Nothing could be finer than being carried through the vines by two handsome, two ton Belgian Draft horses with owner Bret LeRolland of The Wine Carriage leading the way. The starting point for the wine tour adventure begins at the historical Alexander Valley Vineyards in northern Sonoma County off Highway 128.
Estate varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Gerwurtztraminer.
Freshly picked bunches of grapes sit on the counter, free for the tasting.
Bret’s love for his horses, Willie and Django, is evident the moment you meet the team. Guests are encouraged to approach the magnificent duo who calmly stand for pats and photos. Gourmet snacks of locally sourced nuts and cheese are handed out as we take our seats. Time to leave your cares far behind as guests board the horse-drawn carriage from Alexander Valley Vineyards.
Clip clop…. clip clop…. clip clop…. The Wine Carriage smoothly transports up to 10 guests through the heart of the vineyards over a 5 mile course, close enough to reach out and grab a bunch of grapes, which we actually did!
Bret entertained us with tales of yesteryear as we peacefully passed a one-room schoolhouse, Alexander Valley’s first school, constructed in the mid-1850’s by Cyrus Alexander himself. Today the schoolhouse serves as a guesthouse.
Further down the path, nestled in the vineyards, in one of the prettiest spots under towering trees, lies the original Alexander homestead, where the current winery owners, Harry and Maggie Wetzel of Alexander Valley Vineyards reside.
Next stop was Soda Rock Winery. Eclectic to say the least, we hopped off The Wine Carriage and headed for the tasting room, a storied site of the original general store and post office circa 1869. County records indicate that the first bonded winery was actually built here in 1880.
We were warmly greeted by our tasting room host, Aaron and treated to a stellar wine tasting lineup. With a focus on Bordeaux varietals, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Primitivo and Zinfandel were also available to please every palate.
Soda Rock Winery was lovingly renovated over a 10-year period by winery enthusiasts Ken and Diane Wilson, using recycled and green building materials whenever possible. Reminiscent of a stagecoach stop, the picnic grounds and panoramic views of the Alexander Valley were hauntingly inviting.
Off to our final winery, we board The Wine Carriage, bound for the beautifully appointed Hanna Winery & Vineyards. Calm as ever, Willie and Django make their way back across the road and through the vineyards again.
Ever the storyteller, Bret continues to amuse us as we drift along the wine trail under the cover of the carriage canopy. Lo and behold, we arrive at Hanna Winery & Vineyards, a welcome respite from the hot summer weather.
We belly up to the tasting bar, eager to taste Hanna Winery & Vineyards‘ signature Russian River Valley Chardonnay and the award-winning Alexander Valley Merlot. Founded in 1985 by Dr. Elias Hanna, a world renown cardiac surgeon, Hanna Winery & Vineyards has grown from producing a mere 1,000 cases of wine to over 50,000 cases of wine.
Back at the ranch, so to speak, we dismount and thank our gracious driver Bret for the wonderful guided ride replete with history and enology trivia through the vines! Pats to Willie and Django for being so well-behaved and grounded.
What a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon in the vineyards. Hats off to you Bret for making this one of the most unusual and memorable wine tasting treks ever! To experience The Wine Carriage for yourself, contact Bret LeRolland at (707) 849-8989 www.TheWineCarriage.com