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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Van Ruiten Family Vineyards - Lodi, California

Fifty years of setting the standard for exceptional Lodi grown fruit.

While a large number of California wineries can trace their existence to their ancestor’s immigration to this country at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Lodi-based Van Ruiten Family Winery is a more recent story.

The Van Ruiten (pronounced van root-en) saga actually took place immediately following the Second World War. Family patriarch John Van Ruiten was a native of tiny Spaarnwoude in Holland where he labored in his family’s dairy business. Wartime Holland was a most difficult environment and John Van Ruiten survived due to his business acumen and ability to provide certain needed services (including moonshine) whenever the occasion arose. When the father of his future wife (Ann) returned from the United States after the war, John listened to the tales of potential prosperity and decided to make the move.

In 1948, John landed in the Central Valley crossroads of Lodi and began operating a business he knew well—a full service dairy.

“When I came to Lodi,” recalled John Van Ruiten, Sr.,“I simply fell in love with the place. I appreciated the climate, the soils and most importantly, the wonderful reception of the people here.” With the help of loans from the local bank, John’s business flourished. He soon opened several convenience-style drive-through dairy stops where milk and juices were the main items of fare. In the meantime, Ann’s family had also immigrated to California and the two were soon married.

A decade later, John Van Ruiten, Sr. became fascinated with another California agricultural phenomenon, the seemingly prestigious grape growing business. Local farmers were reporting increasing demand for their high quality grapes and the rigors of a full service dairy farm were beginning to wear on John Van Ruiten. John made a sharp-eyed purchase of an Old Zinfandel Vineyard, and with a large amount of suit equity, he planted additional Zinfandel vines and began growing grapes in the Lodi Appellation. Before long, a number of local wineries and “over the hill” wineries (those located in the Central Coast and Napa/Sonoma) were also beginning to seek some of the prized Van Ruiten grapes for their varied production.

After spending several years deciding on just the right combination of factors, ground was broken on a two-acre tract for a new state-of-the-art winery. The first Van Ruiten Family Winery release came in 1999 as a product of some of Van Ruiten’s top fruit that was custom crushed at another winery. The initial release of between 7,000 and 8,000 cases has been increased to the company’s present level of around 20,000 cases, or about forty per cent of the winery’s capacity. John Van Ruiten can take great pride in the accomplishment of his young winery that is collecting accolades of its own in major wine competitions. Throughout it all, Van Ruiten has remained steadfast in his work ethic that he brought with him from his native Holland.

His business acumen and his persistent work habits have rubbed off on his entire family and, equally importantly, his wonderful family of wines.

It is a great pleasure for us to be able to share the Van Ruiten Family Winery Gold Series selections with you this month.

  1. Van Ruiten
    2009 Zinfandel
    Van Ruiten
    Central Valley


    91 - Beverage Testing Insti
    id: 973
  2. Van Ruiten Family
    2008 Chardonnay
    Van Ruiten Family
    Double Barrel Reserve
    Central Valley


    Special Selection
    id: 974
  3. Van Ruiten Family
    2008 Pinot Noir
    Van Ruiten Family
    Steamboat Vineyard
    Central Valley


    Multiple Medals
    id: 972

Winemaker Ryan Leeman

Ryan joined the Van Ruiten Family Winery in 2003, after gaining experience at Paumanok Vineyards on Long Island, New York. Here, Ryan successfully created a number of wines that were recognized by Robert Parker and Anthony Dias Blue. At Van Ruiten, Ryan has the opportunity to work with top quality wine grape growers and continues to produce super premium wines for the family winery. In Ryan’s words, ‘The Van Ruiten Family possesses all the elements to make us one of California’s most recognized producers — top quality estate vineyards, a state of the art winery, and an experienced team to help us realize this goal.”

The Van Ruiten Family

Three generations of the Van Ruiten family work together tending the vineyards, managing the winery, and bringing the finest wines to market. Sharing this month’s spotlight are Van Ruiten brothers Jim and John Jr., who co-manage the Van Ruiten Family’s extensive grape growing business.

‘My brother and I have a great relationship,” offered Jim Van Ruiten. ‘I feel we utilize each other’s strengths nicely. John Jr. is meticulous in his approach to growing and it shows each up each vintage year when our wines get even better with each new bottling.”

But Van Ruiten admits that this propensity for the wine business didn’t come easily to the close-knit pair.

‘When we were younger,” he added, ‘all we knew about was the dairy business. We would get up early before school and do our chores and then would continue them when we got home from school. This went on seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. When Dad started talking about the grape business, we were very supportive even though we were still both very young. We both knew it had to be easier than the dairy business, anything we did would have been easier than tending cows all the time.”

Jim Van Ruiten feels that his family’s entry into the winery business was the smartest move the family could make. He also feels that the Van Ruiten Family Winery’s greatest days are still ahead.

‘It is important to remember that we are still first and foremost grape growers,” he explained. ‘Growing quality grapes is what gave us the opportunity to expand and build the winery. When we noted the incredible success other wineries were having utilizing our grapes we just felt we should take the chance and see what we could do on our own. Dad taught us that everything important was ‘in the dirt’ and when our fruit comes in each year it brings a smile to practically everyone’s face. That’s when we know that everything is going well.”

Van Ruiten also feels that Lodi’s central location between the Bay Area and California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains on Highway 12 is a boon to the exposure and practicability that any delta winery needs to succeed. The winery’s impressive tasting room does a remarkable business and keeps many members of the family engaged in the operation.

With plans to increase the Van Ruiten Family Winery’s production to around the fifty thousand case level in the near future, such exposure and financial security are important ingredients.

Both Jim and John Jr. are also excited about their own family’s participation in the eventual growth of the family’s business. John and Anne’s children; Coby, Mary, Angie, James, John Jr., Theresa, Jackie and now the extended Van Ruiten family, believe that hard work and an uncompromising commitment to excellence is the cornerstone of success today and for the generations to come.

‘We are an incredibly close family,” Jim Van Ruiten concluded, ‘and we all like it that way. For some reason, we seem to accomplish more when everyone gets along. It’s been that way since our Dad first came to California. I guess some of his work habits rubbed off on us.”

Such humbleness is also a part of the Van Ruiten tradition that seems destined for additional plaudits and accolades. It is also quite refreshing to imagine that it exists within the confines of the often-spirited competition of the modern California wine industry.

About The Region

Lodi wine country traces its roots back to the mid 1800’s, and today is most widely known for its distinctive and legendary Old Vine Zinfandel. The region became an official AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 1986, and since has become a rapidly expanding location for growing and producing premium wines.

The Van Ruiten Family has been growing grapes in the Lodi area for more than 50 years, and John Van Ruiten, Sr.’s first acres of Zinfandel still remain as part of the estate today. These Zinfandel vines are among the oldest, most historic and shyest bearing vines. After five decades, the family farms an estimated 1,000 acres of wine grapes, with only their best fruit destined to carry the Van Ruiten Family name.

Jackie Van Ruiten’s Beef Stroganoff


This family recipe is a simple dish that is a crowd pleaser. It’s easy enough to make on any weeknight, and can be dressed up when serving friends and family on the weekend. Enjoy!

1 lb. Sirloin steak, sliced in ½ inch strips
16 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup beef broth
8 ounces sour cream
2 Tbs. flour
1 bottle Van Ruiten Pinot Noir
Parsley to garnish


Saute onions and mushrooms in 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. olive oil until tender. When tender, remove from pan and reserve for later.

Season meat with salt and pepper. In the same pan, sauté beef until browned on all sides. When browned, add sautéed onions and mushrooms, along with 1 cup beef broth and about a half of a bottle of Van Ruiten Pinot Noir (the rest is for the chef!). Simmer on low, covered, for 45 minutes until tender and the juices are reduced.

Meanwhile, mix 2 Tbs. flour into 8 oz. of sour cream. Once the meat is tender and the juices are reduced, add the sour cream mixture and heat through. Serve over bowtie pasta or egg noodles, with French bread, and garnish with parsley. Don’t forget to pair with a glass of Van Ruiten Pinot Noir.

Coby Van Ruiten’s Zinfandel Beef Stew


3-4 lbs. boneless beef stew meat cut into 1 ½ to 2 inch cubes
Cooking oil
24 pearl onions (braised)
2/3 cup sliced carrots
12 halved small red potatoes
3 cups quartered sautéed mushrooms
5 to 6 cups Zinfandel (or 1 btl of wine + beef broth)
3 large unpeeled cloves of garlic, smashed
2 cups canned, chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbs. flour
2 Tbs. softened butter


Browning the meat: Dry the meat thoroughly. Add a ¼ inch of oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven and set over high heat. When hot, brown as many pieces of the meat as will fit in one layer without crowding. Turn frequently to brown on all sides (about 3-5 minutes); remove and set aside until all meat is browned.

Pour a cup of the wine/broth into the Dutch oven, swishing and scraping up any coagulated juices. Add the meat, garlic, and four more cups of the wine/broth into the casserole; fold in the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. You should have enough liquid to almost cover the beef; add more if needed.

Stew the beef for 2 hours at 325 degrees. After 2 hours, add the vegetables and continue to cook until tender. Cook at a slow simmer, either on top of the stove or in the oven, stirring occasionally. To finish and thicken the stew, stir in butter-flour (buerre-manie sauce) paste to desired consistency. Serve and enjoy with a bottle of Van Ruiten Zinfandel!