Russian River Valley AVA
A boutique winery in the heart of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, celebrates nearly 30 years of crafting classically-styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Rütz Cellars was started in 1992 by Keith Rütz, whose passion for Burgundy inspired him to make California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the tradition of his favorite Burgundian wines. From the beginning, his goal was - and still is - to make the finest small-batch wines possible that would stand up to those made by the top French producers. Over the last 28 years, Keith Rütz has built Rütz Cellars into a notable, award-winning Russian River Valley winery.
Keith’s interest in wine dates back to his college days at the University of California Berkeley, where he was actually in the fashion industry and became the proprietor of two trendy clothing boutiques located near the Berkeley campus. His entrepreneurial duties regularly took him to both London and Paris where he frequented the type of restaurants and shops that featured France’s outstanding wines. It didn’t take long for the youthful businessman to develop his great love of Burgundy and become totally immersed in wine.
Keith spent several years working in the fashion industry, at one point working for the clothing manufacturer Esprit in San Francisco and later starting his own fashion business that produced belts for the likes of Kenneth Cole and Anne Klein. He traveled extensively around the world until it finally became very exhausting and it was time to make a change. It was during this frantic period that Keith 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 devote all of his time to developing Rütz Cellars.
Keith also has ancestral roots in the wine industry, dating back six generations from his great, great grandfather Fernand Lebegue who grew up in Aigne, in France’s Languedoc region. Fernand worked as a cooper fashioning oak barrels from the Vosges, Nevers, Allier, and Troncais, which have become the standard bearers of oak in the fine wine business today. Now, with the start of Rütz Cellars, his family’s tradition had come full circle.
At Rütz Cellars, Keith crafts classically-styled wines from the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes available in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California. In 2018, he expanded his brand to also include Domaine Rütz, a high-end label that includes a pair of Cabernet Sauvignons from Sonoma’s Chalk Hill appellation and another from Napa Valley’s Rutherford appellation. Keith is also now joined by his daughter, Melissa, making this a true family winery.
What about the label?
Keith Rütz selected a very distinctive ‘caveman’ image for the heart of his wine labels. “To me, the painting shows the human spirit escaping its bounds and suggests continuity between science and art,” Keith explained. “I would like to think it captures the essence of what winemaking is all about - freeing oneself from earthly confines and at the same time, learning to work with nature.”
We are happy to share Rütz Cellars with our Gold Wine Club members and hope you enjoy two of their fabulous wines. Cheers!
About the Vineyard
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 the Valley’s exceptional wines.
Rütz Cellars sources fruit from among the most prestigious terroir of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County, including Dutton Ranch, various Martinelli sites, and Bacigalupi vineyards. Keith Rütz’s Burgundian-style cuvées, Grand Cru House blends, and single vineyard bottlings reflect the world-class status of this renowned region.
The Art of Fine Wine
"Russian River Valley" was painted by Sonoma artist Lorraine Fitzpatrick. She finds inspiration in the region’s vineyards, coastline, valleys and hills, oak and redwood trees.
"Vineyard Rhythms" was painted by award- winning watercolor artist Robin Purcell. Robin enjoys interpreting the California Landscape and finds much of her inspiration in the wine country of Sonoma County.
Keith Rütz - Owner & Winemaker
Rütz Cellars owner Keith Rütz 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. It is his guarantee that from harvest to bottling, Rütz Cellars wines are subjected to minimal handling and maximum care, which underscores his commitment to making the finest wines possible.
More about Kieth Rutz and his Family
In 1978, Keith Rütz 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, Rütz 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,” Rütz 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, Rütz 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 Rütz Cellars.
"I had been able to combine the fashion and winery aspects of my businesses quite easily,” Rütz 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, Rütz 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 Rütz has already achieved such plateaus, but something about Rütz's personality and drive makes him continue forging ahead. Not many of us can be completely successful in one career, much less two. Keith Rütz is the notable exception to that adage.