A family winery with Dutch roots


I apologize for this long overdue blog post! Where did September and October go?! I have many I am working on, so I’ll get those posted soon.

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This post is a throwback to my time in Lodi, California  in August for the Wine Bloggers Conference.

Every year the wine blogger conference surprises us with a “secret” excursion. Usually we hop on a bus and cross our fingers we picked the “right” one. And each year we feel like we did pick that “lucky” bus and end up having an unforgettable experience.

So, this year we (wine friends from Vancouver) picked an excursion called “Dutch Crush”, because that was the only bus with space available for all of us. Fingers crossed! We met our tour leader outside the conference centre and headed to the van for our transfer. However, there wasn’t enough room! ha! So the owner of the winery (Bill) drove us in his truck out to the winery.

Our lucky just kicked in. 🙂

Welcome to Van Ruiten Family Winery

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photo of Sujinder, Leeann, Donita, Christine, Bill & Angie Van Ruiten

Enroute we learned the owner and his wife (Bill & Angie) have a family connection to our province of BC. Their cousin

had been our Premier once upon a time, so they already had a special place in their heart for Canadians.

This business all began when John Van Ruiten Sr. returned from WWII, and began this as a dairy farm. But he switched it to a vineyard in the 1970’s. And they became one of the first local vineyards to stop selling their grapes and start doing their own wine production in the 1990’s. Today the winery is run by the family and their love for what their father created as a Dutch immigrant is felt through the stories they share and the wines they create.

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Upon our arrival they treated us with delicious snacks and a tasting of their wine to welcome us.

The wines they produce are: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vine Zinfandel, Ancient Vine Carignane,

Cab-Shiraz, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay & Pinot Grigio.

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A rosé made from Zinfandel grapes

After the welcome reception they took us on a tour of their winery,

before we embarked on the coolest adventure.

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Our transportation!

They allowed a few of us at a time to ride on this machine harvester and de-stemmer,

while it went row by row gathering ripe grapes and de-stemming them,

before they were transferred to large bins.

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row upon row

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Sujinder stands beside the grape sorter (a human) as the grapes are collected

As writers and wine lovers, we aren’t interested in just the taste of wine, we crave the story behind the wine, the technical aspects, the people, the vineyard, the climate…everything really.

And being able to experience the harvester at work and the logistics involved was fantastic. Certainly a new appreciation for the farm work involved with large vineyards.

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Grapes almost ready to pick

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Farm Hands

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We were returned to the winery and treated to a beautiful dinner outside under the patio lights,

while a local guitarist filled the warm air with his music.

It was the most beautiful ambiance, to suit well crafted wines by winemaker John Giannini

(a former instructor at Fresno University).

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Old Vine Zinfandel from 50-year-old vines

Again, the finger crossing worked. We had an amazing experience with the Van Ruiten family.

Not to be forgotten anytime soon.

If you want to learn more about the winery and their beautiful wines and where they are located for your next Lodi wine tour,

check out their website: Van Ruiten Family Winery.

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