What’s better than a glass of wine in a pretty vineyard? How about getting there via horseback? Or tasting wine with an equine theme?
If you love wine as much as you love horses, or if you like to get out and explore wine country up close and personal, get ready to hit the trail. On our equine wine trail, you can take a trail ride through a vineyard or taste a variety of equine-themed wines, from Washington’s Yakima Valley to the Temecula wine region in SoCal.
Ride: Cherry Wood Bed Breakfast and Barn
Mother/daughter team Pepper and Tiffany Fewel oversee the riding part of their family BB&B near Yakima, an area with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay being widely planted. When you take Cherry Wood’s Saturday morning winery ride, you’ll meander through several vineyards, enjoy a full lunch and wine tasting at two wineries. Many of their trail horses are rescued from slaughter yards, then rehabilitated with a whole-horse approach that includes Tiffany’s work as a Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner. So when you take a ride through Washington wine country, you’re helping support Cherry Wood’s horse rehabilitation and re-homing program in addition to enjoying the region’s good wines.
3271 Roza Drive, Zillah, WA 98953
Sip: 14 Hands Winery
Started in 2005 at the edge of the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Eastern Washington, 14 Hands Winery began creating wines inspired by the once-roaming bands of wild horses near the Columbia River. Free and untamed, these horses will always symbolize the pioneer spirit of the American West. Today, 14 Hands Winery creates Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other single varietal wines, plus blends, all bottled with labels featuring captivating artwork of the region’s wild horses. Their tasting room also displays reclaimed barn wood and the stories behind the historic farms of the area.
660 Frontier Rd, Prosser, WA 99350
Ride: Equestrian Wine Tours
Jake and Shirley Price started their horseback wine tour company about 10 years ago in the Red Hills area of Dundee, southwest of Portland. The couple shares a passion for Tennessee Walking Horses, so you’ll explore area vineyards while enjoying the soft gaits of the Price’s trail horses, several of which are rescue horses finding a better life in the Willamette Valley wine country. During the 2.5-hour ride, you’ll stop at three wineries for tastings in the area known for cool-climate-loving Pinot Noir. They also offer carriage rides for special occasions.
6325 Northeast Abbey Road, Carlton, OR 97111
Sip: Firesteed Cellars
Located about an hour southwest of Portland, Firesteed Cellars began crafting wines in 1993. Based in the Willamette Valley, Firesteed focuses on the world-class Pinot Noir the area is known for, as well other cool-climate grapes Pinot Grigio and Riesling. At their tasting room in Rickreall, you can tour the vineyards and learn more about how they work with nature’s ever-changing cycles of rain and sun to produce consistently good wines.
2200 N Pacific Hwy W, Rickreall, OR 97371
California (Napa area)
Ride: Jamieson Ranch Vineyards
It’s not exactly a ride, but Jamieson Ranch Vineyards offers a family friendly option high on the adorable scale. The Mini Moments experience gives you 30 priceless minutes with Whinnie the Pooh, Sweet Jane and Molly, the three miniature horses who call the ranch home. Offered most weekends June through December, Mini Moments is followed by a seated tasting of five Jamieson Ranch wines. When they’re not mingling with guests at the winery, Brandy Lipsey and her minis work as an equine therapy team aiding with autism and memory care.
1 Kirkland Ranch Road, American Canyon, CA 94503
Sip: Tamber Bey
In 1999, vintner Barry Waitte bought the property for what would become Tamber Bey Winery, named to honor Tamborina and Bayamo, his first two Arabians. The winery, in Calistoga, near Napa Valley, produces primarily Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir at its Sundance Ranch, which houses the winery and Barry and Jennifer Waitte’s equestrian facility. (Fun fact: Jennifer worked at Horse Illustrated as associate editor under Moira Harris in the late 1990s.) At the winery, with Mount St. Helena in the background, guests can enjoy wine tasting and mingle with the Waitte’s Arabian endurance horses, who live in the 16-stall barn that surrounds the winery courtyard.
1251 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515
California (Central Coast)
Ride: Central Coast Trail Rides
Crystal Hallett, owner and lead guide, takes you on a one-hour ride through the private 150-acre Creston Ranch. As your horse climbs the rolling hills, you’ll be rewarded with horizon-to-horizon views overlooking vineyards and a lake. After your ride, you can relax while wine tasting at a Creston winery, in an area that produces primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot and Petite Sirah. They can also lead rides on the beach if waves are more intriguing than wine.
7265 O’Donovan Road, Creston, CA 93432
Ride: Vino Vaqueros Rides
Peter Ganibi, a former professional polo player, and his wife Jaye have created a unique horseback wine tour company in Santa Ynez, a wine growing region of Santa Barbara County. Santa Ynez is known for its rich Vaquero history, including the upcoming 34th Annual Vaquero Show and Sale in November, as well as its diverse viticulture, with everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot Noir, and Rhône and Italian varietals. Vino Vaqueros leads private rides through some of the most picturesque vineyards in the area, including Estelle Vineyards. After the ride, relax at the barn while enjoying the views and sampling local wines.
2178 Mora Ave, Santa Ynez, CA 93460
Sip: Tantara Winery
Bill Cates, founding partner of Tantara Winery in Santa Maria, knew it was time to retire his dear mare. When Tantara was retired to pasture, many expected her to pass quickly to greener pastures. She defied all predictions and lived to a ripe old age. Her spirit, grace, elegance and power, and her long life, all are qualities Tantara Winery embraces in its wines. Call ahead to arrange a tasting at the winery, which makes its wines on-site.
Santa Maria, CA
Ride: Wine Country Trails by Horseback
Lifelong horsewoman Diana Lefort combined her love of horses and passion for the Temecula Valley wine country into guiding guests on rides through area vineyards and sharing the fruits of local wineries. But the rides go beyond an enjoyable outing. Over the years, she has rescued and rehabilitated more than 50 horses, some of which have become guest horses for winery rides and others that have found homes with carefully selected new owners. Each ride, whether a fresh morning ride or an afternoon or sunset ride, explores the Maurice Car’rie Winery, and is followed by a tasting of five wines, from sparkling wines to the rich red Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Syrah, at Maurice Car’rie Winery.
Sip: Carter Estate Winery and Resort
While this Temecula winery and resort focuses primarily on warm-climate grape varietals, including Malbec, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, it produces the valley’s only sparkling wine using the Méthode Champenoise—the traditional method used in the Champagne region of France. The resort offers different levels of wine tasting as well as a restaurant and accommodations.
34450 Rancho California Rd., Temecula, CA 92591
Here are a few more West Coast wines with equine-themes.
Black Stallion Estate Winery
Clos Pegase Winery & Tasting Room
Dark Horse Wines
Horse & Plow (plus hard cider)
This article first appeared in Horse Illustrated magazine, September 2018, written by Kara L Stewart, co-founder of 805 Wine Country.