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Whenever I head out on a new riding and wine tasting adventure, I try to make my mind a blank slate with no preconceived ideas about where the journey will take me. However, when we pulled into the dirt road leading to the south end of the Kundle Estate, my sixth sense told me this was going to be a ride I would never forget.
One look around gave me a hint of what was to come. There were hundreds of fragrant grape vines, endless cattle pastures and a beautiful lake that leads to a quaint building. The cherry on top of this sundae was the very warm welcome of Erin Ellis of Triple Creek Outfitters. Erin is the owner of Triple Creek Outfitters which offers guided horseback rides at the Kundle Family Estate Winery in Sonoma Valley, CA. This is the heart of the glorious California wine country!
Erin quickly introduced me to my special mount, Mac. Mac is special because he is one of many horses Erin has rescued. And like most orphaned and turned-out animals, Mac showed his gratitude by being the perfect gentleman. In addition to the rescue horses that Erin rehabilitates to work with the program, she also offers well-mattered mounts for her guests.
We began our ride through the Hereford grazing pastures. Riding along the cattle fields we experienced one of the seven different microclimates that the Kundle Estates offers. The property stretches along two miles of the Sonoma Highway and reaches an altitude of 1,400 feet above the valley floor, spanning across rolling hills into the neighboring Mayacarnas Mountain range.
Not long into the ride we came to the ruins of Dunfillian Winery where California’s first cabernet was crafted from a single varietal, bottled and labeled. These stone ruins were also a landmark that was featured in the movie, BottleShock.
As we continued our ride we began to understand what Erin had mentioned about the changes in climates because we soon needed our jackets. Once we reached the mountain top, I was completely speechless. There were literally thousands of acres of beautiful vineyards as far as the eye could see. While riding among Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, I learned that the Kunde family is committed to a holistic approach to wine growing and believe in sustainable farming. One of the many examples throughout the estate is a group of nesting boxes that were painted by local school children to naturally control rodent populations.
Riding on we reached a secluded area where Erin had set up tables and chairs for us to enjoy lunch while taking in the enchanting scenery. This lunch spot is a favorite of the Triple Creek Outfitters’ 2.5 hour lunch ride. Whether it is the delicious food provided by Triple Creek Outfitters or the very romantic grove overlooking the Kunde Estate, this particular location has seen many suitors on bended knee asking for hands in marriage!
Once we were completely full and our horses well-rested, we rode on through the century-old vineyard, the Drummond Cabernet Sauvignon. This vineyard is a tribute to the Kunde family legacy. In 1879 these vines were planted by Capt. John Drummond who imported cutting from the renowned Chateaux Margaux. Today these gnarling bud wood vines live and thrive among century old olive trees on top of the Olive Hills of the property.
I realized while we were riding through the estate that the art of wine making is very similar to horseback riding. There will never be a time when you know everything. You are constantly learning as each horse is different and unique, so is each grape and each season. It is all more of an evolution of learning than a final destination of expertise.
The official wine tasting takes place on the Mountain Top. Where else can you sit 1,400 feet above the valley floor sampling wine from the vines with which you became intimate on your ride? While we tasted the different varieties and looked out the panoramic view, we learned how each wine is made and produced. At the Kindle Family Estate Winery, everything comes full circle. We rode through the vineyard, looked down on the grapes and sipped a sensational experience. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
A special thanks to Erin Ellis of Triple Creek Outfitters for welcoming me with open arms. It was a pleasure meeting and getting to know Erin and her horses, and I look forward to our next ride together.
I also want to thank the friendly, knowledgeable staff, especially Len, at the Kunde Estate for the one-of-kind Mountain Top Tasting. I appreciate your time and dedication to the art of wine making. Thank you for making my experience a memorable one.
Meghan Brady, Member Liaison for the Equestrian Travel Association, communicating with all association members, while creating awareness for the equestrian travel industry by communicating with the public, travel agents and the media.