Boudreaux 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.
During 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
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.
Margot and Dave