Equine and Wine Adventures

Vineyard riding with Wine Country Trails by Horseback
  • Vineyard riding with Wine Country Trails by Horseback

‘The weather is finally starting to cool,” I said to Patrick. “Let’s do something outdoorsy, just you and me.”

“If we’re going somewhere without the kids, I want an adult beverage to be involved,” he answered.

“Fine. But you’ll have to get on horseback to get it.”

Sabrina Fortyune, owner of Vineyard Trail Rides (951-595-3503; vineyardtrailrides.com) told me that she got into the business because she loved riding “so much that I wanted to share it with others. We offer a few different rides in several different locations, but I lead them all. The first is the Country Ride [$100 per person, $160 per couple] up in the Ramona grasslands. The whole ride is about two hours. You ride for an hour through cattle and oak trees, and you hop off and have a picnic at the edge of a pond for 30 minutes. I provide a complimentary bottle of wine, either chilled Chardonnay or room-temperature Merlot. Both are from Wild Horse Vineyards up in Paso Robles. Then you ride back for about half an hour.”

It’s a good ride for beginners, she said, “and it’s been very well received. Most people don’t want to get off the horse at the end.” Riders should wear “long pants, tennis shoes or boots, a hat, sunglasses, and a jacket if the weather requires it. And they should bring water and whatever food they want to eat.”

More experienced riders might prefer the River Ride ($120 per person, $200 per couple). That takes about three hours total, and it runs through the Los Peñasquitos River basin. It’s fun because we guide the horses in and out of the rivers.”

Finally, for the proper cowboy or cowgirl, she offers “the John Wayne Special ($350 per person). It’s an overnight camping adventure with horses. In the summer, we do it in the mountains; in the winter, we use a private ranch in the desert. All meals are provided, along with most of the equipment. All you need to bring is a sleeping bag, toiletries, a hat, sunscreen, bug spray, and any medications you might need.” The first day starts with a four-hour ride to the campsite, which is equipped with showers and restrooms. “We have hors d’oeuvres and cocktails for an hour, and then later, we have dinner and dessert ’round the campfire. In the morning, we have a big breakfast before going on a two-hour ride. Then we have a snack break and head home.”

Fortyune assesses riders in order to figure out the right horse. “I’ll size them up — I wouldn’t put a tiny lady on the biggest horse — and I’ll ask about their experience with riding. And I can usually read a person in terms of confidence.”

Meanwhile, up in Temecula, Elizabeth at Wine Country Trails by Horseback (951-506-8706; winecountryridesbyhorseback.com) told me, “We offer two different packages. You get to ride through the vineyards at Wilson Creek Winery, Monte d’Oro Winery, and a grapefruit orchard by South Coast Winery. With the Ride and Wine package ($99 per person), you get a 90-minute ride and then certificates good for tastings at Wilson Creek and Danza Del Sol. Our second package is Ride and Vine ($125 per person). That gets you a 90-minute ride and vouchers for tastings at four different wineries: Wilson Creek, Danza Del Sol, Lorimar, and Baily.”

All of the horses are rescued quarter horses, “and they come in all different colors.” The ride, said Elizabeth, gives you a peek at “the less commercial side of the wineries, and it’s gorgeous. You travel through mountains and countryside; I like to take the last ride [2:30 p.m.], so that when I come back the sun is starting to set. During the ride, you have a guide in front and one in back of you, but the horses aren’t nose to tail. You get a real sense of riding. If we’re busy, we may book up to 16 riders, but we’ll break them into smaller groups. And we’re busier on the weekends. If you book during the week, you’ll get a more relaxed experience and probably a smaller group.”

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