Michael Cruse was born and raised in Northern California and prides himself on producing wines that are unabashedly Californian and inherently delicious. Michael came to the wine business through his love of science. His moment of enlightenment was attending a lecture at Cal Berkeley by none other than Terry Leighton of Kalin Cellars! Michael was able to envision a path where his deep knowledge and appreciation for science could take him into the world of wine. This path led Michael to several positions in order to really learn the basics, including stints in the cellars of Sutter Home winery before to eventually moving on to Merryvale in Carneros where he would work his way up to becoming the assistant winemaker. After several years of working for others, Michael felt the pull to strike out on his own and to create wines that reflected his vision and admiration for California. Michael set forth with a few partners to set up shop in an industrial warehouse in Petaluma where he built a custom crush facility and launched his Champagne inspired sparkling wine project, Ultramarine, in 2008. Michael followed-up Ultramarine with the creation of Cruse Wine Co. in 2013. Cruse Wine Co. was an opportunity for Michael to showcase fruit driven and satisfying wines that were fresh and pleasurable, but still remained serious at the same time. Again, being unabashedly Californian. The roots of the North Coast run deep with Michael, so he chose to focus on sites within Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Contra Costa Counties to create these special wines. The one thing he didn’t want to do was to create another Pinot Noir or Cabernet, instead he found inspiration in varieties such as Valdiguie, Tannant, Carignan and St Laurent. The flagship wine of Cruse Wine Co. is the red blend Monkey Jacket (the name inspired by an old, British sailor song). This wine is the epitome of what Cruse Wine Co. is meant to be, as it’s a blend of Validiguie, Carignan, Tanant, St Laurent and mixed field blend reds and provides incredible drinkability with brightness and ample structure. In addition to Monkey Jacket, Michael also makes small lots of single vineyard varietal wines from Valdiguie, Tannant, Syrah, Carignan and Chardonnay. Michael also wanted to bring a sparkling component to Cruse Wine Co. that didn’t compete with his Ultramarine project. Michael is a believer that sparkling and petillant natural wines are the true lens into the vineyard and its place. The Cruse Tradition Sparkling wine is made in the same traditional ways as Ultramarine, but sourced from interesting sites that don’t necessarily match the coastal vineyards of Ultramarine. The petillant natural wines are a beautiful departure from what many associate, or expect, from this style of wine. Crafted from single vineyard plantings of Valdiguie and St Laurent, the pet-nat’s are produced from grape juice only with nothing else added. They have a higher carbonation than most, typically around 6 bars of pressure, and with 6 grams or below of residual sugar. Finished alcohols are in the 11.0-11.5 range. The wines are also disgorged, so they are bright, clean and show great purity.
At a Glance
- Michael Cruse came to wine through his interest in Science, and was mostly inspired by a lecture he heard from (Professor) Terry Leighton, also of Kalin Cellars
- He started his first project, a sparkling wine called Ultramarine, in 2008 (which has since achieved near “cult” status)
- He launched Cruse Wine Co in 2013 focusing on “unabashadly Californian” wines that were also fresh and pleasureable, but serious at the same time
- Rather than follow the masses with conventional varietals (e.g. Cab + Pinot), he prefers to use such off-beat varietals as Valdiguie, Tannat, Carignane and St Laurent
- He makes a range of single-vineyard still wines from these varietals, as well as a several Sparkling Wines that are fresh, vibrant and racy