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Van Rutien Family Winery - Lodi California


A winning team spanning over Fifty years and Three Generations

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, 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 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. John made a sharp-eyed purchase of an Old Zinfandel Vineyard. 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 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, Sr., today a sprightly 84 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, 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 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 Wine Club selections with you.


  1. Van Ruiten
    2004 Zinfandel
    Van Ruiten
    Old Vine Estate
    Central Valley

    $17.00

    $20.00
    id: 103
    Special
    Gold
  2. VanRuiten
    2002 Syrah
    VanRuiten
    Estate
    Central Valley

    $17.00

    $19.00
    id: 102
    Special
    Gold
  3. Van Ruiten
    2006 Pinot Gris
    Van Ruiten
    Estate
    Central Valley

    $14.00

    $14.00
    id: 104
    Special
    Gold
  4. Van Ruiten
    2002 Syrah
    Van Ruiten
    Estate
    Central Valley

    $14.00

    $24.00
    Multiple Medals
    id: 424
    Special
    Gold

The Van Ruiten Family

The fact that Van Ruiten brothers Jim, 48, and John Jr., 47, share this month’s spotlight status comes as no big deal to the pair. In fact, the two would prefer that such matters would always be handled in such a manner.

‘For us,” offered Jim Van Ruiten in a recent interview, ‘it’s all about family and the way we approach this business. John Jr. and I each have different areas of responsibility, but we see to it that we each compliment the other as much as possible. In fact, that’s the way it is with our entire family.”

Jim and John Jr. co-manage the Van Ruiten Family’s extensive grape growing business.
‘My brother and I have a great relationship,” Van Ruiten went on. ‘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 that 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 sometime around 2010, 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 their 16 grandchildren and 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.

We are betting that people like Jim and John Van Ruiten Jr., and their families are around for a long, long time. After all, their wines speak for themselves.


Van Ruiten Lamb Ragout


Ingredients

2 Red Bell Peppers
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Pound ground Lamb
1/2 Cup Zinfandel
1 Can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with juices
1 Teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon ground Allspice
12 ounces Penne Pasta
1/4 cup Mint leaf, fresh chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste


Instructions

Roast the peppers over a gas flame or under a broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed and de-rib the peppers. Transfer to a food processor and puree.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir 2 minutes. Add the lamb and cook until no pink remains, breaking up the lamb into small pieces as it cooks. Drain any fat from the saucepan.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook until only a few tablespoons of liquid remain. Add the pepper puree, tomatoes with juices, cinnamon, and allspice. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pan and simmer 30 minutes to blend the flavors, stirring frequently. Uncover the pot and simmer until very thick, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep hot.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Transfer the pasta to a large pasta bowl. Top with sauce. Sprinkle with chopped mint leaves and serve.




Grilled Fall Maple Glazed Turkey Breast


Ingredients

1 Turkey breast, bone-in, thawed, 4 to 5 lb.
3 Tablespoons Butter
½ Large Red Onion, chopped fine
½ Cup Breadcrumbs, dry seasoned
½ Tablespoon of Sea Salt
¼ Tablespoon Pepper, fresh ground
2 Tablespoons Maple syrup
2 Tablespoons Cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Thyme, fresh, chopped
1 Large Apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped (tart apples are best)


Instructions

Coat your grilling rack with nonstick cooking spray. Place a large pan under grilling rack away from heat source. Preheat the grill to medium utilizing indirect heat (heat 1 burner of gas grill to medium, or arrange hot charcoal around outside of grill, leaving center open).

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, apple and thyme; cook and stir 3 minutes or until onion is tender crisp. Stir in breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper.

Gently loosen skin of turkey breast, but do not remove. Spoon the onion mixture between meat and skin, cover evenly; replace skin. Place turkey on grill above drip pan. Grill turkey, covered, 1 hour. Use a grill screen if desired.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter; blend in maple syrup and vinegar. Baste turkey breast with mixture, grilling 30 to 40 minutes more or until internal temperature of thickest part of thigh reaches 170 degrees. Carefully remove from grill. Let stand uncovered for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with winter vegetables and mashed potatoes.



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