The memory of prominent Lodi vintner John Van Ruiten Sr., was observed in a rather unusual way on Sunday — two priests blessed the grapes he left behind.
Fathers Brandon Ware and Bill Kraft of St. Anne’s Catholic Church blessed the grapes grown by the Van Ruiten Family Winery on Sunday afternoon before a large crowd of family and friends at the winery on Highway 12 near Lower Sacramento Road.
The blessing was in memory of John Van Ruiten Sr., a Dutch immigrant who moved to Lodi in 1948, bought his first farmland in 1955 and opened the family winery in 2000. He died at home on Friday with his wife, children and grandchildren at his side. He was 90 years old.
“He passed away during the harvest — his favorite time of the year,” his daughter Angie Rogan said after the blessing.
John and his wife of 63 years, Ann Van Ruiten, were active St. Anne’s members for 50 years. In 2011, the couple was honored with the Winery of the Year Award by the Visit Lodi! Conference and Visitors Center. The same year, they were named a “bright light” by Stockton Catholic Diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire.
The Van Ruitens purchased a dairy and an old Zinfandel vineyard in 1955. John Van Ruiten planted additional Zinfandel vines and began growing winegrapes. The family now farms more than 1,000 acres.
Three generations now work together at the vineyards and manage the winery.
The winery is a partner in cellardoor, a tasting room in Downtown Lodi, and participates in many wine-related events as well as fundraisers for groups like Support Our Troops and the Child Abuse Prevention Council.
“In all honesty, his legacy is his family and friends,” Kraft said.
In addition to his wife, John Van Ruiten Sr. is survived by seven children and 16 grandchildren.
Public visitation will be held on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Lodi Funeral Home. The Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, 215 W. Walnut St., Lodi. A Mass of Resurrection will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, also at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Private committal will be held at Lodi Memorial Cemetery.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.