By Carrie Uffindell
DID YOU KNOW HORSES MAKE VERY COMPETENT designated drivers? Climb in the saddle and be serenaded by the clip-clop of hoofbeats as you mosey through vineyards from winery to winery. Specializing in small group tours for both beginning and experienced riders, these professional equestrian outfitters are all located in scenic wine regions around the Northwest.
Equestrian Wine Tours
These friendly folks will guide you through Oregon’s scenic Red Hills of Dundee on one of their smooth-paced Tennessee Walkers. Synonymous with great pinot noir, the Dundee Hills are also a range of elegantly sloped mountains in the upper Willamette Valley, about 28 miles south of Portland. You’ll enjoy hazelnut orchards, sloping hills, views of the Coast Range on one side and the Cascades on the other and, of course, acres of vineyards. Currently, the company has hitching posts at a handful of wineries in the area, including Vista Hills Vineyard, Durant Vineyards, Stoller Family Estate and Sokol Blosser.
Equestrian Wine Tours is open year-round. Basic group tours are usually offered twice daily. They visit four wineries and run about two and a half hours. (Tip: If possible, join co-owner Jake Price’s tour; he’s quite the character.) For more time in the saddle, custom rides can be arranged.
Double Mountain Horse Ranch
HOOD RIVER, OREGON
Located in some of the most diverse winegrowing terrain and microclimates in the Northwest, Double Mountain offers a regular tasting tour in and around Hood River, some 60 miles east of Portland. A thriving yet low-key wine hub in the Columbia Gorge AVA, Hood River is home to more than a dozen wineries and vineyards. Each two-hour ride is led by owner Margo Vankat or one of her experienced guides and stops at two wineries. Options include Phelps Creek Vineyards, Marchesi Vineyards & Winery, Cathedral Ridge Winery and Hood Crest Winery. While meandering along the trails and country roads, keep an eye out for double views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
Tasting tours are available in the spring, summer and fall. Vankat also offers a variety of scenic tours and special events, including trail rides along Dry Creek Falls, Hood River beach and the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Forest.
Red Mountain Trails
BENTON CITY, WASHINGTON
After wine tasting in the stable’s corral, you and an intimate group of riders (four max) will travel through a mostly flat, arid landscape in Eastern Washington, roughly 66-miles east of Yakima, that’s filled with wide-angle views. The route through private access roads and working vineyards is one that few visitors to Red Mountain AVA ever see. Over the next three to four hours, you’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch as well as stops at Kiona Winery, MonteScarlatto Estate Winery and Frichette Winery.
Red Mountain’s horseback tours are offered daily, year-round, and lunch is included. Rather just sit back and taste? Owners Teresa and Jeff Owen also offer wagon rides, which usually stop at four to five wineries and last about three and a half hours.