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.

Live red wine tasting – part 2!

If you missed part 1 of my recap of “Live wine tasting” at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California – get caught up: click here.

Let’s dive right in! Again, up to 12 wineries make their way around a room full of a 300+ wine bloggers. In under 5 minutes – they talk and pour and we taste and tweet!

Here are the wines I tasted and discovered in no particular order…


Processed with MOLDIV

Oak Ridge Winery – Lodi, California

Moss Roxx Ancient Vine Reserve Zinfandel – from 105 year old vines, 85% Zinfandel with just a touch of Merlot.

Wow. It was big, bold and beautiful.

as they say “expression of Lodi’s signature terroir”

Ehlers Estate Winery – Napa Valley, California

Bordeaux Blend is their flagship wine with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Organic and bio-dynamic winery, tannins were nicely balanced on this big, rich, slightly spiced wine.

Troon Vineyard –  Grants Pass, Southern Oregon

Newly released 2014 Malbec from the Rogue Valley. Not your Argentinian or Cahors, France style at all! Very floral with lots of acidity to balance the black fruits. Just 200 cases made. They also practice natural winemaking with minimal impact.


The Federalist Winery – Lodi, California

This 2014 Zinfandel is a salute to the first president of the USA George Washington. Dense, smooth and dry with a baking spice and dried cherries and blueberries. Cozy up and enjoy this one!

Windrun Wines – Santa Barbara County, California

From the Santa Rita hills this 2014 Pinot Noir was oaked with dirty tannins and big at 14.3% alc. and could stand to be cellared for a while yet! Think blackberry with some smoke and earthy minerality. Really nice!

Corner 103 – Sonoma County, California

2012 Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley

Smooth with balanced acidity, dried stewed fruits like cherries with a hint of chocolate. Quite lovely.


Prie Winery – Lodi, California

2012 Reserve Zinfandel from 100 yr old vines and a single vineyard

Balanced, smooth, notes of sherried cherries. 900 cases made.

This was a WOW wine. This is what Lodi is recognized for!

Trine Vineyards & Winery  – Sonoma County, California

2012 Henry’s Blend – a Bordeaux blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. Notes of green pepper, black liquorice, lingering cigar and cedar with dusty tannins. I love, love, love the note of cigar (sweet or bold) in a wine.

Peirano Estate Winery – Lodi, California

2013 “The Immortal Zin” Old Vine Zinfandel – notes of red fruits, currant jam, spring leaves and earthy undertones.

Soooooo smooth. Hand picked from 100-year-old vines.

I’ll admit, after tasting so many BIG red wines, all you crave is a cold beer! But, it was so wonderful to taste ancient vine Zinfandel to smokey Pinot, Bordeaux blends and a Malbec! Where ever you are in the world, I hope you see some of these wines at your favourite wine store, if not, it’s time to start planning your next wine trip! For more info. about the Lodi Wine Region: click here