On his many trips to Burgundy, proprietor Keith Rutz spent time in a lot of the region's wine caves. He was impressed not only by the look of the caves, but by their functionality as well. A cave provides the optimum environment for small lots of hand-crafted wines. The temperature is constant, providing stability for the aging wines. The high humidity prevents evaporation from the barrels, meaning there is less need to "top off" each barrel over time. This reduces aeration of the wine, and preserves the homogenous characteristics of each barrel.
After learning all of these advantages to a cave environment, Keith knew that the first thing he needed to do - before even a single grape was crushed - was create the same environment in Sonoma.
Construction began in 1991 on what would eventually become the Rutz Cellars cave. The final layout comprised more than 5000 square feet of interior space, extending 300 feet deep into the hillside.
Although the look of the cave was important, the real goal was to create a production environment that focused on winemaking. Water, power, barrel capacity, drainage - these things were all taken into account before the focus turned to topics like the color of the tile, and how many display alcoves to include. As a result, more than 600 barrels of wine can be aged in the cave at one time. They can be tasted, tested, or topped off, without moving the barrels or disturbing the wine as it ages.
Aesthetics weren't neglected though. Keith felt that the cave could serve both as a working winery, and as a showcase worthy of the premium wines he was creating. The idea was to demonstrate visually what he thought Rutz Cellars wines expressed to other senses: a melding of the old-world feel of Burgundy with the contemporary air of California wine country.