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Van Ruiten Family Winery - Lodi Appellation


Three Generations of Van Ruitens Create a Winning Combination

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 (correctly 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, “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 became fascinated with another California agricultural phenomena, 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 ware on John Van Ruiten. In 1965, the first Zinfandel vines were planted on original rootstock on some of Van Ruiten’s open land that wasn’t being utilized. Before long, a number of local wineries and also “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.

“It seemed the natural thing to do,” related John Van Ruiten, today a sprightly 82 and still active in the everyday business of his winery. “All around us people were planting grapes and beginning to make a lot of money doing it. I thought I saw an almost unlimited potential and thought I should take advantage of the situation. With the time and effort required of the dairy business, growing grapes seemed like a incredibly uplifting business to me.” For the next thirty years, John Van Ruiten’s grapes were considered among the finest grapes in the Central Valley. The Van Ruiten produce was sold to an increasing number of smaller, more boutique-styled wineries. When the wines that were produced from these grapes began to take serious medals in upscale competitions, the Van Ruiten Family began to take notice.

“When our grape prices began to exceed $1,000 a ton and the demand kept increasing, I felt I had the chance to develop another revenue source,” Van Ruiten explained. It was either 1995 or 1996, and the wine business was exploding everywhere in California. I talked it over with my family and everyone decided it was time to take some of the profits we had made from growing grapes and put them into a winery.” 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 and 8 thousand 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 fledgling winery that has already begun 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 Wine Club selections with you.




Orange Ginger Braised Lamb Shanks


Ingredients

The sweetness of orange and spicy bite of ginger cut the tannins of the Cab-Shiraz and let the fruit dominate.
1/4 cup olive oil
4 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dusting
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 cups orange juice
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup canned beef broth
2 bay leaves
Grated orange zest, for garnish
Chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the oil in a large, heavy ovenproof Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Dust with flour, shaking off the excess. Add the shanks to the pot and brown them well on all sides. Transfer the lamb to a platter. Add the onion to the pot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add the chicken broth, beef broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Return the lamb to the pot. Cover tightly and place in the oven. Bake until the lamb is very tender and falling off the bone, about 2 hours, turning occasionally. Transfer the lamb to a platter. Strain the pan juices into a medium saucepan. Let sit until the fat separates from the juices. Skim the fat off the surface and discard. Simmer the pan juices until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the juices over the lamb. Garnish with orange zest and parsley. Serves 4. Enjoy with a glass of 2000 Cab Shiraz.



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