Chehalis Valley winery worth the drive

Four friends enjoying the common bond of wine is a story that’s been told before but four friends putting a roof over their dreams is rare. While Rob Cummings and his wife, Kas Kennedy, were traveling in France their wine drinking buddies, Steve and Cheryl Padula, bought acreage in Toledo, Washington along the Cowlitz River and all their nights of dreaming and scheming became a reality.

Bateaux Cellars opened their doors in 2009. Their particular focus is on showcasing the state they all call home.

Rob Cummings, Kas Kennedy, Steve Padula and Cheryl Padula make up the owners of Bateaux Cellars, located in Toledo, Washington. Bateaux Cellars
Rob Cummings, Kas Kennedy, Steve Padula and Cheryl Padula make up the owners of Bateaux Cellars, located in Toledo, Washington. Bateaux Cellars

“We thought ‘Why don’t we put together Washington State grapes and varietals and focus on bringing Washington State to the forefront,’” Cummings said. “We just kind of saw this situation where it didn’t feel like there were a lot of wineries on the west side (of the state) focusing solely on Washington State.”

When Bateaux acquired their license, they were the 399th winery in Washington and, as Cummings said with a chuckle, “since then, it’s really exploded.”

Drawing from their mutual love for wine, the group spent countless hours winetasting and talking to several different wineries and winemaking/viticulture schools before settling on the idea of hiring a professional winemaker to create their fleet of wines. Enter in Pamela Solis, assistant winemaker at Airfield Estates Winery in Prosser, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional in Argentina.

The Airfield connection extends to their grapes, as well.

Cummings said “We are co-bonded with Airfield Estates and buy all our grapes from Airfield Estates Farms and have been working with the Miller family, who own Airfield, since the beginning. They’re the way everybody who’s in the wine business should be.”

Due to the size of Airfield— their estate vineyard spans over 860 acres and includes 27 different varieties—there is no area of the Yakima Valley AVA that Bateaux doesn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of. Cummings explained that Airfield also does a wonderful job advising Bateaux on the best areas growing grapes for those conditions that year.

At the winery, beautiful views of Mt. Rainier as well as an indoor and outdoor fireplace greet visitors. Bateaux Cellars
At the winery, beautiful views of Mt. Rainier as well as an indoor and outdoor fireplace greet visitors. Bateaux Cellars

At the winery, which is located two miles off exit 57 of I-5, cool climate grapes are being grown. Siegerrebe, madeleine angevine and müller-thurgau represent the whites along with an acre of pinot noir. Now three years old, it’ll probably be another three years before harvest, according to Cheryl, and their intent at that point is to use them for blending with Yakima Valley grapes.

The owners can’t say enough about how welcoming and friendly their community to the north is and, with five wineries scattered throughout the Chehalis Valley, they see it as a nice day out for folks longing for a little scenery with their vino.

“We have beautiful views of Mt. Rainier from the deck and, even in winter there’s two fireplaces; one outside and one inside,” Cummings said.

Since both couples maintain homes in Vancouver, they have strong ties to both communities so, if Toledo is a drive, their wines can be found in restaurants and wine shops throughout Clark County, along the I-5 corridor to Olympia and out to the coast, as well.

Along with rave reviews from Great Northwest Wines, Bateaux Cellars showed very well at the recent Craft Beer & Winefest of Vancouver, walking away with a Double Gold and Best of Show for their Moscato 2014, a Gold for their Vilaine white blend and Bronze for their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

For more information or to visit their tasting room, go to www.bateauxcellars.com.