Horse & Style Magazine: Viva La Vino Vaqueros!
As Featured in Horse & Style Magazine
Written by Alli Addison
Photography by Lauren Ross and Alli Addison
My day began as many do. It was a beautiful Tuesday spring morning in California. The sun was shining after what felt like a perpetual 100 year storm, and today, on this morning, there was not a cloud in the sky. I dragged myself out of bed, prepared the kids as best I could, and headed out the door for school drop-off. Following the school traffic stress, it was off to the barn for some decompression and a quick jumping lesson. But today was in fact a bit different, for although I left the house wearing breeches and paddock boots, I brought with me my well-worn jeans, manure-clad cowboy boots and a wide-brimmed felt fedora. For today I was switching gears, from hunter jumper to ranch girl, trading in my trusty paddocks for those cowboy boots, and headed south to Santa Ynez Wine Country to partake in a stunning afternoon of seeing the California countryside the way it was always meant to be seen. By horseback. And with wine.
A drive through the back country roads of California is an absolute must. Similar to a drive along the coastal track of Highway 1 and Highway 101. Both equally stunning, and both encompassing the serene landscape that makes California so breathtaking. As I made my way south, through the rolling hills, grazing cattle, oak tree groves and acres upon acres of vineyards, it was easy to see why rural wine country beckons to so many. And Santa Ynez Wine Country is positively overflowing with quaint, rustic charm.
Eventually I came upon the Blue Agave-clad entrance of Estelle Vineyards, home to the areas best trail riding and wine tasting experience, Vino Vaqueros. Through the vines planted to varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Blanc and Viognier, and up a dirt road I drove. Crews of workers tended to the blocks of vines on either side of me, and I could tell that bud break was just beginning to take place (when the first buds of the growing season emerge from a dormant vine). I came upon a wonderfully historic-looking white board and batten barn with hunter green trim and well-worn crossbuck sliding barn doors. Planted in front was a series of cactus and in the main entry way hung a pair of antlers and a Welcome Riders sign. There was green grass as far as the eye can see, a gentle breeze and the sound of horses rustling in their stalls. It was California Ranch to the core and I was smitten.
I had arrived a bit early, so at that moment I was the only one at the barn, aside from several lazy ranch dogs enjoying a siesta. So I took the liberty to wander about. Expansive tack areas, saddles of all sizes and a multitude of bridles hung on the walls. And I could not overlook a large stack of surfboards hanging above the saddle racks - so California. In one corner of the barn stood a red tasting room/prep area with a walk-up bar, rustic oak table and oversized western art. The feeling was relaxed and welcoming, the type of place where you could easily unwind after a trail ride and enjoy a great glass of wine.