Winery: Ruby Hill Winery, Pleasanton, California

    The tasting room is beautiful and a great place to hang out with comfortable couches and a fireplace.

    Ruby Hill Winery Livermore

    Ruby Hill Winery Livermore

    Ruby Hill Winery was one of the first stops we made on our last Livermore wine tasting tour.

    We just stumbled upon it while looking for a gas station to fill up a tank that was getting dangerously low. How we got into such a predicament is another story for which you will get a different version depending on if you speak with me or Clint.

    The tasting room looked like new construction and stood out amongst the relatively flat landscape surrounding the building. The actual history of the winery dates back to 1887 when it was founded by John Crellin. Over the years it has changed ownership many times and is now under the stewardship of winemaker Chris Graves.

    The winery is currently still sourcing most of its fruit from vineyards around the region and even from Napa as it gets its own vineyards producing fruit.

    Its vineyards have only recently been planted with many varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah. The only wine on the tasting menu that was created with fruit sourced from this young vineyard was the Chardonnay. All of the other wine selections use fruit sourced from all the nearby wine regions. It was interesting tasting their Cabernet; it was distinctly a Napa Cab and for a moment, I thought I was transported to Napa.

    I am a big proponent of estate wines. I just think there is something real and honest about wines created from grapes that the winery also tends to. And admittedly, there is a fleck of romanticism in that judgment as well. If a winery sources all its grapes from other locations, doesn’t it just become a processing plant? One doesn’t go to the farmer’s market to buy fruit that the farmer purchased at a grocery store.

    Anyways, it is understandable in this case with such young vineyards planted and after tasting the estate-grown Chardonnay, I thought it was a good choice for the winery to source their fruit elsewhere for the time being.

    Of the wines on the list, nothing was particularly spectacular. I thought the Cabernet and the Barbera were solid. The latter is one of the key reasons that we were told people join the their Gem club as it is a wine only available to members.

    Speaking of their wine club, over the course of just one year, they already had several hundred wine club members. I would say that the winery did have a lot to offer. The tasting room was beautiful and a great place to hang out with comfortable couches and a fireplace.

    And a little deli offers the opportunity to picnic on the grounds. All great value propositions, especially if you live around the area and would like some of the wine country feel without driving up to Napa or Sonoma.

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    • You wrote “If a winery sources all its grapes from other locations, doesn’t it just become a processing plant?”.

      Not necessarily. The winemaker “must” have the skill to make a good wine from grapes. This also requires the capibility to go out in that vineyard and know if the grapes are good quality grapes. Can’t make good wine from bad grapes.

      Good or bad grapes depend on good viticulure practices.

      Bottom line not all winemakers are equal.

    • Just talking to Peter Heitz, winemaker at Turnbull, in the latest “Wine Tales” podcast, I was mesmerized by his description of walking around the estate vineyards, working in partnership with the vineyard management and endlessly tasting grape samples to ensure the right time to harvest. In fact, we had to reschedule our podcast a couple of times because he was out at the vineyards.

      I do think great wines are a combination of great fruit and wine making. The former being an integral part so much that I give extra kudos to wineries that grow their own and therefore have absolute control.

      Massimo from Ehlers Estate also talked at great lengths about reviewing Ehlers biodynamic growing practices and offering suggestions as well.

      Now I do believe there are times to combine some fruit from non-estate vineyards known for certain distinctive properties. What I do question is when almost all fruit is sourced.

    • Juliet Graves

      I would like to correct the author of this article as she was very misinformed regarding the vineyard and the wine sourcing. These estate vineyards are on average fifteen years old and are not so young that they are not yet producing fruit. The winery itself just celebrated it’s first year anniversary in February of 2009. Chris has estate wine in barrel but as most people who drink wine know, that it must barrel age before bottling. With the winery so young and the winemaker working here only two years the public is just now getting the pleasure of experiencing the estate fruit. Up until now he has sourced fruit from local vineyards as well as central coast and some northern vineyards to make up the wine that has been on the menu since we opened.
      If you would like to have the opportunity to taste the estate wine still in barrel visit the tasting room when the winemaker himself is there sampling out of the barrel to the public.
      Contact the tasting room to find out when (925) 963-wine or visit our website http://www.rubyhillwinery.net