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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


row upon row


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.


Grapes almost ready to pick


Farm Hands


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).


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.

Amore for Amador

Well as you know, I do love wine. I love learning about the winemakers, the production of it, and I love tasting and exploring different styles and grapes from around the world. So when there is an opportunity to explore a wine region that I am unfamiliar with, I always say YES!

This past August I had the chance to do just that by attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California. I not only explored Lodi, but I took part in the “pre-excursion” tour to Amador County (south-east of Sacramento). What a gem of a region!  A wonderfully historic and beautiful area, offering boutique wineries producing amazing wine by some genuine lovely people!

So, here are some of the wineries I got to discover in Amador County and the wines I tasted:

Cooper Winery


Family Photo from World War II


Grown in the area: Persimmon, walnuts, olives, black beauty apples, pomegranate.

This is the best area for Barbera (they tell me), it does well in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada – much like the alps in Piedmont. There is no marine influence and no fog but here there is hot weather with a diurnal temperature swing (meaning hot days with cool nights) which Barbera likes. Watch for Primitivo and Sangiovese as the up and coming grapes in this area. Loved these wines!

Vino Noceto


Rusty the winemaker (seen above) loves working with Italian varieties. Their Sangiovese was rustic and delicious, definitely worth trying vs. a Sangiovese from Italy. Home run!

Scott Harvey Wines


Winemaker Scott Harvey works with Zinfandel and Barbera, but would love to start working with Tempranillo! I can’t wait to check this out when they start producing it! Until then, their wines are dee-licious.

Serafina Cellars


Paul the winemaker

They only made 600 cases of their Barbera. Which by the way was yummy, and with such a small amount produced means you need to make your way to their winery!

Bella Grace Vineyards

image-6Michael Havill from Bella Grace is the winemaker with her husband Charlie



A winemaker for 12 years, we all fell in love with Michael! She’s not just lovely but she makes a killer Vermentino! She is creative and her wines show it! I’ll be watching this family winery.

Andis Wines


Their aim? To have personality in the wines they produce. So head to the winery, because it’s gorgeous and you can try their bold reds (like the Zinfandel I had in this picture) and fun whites.

Distant Cellars


A family winery where 30% of the proceeds go towards the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Much respect for what they have created!

Renwood Winery


Joe the winemaker shared the dirt on his vineyards and his wines. He makes some fantastic Barbera (no surprise as it does well in this region) along with Tempranillo to Zinfandel. Along with one of my favourite finds of the trip: Jubilance, a sparkling Rosé made from 100% Zinfandel. Delicious!

As I have a love for Rosé wines, I gathered my wine friends at the conference to do a spontaneous video review of the Jubilance:


I hope you enjoyed my short tour of Amador County Wineries & their wines. A definite MUST for your bucket list of wine regions to explore.