group of horseback riders hit the trail next to the
vineyards at Garrod Farms in Saratoga, Calif., on
May 2, 2015.
put my left foot in a stirrup, grab the saddle horn and
swing my right leg over the back of a chocolate brown
horse. As my outfitter adjusts the stirrups, making sure
the Western-style saddle is secure, she tells me Ray, a
beautiful horse with a glossy mane, is an Arabian.
go over the basics, how to turn left, right and — most
importantly — how to stop. Then we’re off, moving down
the trail and passing rows of vineyards.
and horses live side by side on this Saratoga property,
perched 700 to 1,000 feet above Silicon Valley, at Cooper-Garrod
wasn’t always horse country — or wine country, for
that matter. When Garrod Farms was established in 1893,
these rolling hills were planted with fruit orchards. The
horses arrived in the 1960s; the vines and wines came a
decade later. Today, you can train in the art of dressage
and horse acrobatics at the equestrian center, or take a
Sunday wine ride, which pairs an hourlong trail ride with
a tasting back at the winery.
been on horseback? No worries. The pace is slow and easy,
and the horses well-trained. All you have to do is enjoy
this particular Sunday, our group is 14 strong, a mix of
ages from young to old. Some are families. One couple is
here on a date, and there are groups of friends. We check
in at the stables, grab a riding helmet and giddyup?.
trail guide rides up front, another brings up the rear,
calling out fun facts: The ranch can house up to 200
horses, but there are 70 here now, and horse manure — of
which there is an abundance — is used as vineyard
guides point out good vantage spots, where we glimpse
panoramic views of stables, vineyards and the adjacent
Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, which was once part of
Garrod Farms. The Coopers and Garrods donated 120 acres to
the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in 1980.
Most of today’s journey is through the preserve.
the way the guides alert us to wildlife sightings, and
hawks circle overhead. The sunshine warms the trees and
herbs along the trail, filling the air with the aroma of
sage and eucalyptus.
of the ride is at a slow, easy pace, but twice, our leader
rallies us to kick it up a notch for a bumpy, but
exhilarating, minute or two. As we crest a point on the
Coyote Ridge Trail, we can see the San Jose skyline and
the tent towers at Shoreline Amphitheatre. Other spots
provide peeks into the backyards of Silicon Valley moguls,
including one with a pool and helipad.
are not alone in this open preserve. Throughout our
journey, we encounter hikers out enjoying a leisurely
morning stroll. A few mountain bikers wait for us to pass
them before they continue on their way.
through the ride, we’ve settled into a rhythm, timed to
the clop, clop, clop of horse hoofs on hard dirt, rocks
and tree roots crisscrossing the path. Tooled leather
saddles creak with every move. The horses kick up a fair
amount of dust, especially when they pick up the pace
heading downhill. But for the most part they’re mellow
companions, leading us to breathtaking vistas, through
open meadows and under shade canopies provided by tall
the guides and the horses take over, and not knowing
exactly where the trail leads or what’s around the next
bend, admittedly takes a little getting used to. But
eventually the rush-rush and stress of the high-tech world
below us melt away.
the final leg, we pass a riding arena where private
lessons are under way, then the stables and winery come
on solid ground, we stroll over to the rustic wine-tasting
room, which was the original fruit house, a barn where
boxes of prunes and apricots were stored during the ranch’s
orchard heyday. The guys behind the tasting bar already
have the 2012 Estate Chardonnay ready for us. It’s full
of apple and pear flavors, with a hint of lemon and
vanilla spice from barrel aging. We sample pinot noir,
cabernet sauvignon and the signature cabernet franc, as we
dig into platters of sandwiches — smoked salmon, curried
chicken and roast beef — along with cheese and fruit.
And then we wander outside, where a shaded picnic area
helps this perfect day linger just a little longer.
Saratoga’s Garrod Farms offers one-hour guided trail
rides weekdays at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Weekend
hourlong guided trail rides offered on walk in basis
between 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday morning wine-tasting rides
are offered on the last Sunday of each month and include
an hourlong horseback ride, followed by wine and finger
food at the winery.
Trail rides are $60 and minimum age is 8 years old. Sunday
wine-tasting rides are $80; reservations (408-867-9527)
and payment are due by noon on the Friday before. 22645
Garrod Road, Saratoga; www.garrodfarms.com
Sunscreen, long pants and closed-toe shoes are a must. You
can’t take a purse on a horseback ride; make sure you
have pockets for keys, smartphones or cameras.