Cheers to the Magnolia State
At Krutz Family Cellars, three Mississippi brothers are making a name for themselves and their wine.
Written and Photographed by Julie Tremaine | Illustrated by Sarah McCullen
You can take the boys out of Mississippi — and you can drop them at a winery in Sonoma County, California — but you can never take the Mississippi out of the boys.
“The back of our bottle says ‘Laid Back, Honest and True,’” said Patrick Krutz, founder of Krutz Family Cellars. “That’s who we are, being from the South, being from Mississippi. We like to have fun with wine. We make serious wines that garner serious scores, but we’re also very relaxed and down-to-earth about it.”
The three Krutz brothers had followed in their father’s footsteps and attended the University of Mississippi.
“We were brainwashed from an early age,” youngest brother Cole said.
It was older brother Patrick who led the way from Ole Miss to the family wine business. The winery is located in Santa Rosa, right in the middle of California’s best wine producing region, and started by a happy accident when Patrick took a summer job at a gourmet shop in Carmel, California, after college.
There, Patrick met some home winemakers who worked at the store, and had a hobby that produced some pretty delicious results. He was intrigued, and decided to stay for the harvest season. The next year, 2003, he tried his hand at making his own homemade wine: one barrel of Chardonnay, and one of Pinot Noir.
“I made about 50 cases of wine,” Patrick said. “That was the seed of Krutz Family Cellars. Two barrels grew to five, and to 12. Before I knew it, in 2006 or 2007, I had more wine than my family could consume.”
He officially had a business. He also had more work than he could handle. Enter Cole, who graduated from college and moved to California in 2007 to help with the winemaking.
“I needed a cellar rat,” Patrick said.
What he got was a mentee who became a fellow winemaker. They launched a second, more affordable label: Magnolia, in homage to their home state’s official flower. The sales grew — middle brother Bryan joined the business to help with that — as did the recognition from the wine community.
“We’ve found our voice in winemaking,” Cole said. “When we tried to please other people, we weren’t getting the scores. When we decided to do what we like, then we started getting the scores.”
The scores that Cole is referring to are from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and from wine critic Jeb Dunnuck, who have both given many Krutz wines exceptionally high scores, especially their Cabernet Sauvignons, which score anywhere from 92-96 points. If you don’t speak wine snob, those are very good scores that would be a big deal even if you excluded the fact that Patrick and Cole are making some of the top wines in the country without any formal wine training. One of those Cabernets even made it to the cover of Wine Enthusiast as one of the year’s best 100 wines from around the entire globe.
Now the brothers are sourcing the grapes for their Krutz Family Cellars Cabernets from some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious and sought-after vineyards. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes for their Krutz Family Cellars wines come from Santa Lucia Highlands. Magnolia grapes are sourced from different places each year, depending on which vineyards have quality fruit to offer. The 2018 Magnolia Cabernet is made of grapes from Alexander Valley, an area of Sonoma County that produces world-class reds.
“When you get the owner of the vineyard wanting to buy wine from you,” Patrick said, “you know you’re doing something right.”
For the Krutz brothers, it’s an extra bonus to be achieving success alongside family.
“Being in business with family is not for everyone, but we have the mentality to not only make it work but also make it something we really enjoy,” Bryan said. “When it comes to decision making, we treat it like a professional business decision and look past the fact that we are brothers.”
Bryan lives and works in Florida, which helps Krutz Family Cellars with their East Coast reach. It also ensures that plenty of the wine gets back home to Mississippi.
The Krutz Family Cellars story is not a rags-to-riches story by any means. The brothers are still working on purchasing land to grow their own grapes. But it is a lesson in seeing possibilities. Wine can turn one summer job into a lifelong career. It create a family business where there wasn’t one before. And maybe, just maybe, it can settle some time-honored rivalries.
“We just hosted a crowd from Mississippi State here, and we were in our Ole Miss gear,” Patrick said. “We had a blast.”
If you’re planning a trip to California and would like to schedule a tasting, or for more about the Krutz story, products and awards, visit krutzfamilycellars.com.