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All Aboard: Winery Rolls Out Party Bus

A vintage school bus gets a makeover as the colorful shuttle for Ruby Hill Winery.

Ruby Hill Winery is toasting its new set of wheels.

Revamped, repainted and dubbed "Mello Cielo," the vehicle is a 33-year-old school bus that winery owners bought for $2,000 from a Craigslist ad.

"We thought it would be kind of a fun thing to do," said Mike Callahan, a partner in the Vineyard Road winery that straddles Pleasanton and Livermore.

Gone are the familiar bench seats and school-bus yellow paint. Callahan said the winery invested roughly $10,000 in repairs and custom upgrades to create a one-of-a-kind mode of transportation.

This bus was repainted a "vineyard-inspired" burgundy-red and lime green. The interior was gutted and now boasts upholstered seating for 14 that is crafted from old wine barrels, Callahan said.  

The bus will shuttle winery guests on $25-a-person tours of Ruby Hill Winery vineyards, production facilities and food-and-wine pairings held at the historic, on-site water tower, Callahan said.

More elaborate tours will include stops at the neighboring Campo di Bocce restaurant for dining and games of bocce, he said. 

Callahan credited winery employee Susie Ballas for the bus' new look.

"It was her brainstorm," he said.

Ballas, who has a background in art, created renderings of the color schemes and vineyard-themed details, he said.  

Ballas said the winery owners wanted the bus to have a festive air. "So I said, all right, we will keep this fun," she said.

"Every time I see it, it makes me smile and say, 'I want to get on that bus,' " Ballas said.

Its name, Mello Cielo, is a play on the boutique winery's top-selling Grapeful Reds and an Italian blend called Cielo Viola, Callahan said.

When not in use and weather permitting, Mello Cielo will be on display outside the winery's tasting room, he added.

Debbie March 11, 2011 at 04:33 PM
How does one get the opportunity to go on one of these bus tours? Is there a schedule?
Marnette Federis March 11, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Hi Debbie, you would probably have to contact the winery for a schedule. Here's their link to the tour: http://rubyhillwinery.net/tours.html
Marnette Federis March 11, 2011 at 04:52 PM
That link also includes the hours and person to contact...have fun!

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