LEAVENWORTH — Call him a renaissance man if you will, but Ed Rutledge will tell you he’s just a guy of many interests.
His latest interest has been making and selling wine at Eagle Creek Winery. Over the past 10 years, he planted a vineyard and built the winery, tasting room and guest house around his own home — that he also built — on Eagle Creek Road. He and wife Pat moved to the area from New York in 1991.
He recently remodeled a Leavenworth storefront for a new downtown tasting room, d’Vinery, at 617 Front St. The intricate designs carved into the bar are his doing, as well as the carvings, murals and other artworks at the home winery and guest house. The winery annually produces about 1,000 cases of red and white wine varieties, all of which are sold at the two tasting rooms and through a wine club.
“This is my third life. I never thought of starting winery. It was just a hobby,” said Rutledge, a veteran Leavenworth volunteer who has held nearly every post in town. He’s president of the Autumn Leaf Association this year. At age 70, he’s a fit, energetic man who moves and talks with confidence and authority. Not surprising since his first career was as a military officer. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1982 with the rank of lieutenant colonel and deputy director for plans and training at Fort Lewis. A second career took him to Detroit and Manhattan as director of book sales for the Hearst Co.
“They were looking for someone who could take charge,” he said. It was in Manhattan that he met Pat. She was executive editor of several magazines at the time. They both led very busy lives with lots of nationwide travel.
“We married, but we never had time for ourselves because of our busy jobs,” he said. “We decided to run away.”
Rutledge had great memories of Leavenworth, where he would visit often to rock climb when he was stationed with the Army at Fort Lewis. He brought Pat out to see the town, and they ended up buying four acres on Eagle Creek, about four miles north of town.
“We planned to return to our jobs and retire here in a few years. Instead, we quit and came back in two months. We’ve never regretted it,” he said.
Pat’s dream was to own a bookstore. She opened A Book for All Seasons in downtown Leavenworth that same year, 1991. Ed went to work building their home. His father was a carpenter and Ed grew up working with wood.
When the house was completed, Rutledge began looking for a hobby to fill his time. He started meeting with a local group of friends interested in home winemaking in 1997. He took classes in wine chemistry. It wasn’t long before several of the group were thinking about starting wineries, among the first in North Central Washington. Warren Moyles started La Toscana Winery in 2000.
Others were soon to follow. Rutledge opened Eagle Creek, Charlie McKee started Wedge Mountain, Rob Newsom started Boudreaux Cellars, Louie Wagner opened Icicle Ridge Winery.
“Most of us didn’t get into the business to make money,” Rutledge said. “But it was necessary for all the wineries to be here or else there wouldn’t be a destination. We all complement each other.”
He planted the first of 1,000 vines next to their house in 2001, the same year he was bonded to sell wine made from purchased grapes.
He still purchases grapes from the state’s best growing areas to blend in with his own.
Rutledge expanded his modest wine production area. He dug a wine cellar and painted it with murals and carvings to give it old-world charm. He built a tasting room with an indoor waterfall and a deck where wine events are held. The guest house is busy throughout the year with tourists who want a cozy wine getaway.
To Rutledge’s way of thinking, there’s no better place to get away to.
“Whenever we travel now, we always come home thinking we live in the most beautiful place on earth,” he said.
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151