whip ($24).

The Whip blends 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli and 6% Viognier; as with The Spur, each varietal was fermented individually. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“This unique wine showcases juicy fruit flavors of white peach, pear and melon with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness that creates a smooth and creamy finish.”

Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave