Above: Vineyard view from horseback - LISA FABRY / GETTY IMAGES

Trail Rides and Wine Tastings in Napa

Vineyard view from horseback - Lisa Fabry / Getty Images

Shadybrook Estate and Winery is the fulfillment of a dream for Alice and David Alkosser, who fell in love with the Napa Valley in 2005. After purchasing their first vineyard property in the hills of the little-known Coombsville in 2009, they partnered with winemaker Rudy Zuidema in 2010. The husband-and-wife team have expanded their winery over the years by buying neighboring land, including, most recently, the historic Rapp Quarter Horse Ranch. Driving there was a pleasure, immersing us in less traveled but still magnificent valley scenery.

Rapp Ranch vineyards, Shadybrook Estate, Napa - Andrew Harper editor
Our horse at Napa Valley Trail Rides, Rapp Ranch - Andrew Harper editor

Encompassing a cutting-edge winery, a tasting room, the sophisticated Alko Equestrian Center and a 4,000-square-foot patio overlooking a patchwork of mature vines, lush meadows and distant hills, this parcel of the estate was the starting point for our horseback-riding excursion. The equestrian facility on Rapp Ranch comprises both a private boarding service and public company, Napa Valley Trail Rides. We booked the Ultimate Ranch Experience: a guided ride followed by a wine-and-cheese tasting. At the well-maintained stables, we discovered horses that were healthy, docile and immaculately groomed. A young wrangler who had grown up in the area led our ride. Her knowledge of wine was limited, but her passion for horses was contagious. We meandered around the perimeter of the magnificent estate for the next hour. This is a leisurely outing designed for beginners — there is little change in elevation, and the pace is slow and steady.

Terrace, Shadybrook Estate and Winery - Andrew Harper editor
Charcuterie board, Shadybrook Estate and Winery, Napa - Andrew Harper editor

The estate tour was a picture-perfect introduction to the tasting that followed. In a casual tasting room, we were greeted with an appetizing platter of local cheeses, nuts and charcuterie. We were slated to try four separate vintages, but ended up sampling six different wines, our favorite being the 2018 Rapp Ranch “Cutters Reserve,” a Bordeaux-style red blend.

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