by Christina Kelly & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & ob Newsom is a multi-talented and dedicated winemaker who produces some of the best handcrafted wines in the state while entertaining visitors as a musician, sharing thrilling tales of his adventures as a former alpine guide and extreme sports enthusiast, and telling jokes about the Cajun folklore character Boudreaux, who lent his name to the winery.
As if that wasn't enough, his Leavenworth winery is located eight miles deep in the Cascade Mountains in Icicle Canyon, where Newsom and his wife Tamara built their spectacular log home and winery four miles off the electricity grid, nestled against steep, rocky cliffs with the effervescent sounds of Icicle Creek behind the house. A walk into the kitchen reveals some of the most mouth-watering Cajun cooking this side of Louisiana, the couple's home state.
"I grew up hungry," says the always smiling, tall, lanky winemaker who majored in forestry in college. Newsom burns more calories in the winter just getting wood to heat the home, plowing snow and keeping things running. "My mother taught me if you want to eat, you have to learn to cook."
The former mountaineering and rock climbing guide had a stint as a radio personality and turned inventor when he developed a fly fishing wader for Gore-Tex Fabrics. It was while working for Gore-Tex in 1990 that he first tasted a 1985 Leonetti reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Not realizing that Leonetti wines are quickly spoken for, Newsom called up the winery and asked to buy a case. The startled Figgins family managed to collect enough bottles to fill his first order after being charmed by the charismatic Southerner.
That was the beginning of a long friendship and mentoring, since Newsom and Leonetti winemakers Gary and Chris Figgins hiked and climbed together, and Newsom would entertain with Boudreaux jokes and bluegrass music. At their urging, Newsom made his first commercial wines in 2003.
"It seemed fitting to call the winery Boudreaux, since Gary and Chris kept asking me how that Cru Boudreaux was doing," Newsom said. "By 2001, we were making so much wine we finally got bonded."
Newsom credits the Figgins family and John Abbott from Abeja Winery in Walla Walla for gently guiding him to his next adventure as an alpine winemaker. Although off the electricity grid, he uses generators to run the winery and his home. The wine is stored in a constructed underground cave, where it stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & oudreaux wines begin with the best grapes Newsom can find. He crafts the wine from the perspective of a gourmand -- pairing wines with food to create a gastric synergy. The fruit is handled gently without much manipulation; Newsom says he gets out of the way. Given his past interests, winemaking has finally gathered all the left-brain, right-brain elements for him -- science, invention and process, and combined them with the art of blending, cooking, tasting, music and yes, jokes. Boudreaux wines are serious contenders for awards, but Newsom sells them with a wink and a nudge -- each wine has its own little ditty quoting the puckish character Boudreaux.
"Laughing at yourself is a great way of entertaining," he says. "We have as much fun at it as we can."
Boudreaux Wines: & r & 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon: Smooth, deep layers of ripe caramelized fruit that include plum, black cherries and a hint of vanilla in the oak. Newsom sources the finest fruit from the most outstanding vineyards -- Bacchus Vineyard Block 9, Champoux Vineyard Block 2, Wallula Vineyard, Pepperbridge and Seven Hills Vineyard, Leonetti blocks. A gorgeous wine with great acidity, try it with sliced beef tenderloin medallions in a reduced cabernet sauvignon sauce -- heaven on a fork. As Boudreaux says, "Get out your pirogue (peer-o), open up the Boudreaux, there's gonna be a party, down on the bayou."
2004 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley: This unfiltered, old-world style chardonnay touts flavors of tropical fruit, a whiff of banana, pineapple and mango with appropriate oak flavors and enough full body to drink alone or with food. Pair this mouth-filling chardonnay with gumbo or & Eacute;touff & eacute;e, a spicy Cajun stew with seafood served over rice. Boudreaux says, "Smooth and creamy, long and dreamy, tropics to throttle, so much in the bottle."
2004 Merlot, Bacchus and Desert Hills Vineyards: A deeply elegant, fruit-forward merlot with hints of currant, violets, mocha and a core of soft but edgy tannins to give this wine some heft. With lingering notes of pepper and cinnamon, this wine works well with saffron and quail with olive oil and carrots, chicken ragout with peppers and olives or Rob's suggestion of garlic cheese grits with barbecued pork ribs. Of this wine Boudreaux quips, "Drink this merlot, eat smoked Coho, kick off your flip-flops, dance on the rooftops."
2004 Syrah, Desert Hills Vineyard: If ever a wine begged for smoked meats and game, this wine has bacon fat, slight horsiness and hot stones in the nose, reminiscent of a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. A little racy with the spice, hints of blackberry and cracked pepper in the mouth and a gaminess of its own, serve this exotic beauty with wild boar ravioli with a blackberry mushroom sauce or Rob's suggestion of chicken-fried venison backstrap. Boudreaux's description? "Smoky, smooth and stinky, this syrah could make you kinky, get down the shotgun, Jim, we need to get some wild game in."