Monday, May 30, 2011

Mello Cielo rolls out at Ruby Hill Winery in Livermore Valley

Ruby Hill Winery is introducing Mello Cielo, their new unique tour bus that is sure to be a hit among wine lovers in Livermore Valley.   It has already drawn the attention of Livermore Valley residents, who enjoy watching the brightly decorated bus driving around town.  “It’s become our ‘blimp’, noted Mike Callahan, one of the winery’s partners.  “We get a ton of calls asking us what the bus is all about, and we’re happy to tell them.”

The bus is customized like no other in the world.  The interior seats 14 passengers, with each seat crafted from an aged wine barrel.  Two poles in the center are gilded in one-of-a-kind iron work of sculpted grape clusters and vines.  The exterior shows off the wine theme splendidly with its bright burgundy color and lime green paint.  The brightly decorated grill of grape clusters and vines is beautiful.  Two wine barrels mounted on the roof add to the dramatic effect, with a third barrel attached to the back that also functions as a barbecue grill.   
The Mello Cielo (named for one of Ruby Hill’s club wines, Cielo Viola) 90-minute tour starts at the Tasting Room and proceeds through the 150 acres of grape vines in the extensive Ruby Hill estate.  The tour guide tells you about the various vineyards as we pass.  This tour demonstrates the unique complexity of Livermore Valley as you ride past acres of vineyards on one side, while on the other you are passing the million dollar homes of the Ruby Hills community that surrounds a golf course.  In Livermore, planners have gone to great lengths to incorporate agriculture among the housing areas.

Riding past Peacock Patch, home of the grapes that will go into Ruby Hill’s Zinfandel, we spot the roaming peacocks that gave this vineyard its name.  In fact the Mello Cielo has a musical horn that includes a peacock call to attract the beautiful birds.  One, hiding in the bushes alongside the road perks up its head in response to the peacock call.  At Peacock Patch we get another chance to leave the bus and walk among the vines as the tour guide points out the new budding fruit. 

As we proceed down from Peacock Patch we head towards the Ruby Hill Winery.  The group debarks to tour the winery and taste some barrel samples, including the 2010 Chardonnay and a 2008 Barbera.  The consensus is that these will be excellent wines when they are released.  The guide informs his group of the innovative efforts employed by Ruby Hill to deliver their quality wines.  We are invited into the water tower to enjoy a food and wine pairing of four wines with meats and cheeses.  Winemaker Chris Graves joined us as we paired a 2008 Chardonnay, 2007 Livermore Estate Sangiovese, 2007 Merlot Reserve and 2007 Livermore Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  Chris walked us through the pairing as he told us more about Ruby Hill wines. Returning to our wine chariot we proceeded back to the tasting room where we enjoyed a private tasting of a Ruby Hill port. 

The Mello Cielo tours are by appointment only and are available daily.  The tour fee is $25 per person, and only $15 for Ruby Hill Winery Gem Society club members.  To schedule a tour, call 925-931-9463.  Mello Cielo is also a valuable fundraising tool for area non-profits.  Local philanthropists have donated Mello Cielo tours for auctions to help their favorite charities raise money for worthwhile causes.


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