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 white wine tasting IS a thing – part 1!

Recently I attended the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California. And at every conference there is a special event called “live wine tasting”! It’s a highly anticipated event! We get excited for it, we even do a pre-stretch… just to get ready! Why? Because up to 12 different wineries visit a table of 8-10 bloggers and have to pour their wine, tell us all about it and their winery. We in turn need to taste it, take notes, then do as much social media marketing LIVE as we can, before we pour the wine out and start again with the next winery. All in under 5 minutes!! Phew, it happens fast. And we are all on a mission to get great notes on each wine.

So, before I share the yummy wines I tasted and discovered, let me share a map of California so you can see exactly where Lodi is!

It’s just south of Sacramento and it has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines, but that’s not the only wine they make! For more info. on this wine region visit the website for Lodi Winegrape Commission.
Lodi wine map

map courtesy of Wine Folly

So here are my notes from the white wines I got to speed taste, the wineries were from all over (not just Lodi) – which is good, since we are there to learn about Lodi and beyond! In no particular order…

Corner 103 – Sonoma County, California

Tank fermented Sauvignon Blanc with a tropical fruit style with nice crispy acidity at the end. Just 400 cases made.

So nice – and, this was a sneak peek at this wine (you can’t find it on their website)!

Peirano Estate Vineyards – Lodi, California

Estate grown, hand harvested white wine blend of 65% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, and 10% Viognier

Soft and juicy. They tried to create something different for a blend – and they did!

and we tried a second wine from them…

Hand picked, small batch Chardonnay. It was soft and buttery with a light toasted note.

Perfect pairing is a lemon pepper chicken. yummy!


 Kenefick Ranch – Calistoga in Napa Valley, California

Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Viognier blend, Juicy, minerals, stone fruits, some zesty-ness and estate grown.

Just 300 cases made – so you’ve got to visit the winery!

Left Coast Cellars – Willamette Valley, Oregon

White wine from Pinot Noir (which means a red grape gently pressed and fermented with no skin contact)

Guess what? The family is mostly left-handed!

Estate grown – oh sooooo juicy, bright with some crispness.  oooooh and they have a sparkling version 🙂 hello!

Harney Lane Winery – Lodi, California

5th generation family winery, since 1907 in Lodi

2015 Albariño – crisp, minerals, nice acidity with a honeyed melon note. Just 700 cases made.

Oh hallelujah to old world grapes being grown in the new world. Bravo!

Oak Ridge Winery – Lodi, California

OZV Rosé is lightly pressed with 3% chardonnay.

The chardonnay offer some acidity to go with the berries the Zinfandel offers. It was fresh, crispy dry and delicious!

Oldest family operated winery in Lodi and largest Zinfandel producer in world!

And no, I didn’t mistype anything. There are many fabulous DRY Rosé wines made from Zinfandel!

Processed with MOLDIV

Lucas Vineyards – Lodi, California

In Lodi since 1978

We had the back vintage 2001 Chardonnay !

Chablis style and sooooo delightful with bright acidity.

This was a highlight for sure!

Bokisch Vineyards – Lodi, California

They focus on Spanish varietals. They were the first to plant Albariño in the area.

Terra Alta Vineyard Albariño 2015 is one of three they make!

Organic, salty and mineral notes with juicy lychee tree fruits. Heaven!

Definitely want to try more of their wines!

Troon Vineyard – Grants Pass, Southern Oregon

 Longue Carabine is a co-fermented white wine from

Vermentino 38.5%, Viognier 33%, Marsanne 27%, and Roussanne 1.5%.

Juicy acidity with soft zesty fruits and made au natural! A nice southern Rhone Valley style and one you must try!


So as you can see, many different wines from California and Oregon. So open the door of your comfort zone to discover wines outside the wine regions you usually try, because there are some amazing winemakers out there making incredible wine!