Producer Feature: Rusack Vineyards

September 14, 2021

Producer Feature: Rusack Vineyards

Hello friends of The Wine Connection! We’re back at it this week with an exciting feature of a California producer you definitely don’t want to miss. If you love California wine and you’re looking to discover a producer you might’ve never heard of, you’re in for a treat.


Rusack Vineyards was established in 1995 by the husband and wife team Geoff Rusack and Alison Wrigley Rusack. Their forty-eight acre of Ballard Canyon (an official American Viticultural Area or AVA in Santa Barbara County) property is planted with 21 acres of Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. They make over a dozen different wines each vintage from both estate fruit and from purchased fruit from properties like the iconic Bien Nacido vineyard and even Santa Catalina Island in Los Angeles County.


Rusack’s wines are crafted with care and artisanship and the proof is in the pudding. Among their recent releases are the 2018 Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County along with the 2017 Pinot Noir & 2018 Chardonnay from Santa Catalina Island. For under $30, I dare you to try to find me a more intentionally crafted California Chardonnay and Pinot noir! I think these are some of the best wines for the money in the whole store. On the flip side, while the Santa Catalina Island wines are not inexpensive by any means, $80 or under I would also challenge anyone to find me a more well-crafted Chardonnay or Pinot Noir – and my affinity is especially for the Pinot Noir.


With that said, I think these wines are each designed for a certain wine drinker who desires finesse and complexity over power. If you like tongue-punching flavors of young California Cabernets, I wouldn’t say that Rusack’s wines are for you. But if you like red and white Burgundy, minerality, complexity and layering, then Rusack’s wines are definitely some to try.


We were all especially floored by the Santa Catalina Island Pinot Noir. It’s not only one of those wines that you struggle to believe was produced in the United States, but the fact that it was made from fruit grown in Los Angeles County is practically unbelievable. The wine has softened with a touch of bottle-age as it is a 2017. Check out Matt Kettman’s review from Wine Enthusiast Magazine:


“Herby tones of eucalyptus and wild herbs meet with black-plum skin and rustic berries on the nose of this always compelling bottling from Catalina Island. That herbal complexity carries to the palate as well, where dark red-berry flavors are lifted by minty chaparral spices.”


The critic gives this stunner 93 points. If I were to give it my own score I would probably dish out a 94+ or a 95. And what is most remarkable about the wine is the finish. It goes on and on and on, much like you would expect from a proper red Burgundy. The only problem is that at this price point, red Burgundy can be extremely hit or miss. I would put this particular expression of Pinot Noir up against a Volnay or Santenay Premier Cru any day.


Rusack’s Santa Barbara County wines are not available for online purchase, so you’ll have to drop by the store or call for more information. They are limited and we would like to reserve access to our loyal customers. Santa Catalina Island wines you will find on both the storefront’s shelves and on our website. We look forward to seeing you soon, and we can’t wait to share these wines with you.