If you have ever had a chance to tour our production facility, you will have seen hundreds of our precious oak barrels. Some curious wine lovers may wonder: why oak—and what makes these barrels so special? We select high-quality barriques (the technical term for our 225-liter barrels) for their ability to keep our wines cozy and safe while enriching them with elegant and complex flavor.
Oak has earned its rightful place of honor in the winemaking process. It seems that grapes and oak are just made to work together, a symbiotic relationship that creates the flavors and complexities you know and love. Just like wine, oak contains tannins which impart structure and flavor to the wine aged within it. Oak tannins can be more on the bitter side, but the process of barrel making involves "toasting" the wood, a process which mellows out the tannins and releases delicious compounds that bring essences of vanilla and cream to the picture. Just as the characteristics of a wine depend heavily on the soil and climate in which the fruit was grown, the nature of the oak also varies depending on the region of origin. Here at Ruby Hill Winery, we use barrels of primarily French, American, and Hungarian oak.
The bulk of oak for wine barrels in the US grows in forested areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin. American oak barrels are made from a different species than European oak, allowing for a few key differences including faster cultivation and development and more efficient production. With lively flavors of vanilla and coconut as well as mellow tones of caramel and cream soda, American oak also interacts with wine more than other cultivars, allowing for stronger flavor integration. Wines aged in American oak adopt this personality, along with soft and palatable tannins, making this an ideal choice for big reds and Chardonnays that emphasize the character of the oak.
French oak has a much more finicky makeup, with wood that must be split along the grain to create barrel staves. Because of this, only about 25% of the wood in a French oak tree can be used for barrel-making. Given that French oak trees are much smaller than their American counterparts, French oak barrels often have a much higher price tag. In the case of some wines, however, it is more than worth it. The tight wood grain of the French oak releases flavors much more slowly than American oak, imparting elegant and subtle complexities. Flavors including cinnamon and allspice join dark chocolate notes with a touch of bitterness, and are further complemented by a swirl of crème brûlée.
Hungarian oak barrels are unique in their own right; though crafted from the same species of oak as French oak barrels, Hungarian oak brings extra personality and spice. Unique toasted notes can include roasted coffee, campfire, leather, or black pepper, making this oak especially suitable for wines like Merlot that adapt well to interest and complexity. Hungarian oak lends structure and full mouthfeel with silky tannins, and is known to set wines up for longevity.
Of course, these 3 oaks are not the only cultivars for barrels. Sessile oak, sometimes called Irish oak is the most commonly used wood for Cognac production, and Mongolian oak (or “Mizunara”) is used in the production of Japanese whiskey. Furthermore, some winemakers will use barrels crafted form a combination of oak varietals, or blend wines aged in various types in order to get the perfect balance of flavor and structure.
Due to their expense and hardiness, barrels are often reused. Barrels may be used several times before retirement depending on the winemaker’s preference. After each use, however, the potency of the oak’s effect is reduced and the barrel will eventually be discarded. Because of this, we here at Ruby Hill Winery love to see our barrels off to their new lives as materials for home projects. We want the beautiful oaken craftsmanship to continue for as long as possible. If you’d like to become a part of the story of one of our barrels, now is the time! We are offering a few of our well-loved barrels for purchase—see below for more details.
We are delighted to announce the newest addition to our Ruby Hill Reserve Collection! Our 2019 Cuvée Dray is a celebration of everything that fills our lives with joy. This Bordeaux-style blend is luscious and approachable, perfect for pairing with your favorite dishes. More than this, however, Cuvée Dray is our way of partnering with the community and promoting the unconditional love shown by our furry friends. For every bottle of Cuvée Dray sold, we will be donating $10 directly to the Valley Humane Society in support of their many programs aimed at creating a brighter, loving future for local animals.
Story and Mission
The Valley Humane Society (VHS) was founded right here in Pleasanton and has served people and pets in the Tri-Valley for over 30 years. With rigorous compassion aimed at increasing welfare and quality of life for every animal brought into their care, they serve with optimism and integrity.
"Valley Humane Society creates a brighter future for cats and dogs by encouraging and strengthening the bond between people and pets. VHS rescues and rehabilitates companion animals, champions responsible caretaking, shares pets’ soothing affections with people in need of comfort, and supports and preserves existing pet-guardian relationships."
- VHS Mission Statement
Services and Programs
At the heart of all Valley Humane Society programs is the vision to create a brighter future for cats and dogs by encouraging and strengthening the bond between people and pets. VHS takes in cats and dogs in order to provide a better life for these precious creatures, with a careful and loving emphasis on the good of each animal. Through numerous programs, VHS cares for pets by providing services for sheltering, fostering, and home-to-home adoptions, limiting the amount of time any pet has to spend apart from a family.
At Ruby Hill Winery, we believe in the value of companionship—friends are essential, especially the furry ones! VHS brings this special love into the lives of people who need it most with programs like Canine Comfort Pet Therapy and AniMeals. Included in these programs are Paws to Read, which encourages children who struggle with literacy to enjoy reading in the gentle, nonjudgmental company of a dog, as well as Paws to Heal, a program that brings the joy and love of pets to hospital and rehabilitation facilities for young and old alike. AniMeals partners with food banks and shelters to assist low-income pet guardians who are at risk of surrendering their pet due to food costs. In 2020, VHS distributed more than 300,000 meals to pets through this program.
How to Help
If you want to join us in supporting the good work done by the Valley Humane Society, there are many opportunities to lend a paw. As a nonprofit organization built on principles of gratitude and collaboration, VHS relies heavily on volunteers and donations. Last year, nearly 500 active volunteers partnered with VHS across their various programs. Additionally, as they seek to increase and expand their impact, donations are more vital than ever. If your family is in the position to do so, you can also consider joining their pet fostering program. No matter how wonderful an animal facility is, pets are still better off in a home. If fostering in your own home isn't an option, you may still choose to sponsor a pet, investing in the life of a precious furry friend waiting for a home.
Since the restoration of the Ruby Hill Estate Winery, Zinfandel has been one of our staple wines. Our Zinfandel blocks are nestled in the westernmost section of our estate, placing the vines in position to experience perfect fluctuation in temperature for fruit maturity. The soil is gravely, forcing the vines to seek nutrients and produce clusters concentrated with flavor. This block was nicknamed the "Peacock Patch" for the ostentatious creatures who visit the area to snack on the grapes—and the name has stuck.
If you have spent much time in the tasting room or in wine lounges around the area, you will likely have seen our iconic gilded peacock label in a range of colors. It wasn't always this way! As shown above, our 2007 Zinfandel commemorated the exotic avian visitors with a small peacock on the back label. Soon, however, we honored these proudly elegant creatures with their rightful place: front and center. Our 2008 Zinfandel was released with a gold peacock label, with additional colors appearing upon the 2010 vintage. Not long after, we introduced the famous and elusive Wild Peacock.
The Wild Peacock is decked out in the authentic colors of its namesake, gleaming in shades of emerald, sapphire, and bronze—but that's not all. Appearing only once for every 100 cases, if you happen to "bag the bird" you've won big! Our Wild Peacock is your golden ticket for a Mello Cielo Vineyard Experience bus tour, free of charge for up to 14 people ($630 value). Our Wild Peacock is hidden throughout each vintage of our Peacock Patch Zinfandel. Now that the bus tour is available again, let the hunt begin!
The summertime heat here in California has us sipping Rosé all day, and we thought it was the perfect time to get creative with our dinner menus. Inspired by our Grapeful Rosé, we've rounded up 4 fun rosé infused recipes to make the perfect dinner: cocktail, appetizer, entree, and dessert! Click on the photos for full recipes of these delectable delights.
If you'd like a sip of summer, then this drink is for you! Refreshing and bright, this cocktail takes rosé to a whole new level, and might just transport you to a lavender field in Provence. Sweet, tangy, and deep all at once, it's the perfect opener for a delicious dinner.
For an all-star side dish, lean into the ripe summer produce at the market. Macerate a few peaches in rosé then serve with a soft cheese like mozzarella or burrata and fresh herbs and enjoy the most simple and delectable dish.
This shrimp scampi sits at the crossroads of elegant and easy, just asking to be enjoyed! It's hard to go wrong when making a dinner with pasta and wine, and this dish will bring the combination to a whole new level. Flavorful and picturesque, this might become a dinnertime favorite.
If summer weather calls for a chilled treat for dessert, then put us down for frozen rosé (frosé for short). These popsicles are customizable: add your favorite citrus and any fruit you like, and you've got a summertime spectacular.
Feeling inspired to make something with your Rosé this week? Get our Grapeful Rosé at an unbeatable price in our Summertime Sipping White Wine mixed case before the sale ends!
July 25th is Wine and Cheese day, so it's time to celebrate some pairing all-stars!
Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Muenster
Our Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is the answer to most of our summertime cravings, with its bright, aromatic, and drinkable nature. Thanks to the balanced acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc, each refreshing sip prepares your palate for the soft and mild creaminess of Muenster.
Grapeful Rosé and Fresh Burrata
The crisp acidity of Grapeful Rosé is enjoyable anytime, but it’s especially unbeatable on a sunny day in July. With a luxurious aroma and gorgeous color, our Grapeful Rosé is perfect with the light freshness of Burrata cheese. Smear the cheese along a toasted French baguette, grab a bite, take a refreshing sip, and repeat.
Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Aged Cheddar
Possibly the most classic of pairings, you can’t go wrong with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and your favorite Aged Cheddar. If you’re looking to elevate each bite, try a pepper-crusted cheddar to build a natural flavor bridge between the cheese and wine. The savory bite of a well-aged Cheddar stands up to the tannic nature of the Cab, and as the flavors melt into your mouth it’s hard to not go back for more.
Jewel Petite Sirah and Melted Swiss Cheese
Brimming with rich flavors and gorgeous aroma, every wine in our Jewel Collection is set apart. If you already enjoy the boldness of Petite Sirah, then the best way to improve it is with a perfect cheesy accompaniment. Whether you melt the cheese onto a burger or into a classic Swiss fondue, Jewel Petite Sirah is the pairing you need.
Sparkling Wine and Parmesan
Our Sparkling Wine pairs with just about everything, and it’s at its best alongside fresh and salty foods. Whether you enjoy your Parmesan grated over pasta, cooked into a risotto, or just on its own, a chilled glass of our Sparkling Wine will have your taste buds singing.
Solera in Perpetuum and Roquefort
Dessert wines like our Solera in Perpetuum offer deep, rich flavor and call for a strong, sophisticated pairing. The wine carries notes of blackberry jam, dried plum, and cocoa, which mingle beautifully with a blue-veined artisan Roquefort.
2017 Patchwork and Smoked Gouda
Our Patchwork is a Club-Exclusive blend of Merlot, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot. This particular vintage boasts expressive aromas, silky tannins, and a lovely lingering finish. Now a part of our Library Collection, this wine is available only in our Mixed Red Case. When enjoyed alongside a fine smoked Gouda, this blend compliments the Gouda’s toasted nuttiness and accents both the sweet and salty notes of the cheese.
Welcome aboard! It has been a blast to welcome back our retro bus, the beloved Mello Cielo, and we're proud to announce the return of our Mello Cielo Vineyard Experience, a tour unlike any other.
On your tour, you'll have a chance to experience an inside look into the beauty of our wine-making process. From the scenic, serene vineyards to the thousands of barrels nestled in our production facility, you'll experience it all. And did we mention the wine? You'll have a chance to sip on most of our favorites along the way!The Mello Cello is a 1980's school bus with a storied past. After school bus service, it had a second life as a touring bus for a group of Dead Heads, who were among the droves of fans who followed the Grateful Dead on their tours. Later, this bus was restored once more, this time into its current form. The complete refitting of the bus included adding wine barrel seats, meticulously detailed metalwork, and a custom paint job, turning this vessel into a work of art. On this journey, your driver is your guide and resource. Knowledgeable, friendly, and reliable, every driver infuses the experience with their own flair, so feel free to take the tour again and again! You might learn about the history of the Estate, the process and science of winemaking, or why vines love the Livermore Valley so much. If you're lucky, you might learn a little bit of everything!One of the most noteworthy wines you will have a chance to enjoy on your tour will come right out of the barrel. This barrel tasting is an exclusive view into the story and process of crafting your favorite Ruby Hill Wines. When you step into the production facility, you are stepping behind the scenes, where the magic really happens. As you continue to ride through the vineyards, you'll have opportunities to stop and take in the rich, picturesque views of the Livermore Valley. The gentle, rolling hills and the curling vines laden with fruit are steeped in history and always ready to be enjoyed. The final stop on the journey is inside our Estate's historic Water Tower, where you'll be seated and treated to a flight of wines featuring favorites from each of our collections, alongside delectable food offerings. Your guide will walk you through the story and characteristics of each wine. Upon your return to the tasting room, your tour will finish with a flourish as you enjoy our Solera Dessert wine. Cheers!
No matter where you’re at, July sunshine calls for fresh and exciting meals and your favorite light wines. This week, to commemorate our Wine of the Month, we’re making a light and satisfying Spiced Chickpea salad to pair with our 2020 Grapeful Rosé. This simple recipe involves seasoned & baked chickpeas with fresh veggies, tossed in a homemade tahini dressing. It’s delicious, healthy, perfect for a summer afternoon, and happens to be vegetarian!
Carrot Tahini Salad with Spiced Chickpeas
For the spiced chickpeas:
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Pinch of salt and pepper
For the dressing:
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- Water to thin if necessary
For the salad:
- 3 cups shredded carrots (from 3 to 4 medium-sized carrots)
- 1/2 small red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the chickpeas with the oil, spices, salt, and pepper. Place on a prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven until lightly browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Shake the pan several times throughout baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. (You can do this either by hand or with an immersion blender.) Add water if the dressing is too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if need be.
- In a large salad bowl, toss the shredded carrots, onion, raisins, and parsley with the dressing. Mix well. Season with a little salt and pepper. Right before serving (to ensure the chickpeas stay crispy) top with the chickpeas and enjoy. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Now, grab an ice bucket and your favorite picnic blanket and head outside! This recipe is ideal for enjoying alongside our Grapeful Rosé in the shade on a warm day. For our friends who prefer white wines, this dish will also taste fantastic when paired with our refreshing 2018 Sauvignon Blanc.
Thinking of giving this recipe a try? Let us know @rubyhillwines!
As the weather heats up, more and more of us might be reaching for a crisp, cool white wine or a refreshing rosé for our summertime sipping. A mild evening might even call for a luscious glass of your favorite red. No matter the wine you’re drinking, it’s important to consider the temperature that you store and serve the wine. If this seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry. We’ve put together a guide of basics so you can enjoy your white wines, rosés, and yes, even reds, at their best.
Part of the magic of wine is the way it gets more delicious with time. This requires, however, that the bottle remain sealed, and relies on the integrity of the cork. The most significant enemies of wine storage are temperature fluctuations and excessive heat because they may cause wine to escape around the cork, or the cork to dry out and allow air to seep into the bottle. This causes a process called “oxidation” which spoils the experience of the wine. Similarly, too much heat for too long can also result in your wine tasting “cooked” which flattens the flavors and complexities of the wine. If we have made you nervous now, let us put you at ease. Wine isn’t delicate quite like an orchid or exotic plant and can hold up to some stress, but try to store your wine where it is happy, especially if you will be aging it.
Though there are a number of schools of thinking when it comes to the optimal storage temperature, the best compromise is about 55°F, or 13°C. If your storage runs colder or warmer than this, that’s okay; most wines store well anywhere between 45° and 65° F. If you don’t have a wine fridge or cellar, try to store your wines on their side in a box or cupboard, away from exterior walls and rooms that fluctuate in temperature.
When it comes time to serve the wine, there’s some easy tips to make your wine express its qualities perfectly. The most important distinction is between red and white wines. White wines (and rosés too) are generally best when cold. Temporary storage in the refrigerator before serving will help these wines shine as balanced, aromatic, and refreshing. Fuller-bodied white wines like our Reserve Chardonnay give the optimal sip as soon as the chill wears off, but before the wine reaches room temperature. Other wines, like our Wine of the Month, Grapeful Rosé, taste delicious when chilled and unfold with gorgeous aroma as the temperature rises a bit in the glass.
The aromas and structure of red wines, on the other hand, will be at their best when served around 60°, just under room temperature. Of course, red wines are enjoyable at a range of temperatures, partially due to the delicious diversity within red wines. Lighter bodied wines with higher acidity, like our Sangiovese, can actually benefit from a few minutes in the refrigerator before serving. Heavier-bodied, tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Sirah are perfectly enjoyable at a higher temp.
As a rule of thumb, try this for your summer sipping:
Light White Wines (like Sauvignon Blanc) - refrigerate 45 mins before serving
Fuller White Wines & Rosés (like Chardonnay or Grapeful Rosé) - refrigerate 30 mins before serving
Light-to-medium-bodied Reds (like Sangiovese) - refrigerate 15 min before serving
Heavier-bodied / tannic Reds (like Cabernet Sauvignon) - refrigerate 5-10 mins before serving.
Remember, these are guidelines. Drinking wine is about enjoyment, so if you have a specific preference, go for it! If you want to experiment to find your favorite temperature, we've got a great sale for you! Our Wine of the Month is Grapeful Rosé—it's perfect for all your summer fun.
They say it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to wine we think it’s alright to break that rule. We, just like many other wineries, pack symbolism and significance into each of our label designs. It is our desire that our members and patrons enjoy the full experience of our wine--from the looks to the taste. This week, we bottled some exciting new wines, and took some time to reflect on the history and significance of wine labels.
Believe it or not, wine labels have a long history. Wine jars from 1352 BC, unearthed in the tomb of King Tut, were found with labels designating the winemaker, vintage, region of origin, and sometimes even an indicator of the quality of the wine. Even by modern labelling standards, these labels were fairly detailed. In the Persian empire, which had a reputation for cultivating wine snobs, labelling became part of standard practice in winemaking. As glass bottles gained popularity, parchment indicating the vintage and varietal of the wine would be tied around the neck of the bottle, much like what we would call a hang tag today. The oldest preserved label of this type was written by Pierre Perignon, a French monk and winemaker.
Paper wine labels like the ones we see today emerged in Germany in the 1800s and were generally used just to denote the wine’s varietal. In Champagne, France, vintners began using gilded labels to denote their grander fine wines. As labeling became commonplace, the quality and design of the label became like a crown for the wine, with the winemaker’s finest creations enrobed in the most ornate labels. With the invention of the lithograph, labelling became even more of an art. In essence, color lithography was the very first kind of photo printer, allowing for colorful and artistic expression to be replicated en masse. Winemakers could emphasize the luxury of their product or the personality of the land it came from.
As the story of wine labels gets closer to modern day, we’ve seen famous wineries commission label art from even more famous artists. Some wineries ornament their bottles with the awards earned by the winery. At Ruby Hill Winery, the gold seal on our wines represents the gold medals awarded by the California State fair. We also like to celebrate the best things in life with our designs; we commemorate good times with tie-dye, wildlife with our Peacock, and furry friends with our (not-yet-released) Cuvée Dray.
If you’ve laid a wine down to age in the cellar, the last thing you need is a garish label haunting your collection, no matter how delicious the wine is. Whether you’re looking for something classy, playful, or refined, we hope you enjoy the variety and expression gracing each and every bottle of Ruby Hill Wines.
At some point, you may have heard someone in a tasting room say something like, "All Champagne is Sparkling Wine, but not all Sparkling Wine is Champagne." What's going on here? The classification of Sparkling Wine is actually surprisingly elaborate. Learning a little about how sparkling wines are made and how to decode words like "doux" or "cremant" will help with finding the best bubbly for your palate, and making the most delicious celebrations.
The Sweet Spot
Works like "doux" and "sec" reflect the French Heritage of Champagne. These words are used to indicate the level of sweetness in a sparkling wine. From dry to sweet, some terms you may see are:
- Brut Nature (very dry)
- Extra Brut (dry)
- Brut (off-dry to dry)
- Extra Sec (medium- to off-dry)
- Sec (medium-dry)
- Demi-Sec (semisweet)
- Doux (very sweet)
A Game of Names
Even if they are made with the same varietal and method, American Sparkling Wines will not be labeled as Champagne. Just as “Cognac” must come from Cognac in France but “brandy” can be made anywhere, so "Champagne'' must be grown and made in the Champagne region, and consist of only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay grapes is called "blanc de blancs" (white of white), while champagne made from dark grapes is called "blanc de noirs" (white of black). Names like Cava, Prosecco, Crémant, and Sekt are common terms for European sparkling wines from outside of the Champagne region. In the US, Sparkling wine can be made from any varietal, but we've taken notes from France, using predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Our Sparkling Wine here at Ruby Hill Winery is made from 100% Chardonnay.
You've Got a Sparkle in your Wines
Bubbles in Sparkling wine technically have the same composition as any carbonated beverage. Carbon Dioxide makes those tiny bubbles we all know and love. There is no single method for creating these beautiful sparkles, though some varieties of wine have rigid specifications of the proper procedure. When wine ferments, yeasts naturally release CO2. In the original Champagne method, winemakers cause the wine to go through a second fermentation in the bottle, trapping the gasses in the wine and creating the fine carbonation we all know and love. The "tank method" relies on the same process, but the secondary fermentation occurs in a tank instead of the bottles. Another method involves charging the wine with CO2, resulting in the same delicious bubbles dancing along the palate. All good sparkling is bright and perfect for food pairing and celebrating. Look for balance between acid and sweetness, and you're golden!
Have you had a chance to enjoy Ruby Hill Winery's Sparkling Wine?
Now's a perfect time! This weekend only, our Sparkling is available for only $16 per bottle.
Enjoy complimentary ground shipping when you order 6 or more bottles.
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