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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Rutz Cellars - Russian River Valley

Keith Rutz crafts exciting wines with a classic French twist.

From its very beginning Rutz Cellars of Sonoma County has been unique to the wine industry in several ways. First of all, it is housed inside a 5,000-foot cave complex that has been unobtrusively carved into a hillside near Sebastopol, a town just west of Santa Rosa in sprawling Sonoma County. The winery began modestly in 1992 with the release of a miniscule 150 cases of wine, divided evenly between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It grew slowly for several years, and then expanded broadly with a splash of marketing expertise seldom seen in the wine industry. This specific blend of promotion and savoir-faire was actually borrowed by the winery’s founder, Keith Rutz, from his other existing business, a successful international business centered in the fashion industry.

In the mid to late 1990’s Rutz’s fashion customers were treated to wine tastings and mini-wine introductions between screenings of fashion collections, certainly one of the most unique approaches that has been used in the kingdom of the grape. During that same period of time Rutz Cellars prospered and grew to a 25,000+ case winery. Rutz featured wines from specific microclimates around the state that were all “buzz” appellations and vineyards. The word around the wine trade was that Rutz represented one of the best attempts by a California-based winery at producing wines that were truly reasonable facsimiles of their French counterparts in Burgundy.

Since it was common knowledge that Rutz Cellars purchased all of its grapes, much of the success could be traced to the winery’s impeccable growers. Fruit from the Martinelli’s remarkable vineyards as well as grapes from the renowned Dutton Ranch provided the basis that Rutz Cellars translated into captivating wines that brought critical acclaim and won numerous medals in top competitions. Esteemed growers such as the late Warren Dutton not only provided invaluable expertise to fuel Rutz’s extensive growth, but also lent his friendship and understanding to the most difficult undertaking.

At the turn of the millennium, Rutz Cellars’ wines could be found in 38 markets throughout the United States and were available in ten markets overseas. The master plan that Keith Rutz had devised more than a decade before all seemed to be working.

In February of 2001, something happened that changed Rutz Cellars and its course in the wine world for good. First, Keith Rutz made the decision to sell his interests in the fashion industry and decided to devote 100% of his time to his wine business, a remarkable decision for someone who was extremely successful in the fashion world. The process had begun sometime in 2000 when Rutz had begun to divest himself of parts of the fashion business.

“I just felt it was the right time,” he was quoted as saying. “Besides, my heart and soul have always been closely connected to the winery.” Rutz also made a number of decisions that directly affected the winery. Rutz Cellars immediately took action to downsize its national distribution network, an action that presently limits its sales to twelve markets throughout the country. At the same time, the winery discontinued its efforts to supply the international markets with wine, preferring to concentrate on improving its quality in this country. This redirection has also brought about a change of focus for Rutz Cellars. It has changed its buying habits and now purchases its grapes exclusively from sources in Sonoma’s Russian River appellation.

“It was time for us to focus on what we do best,” Rutz explained. “And what better place for natural acidity that could highlight our wines than the super-cool slopes of the Russian River Valley.”

Judging from the quality of this month’s Gold Series Selection, we believe it was truly the correct decision.

  1. Rutz
    2009 Chardonnay
    Sonoma Cuvee


    Special Selection
    id: 751
  2. Rutz
    2008 Pinot Noir
    Sonoma Cuvee


    93 - The Tasting Panel
    id: 750

Keith Rutz -

Rutz Cellars owner Keith Rutz also acts at winemaker for his namesake winery. His Russian River Valley based Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are crafted in the style and flavor of the great Burgundies of France. Keith produces his wines in small quantities, from low-yielding world-class vineyards, and the result is an unmatched style of balance and finesse, with extraordinary flavor. His pure, traditional approach to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay yields wines that are soft, elegant, and refined.

Kieth Rutz and family

In 1978, Keith Rutz bought a ranch and home complete with apple orchards just outside Sebastopol, considered one of the coolest growing areas in the Russian River Valley. Four years later, Keith started his own fashion business that produced belts for the likes of Kenneth Cole and Anne Klein. During this period, Rutz was forced to travel continually, visiting the Orient and South America five times each every year, Europe (and France in particular) another three times a year, and finally an annual pilgrimage to New York for the beginning of the fashion season.

‘It finally became very exhausting,” Rutz explained further. ‘I led what you would call a completely hectic existence. The fashion industry is one of getting to the top and staying there. There is little respite.” During this frantic period, Rutz realized the one relatively stable aspect of his life centered on wine and his ultimate pursuit of the great California Burgundy. He finally decided to change his lifestyle and promised to devote all of his time to Rutz Cellars.

‘I had been able to combine the fashion and winery aspects of my businesses quite easily,” Rutz added, ‘whenever I traveled to Europe for a fashion event I was able to tote some wines and get people interested in my products. They found my approach quite novel and that was all right by me. When I finally realized that we were represented in twelve countries and just about every major market in the United States, I knew I had to do something about it.” By carefully downsizing his operations, Rutz has been able to devote his attention to producing a number of superior Burgundian varietals. Keith is pleased with the strides he has made in recent years and he now has time to devote to some of the essential aspects of his business.

What about the eventual size of the winery’

‘I have always believed that quality will dictate the size of any winery,” he answered. ‘What I want to do at this point is produce the very finest wine I am capable of producing. I am also a firm believer in not rushing the process, so I imagine what I envision could take quite some time.” Many wine writers and experts believe Keith Rutz has already achieved such plateaus, but something about Rutz’s personality and drive makes him continue forging ahead. Not many of us can be completely successful in one career, much less two. Keith Rutz is the notable exception to that adage.

About The Region

The Russian River Valley is a region rich in history with grape growing and winemaking playing an integral part to the story of the land and its past. Named for one of the first non-natives to settle in Sonoma County, the Russians settled along the Sonoma Coast at historic Fort Ross and found the region optimal to provide food and staples for their colonies. Agriculture, including viticulture, was a primary goal in this endeavor and the fertile soils of the Russian River Valley provided a region apt for farming.

Today in the Russian River Valley, the individual vineyards are as famous as the individual winemakers, which can be attributed to the region’s distinctive mix of cooling fog, fertile loam soils, and river bench lands. The Russian River Valley winegrowers’ passion and experience blend with this unique grape growing region to produce the unique fruit character found in Valley’s exceptional wines. Rutz Cellars sources fruit from among the most prestigious terrior of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County, including Dutton Ranch, various Martinelli sites, and Bacigalupi vineyards. Keith Rutz’s Burgundian-style cuvees, Grand Cru House blends, and single vineyard bottling reflect the world-class status of this renowned region.

Trout in White Wine Sauce with Plantain


4 trout fillets
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp coarse-grain black pepper
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp celery salt
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 tsp superfine sugar
2 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup Chardonnay
2/3 cup fish stock
2 tsp honey
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 yellow plantain
Oil, for frying


Combine the spices and the superfine sugar. Sprinkle over trout and marinate for 1 hour. Melt the butter in a frying pan and sauté the fillets for about 5 minutes, until cooked through, turning once. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Add the wine, fish stock, and honey to the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer to reduce slightly. Return the fillets to the pan and coat with the sauce. Sprinkle with the parsley and simmer gently for a few minutes. Meanwhile, peel the plantain and cut into rounds. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the plantain until golden, turning once. Transfer the fish to warmed serving plates. Stir the sauce and pour it over the fish. Garnish with the fried plantain.

Stuffed Leg of Duck with Red Wine Sauce


(Serves 2)

Sauce & Assembly
1 each duck, whole, (4 to 5 lbs), or 2 ea. duck, legs
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
1 medium tomato
1 pinch thyme
1 each bay leaf
6 each black peppercorns
14 oz Pinot Noir
1 cup duck stock or veal stock
1 lb white turnips
2 oz butter
3 oz caul fat

2 oz pork
2 oz bacon
1 oz chicken liver
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 oz butter
1 lg egg yolk
1 each truffle
2 Tbsp heavy cream - varies with the amount of fat in the pork
Salt and Pepper to taste


For the Sauce:
De-bone the duck, reserve the duck's legs for this dish and keep the remainder of the duck for another dish. Chop up the duck bones and place them in a heavy pan with heated olive oil. Add onion, carrot, and brown. Add quartered tomato, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and salt. Deglaze with red wine and duck or veal stock, then cook for approximately 1 hour. Strain sauce and reserve.

For the Stuffing:
Put all of the pork, bacon, and chicken liver through a meat grinder. In a saute; pan, heat up the butter and cook the shallot. In a bowl, mix the chopped ground meats, shallot, egg yolk, chopped truffle, cream, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Peel the turnips and shape them into small spears. Place the turnips in a small saucepan, cover with water, add butter and salt, and then bring to a boil. When liquid is almost evaporated, add 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Continue to cook until a brown glaze forms in the pan. De-glaze the pan with 1/4 cup duck sauce and reserve for garnish. De-bone the duck leg (trying to keep all of the meat in one piece) and pound the meat flat. Lay caul fat on a flat surface and cut into 5 x 5 inch squares. Place a de-boned leg on each square, salt and pepper the meat. Place some of the stuffing in the center of each leg. Close the leg over the stuffing and caul fat over the leg - shaping it all in the form of a chop. Place in a buttered pan and cook in 475 F oven for 20 - 25 minutes. Heat reserved sauce, whipping in small pieces of cold butter. Adjust the seasoning. To serve, slice the duck and place pieces in the center of a serving plate, garnish with turnips and add sauce.