Wine tasting and horseback riding make a wonderful mix.
Oenology and equestrianism are both as much art as science and they attract enthusiastic fans partly on account of their tremendous aesthetic appeal. Thus it seems appropriate that many riding tours should include visits to wineries where wine tasting is offered. It gives riders a chance to practice a sport they love and at the same time to explore the tastes of different wines while touring beautiful, rural countryside, often winding through vineyards. Somehow too it seems fitting that in visiting these wineries (many of which are centuries old) we should do it on horseback as travelers did of old.
A prime example of an equestrian wine tasting tour is in the Bordeaux region of southwestern France; famous for its wine since Roman times. One of my personal favorites is our trip in the Malbec area of France, admired for its grapes and also for the foie gras and other delicious local dishes. The castles and medieval walled towns on this riding tour are as picturesque as a dream from a delightful fairy tale. This is rural France at its best with deep river valleys, oak forests favored by wild truffles and wide vineyards on fertile hillsides.
Tuscany is also famous for its fine wines as well as its superb cuisine. The Saints & Warriors ride offers the perfect chance to savor some of Tuscany’s best wines accompanied with fabulous menus while enjoying the luxury accommodations of a remodeled castle. Consider also the Villages and Vintages Ride in the renowned Chianti region of Italy where tasting a variety of wines and using them in harmony with sumptuous meals is one of life’s great pleasures.
Of course California is also quite well known for its fine wines, but the wine country there is so built up now that there are few rights-of-way for horses and extended riding tours are not possible. Nevertheless there are excellent wine tasting rides available in some of the world’s best vineyard country without crossing the Atlantic such as the delightful wine tasting tour in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
As on all these rides, an exhilarating day in the saddle will give you a marvelous appetite for the food and drink. The wonderful old custom of the stirrup cup runs deep in the history of the Western World, perhaps in France more than anywhere although it was certainly de rigeur at fox hunts in England and Ireland and remains so today. This charming old custom closely intertwines drinking a glass of wine or spirits with horses and riding. It also symbolizes a comforting good luck toast before embarking on a journey. As they say in French, “Vive le coup de l’étrier” – “Long live the stirrup cup.”