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Sonoma's wine country by horse.

Like fine wine itself, the wine country is best savored in an unhurried way. That's why touring the vineyards at a horse's pace can be so much pleasanter than dashing between wineries in a horseless carriage. You geta fresh perspective on the leafy vines when you're moving slowly enough to touch their ripe fruit, instead of viewing them as a blur across a highway shoulder.

Sonoma County's uncongested rural landscape is the perfect setting for equineassisted touring. And with harvest now underway, there's a lot to see. Four outfits scattered throughout Sonoma's grapegrowing valleys offer rides through vineyards by stagecoach, surrey, or horseback. All include stops for wine tasting, as well as a tasty picnic to accompany any purchases made at the wineries you pass.

Reservations are required for all tours; telephone numbers are area code 707. Climb aboard a stagecoach . . .

Stage-A-Picnic, Box 536, Geyserville 95441; 857-3356, To create relaxing and informative 3 1/2-hour tours on quiet lanes through Geyserville area vineyards, Shellie and Dick Dilworth draw on their stable of strawberry roan Belgians, antique stage collection, and experience as wine grape growers. After taking on passengers at the Hope-Merrill House bed-andbreakfast inn (the original Geyserville stage stop), the coach stops for tastings at tbe Nervo and Chateau Souverain wineries. The tour ends at Trentadue Winery with a gourmet picnic lunch featuring local ingredients.

The morning tour starts at 10 daily through October. There's also an afternoon tour that begins with the picnic lunch; meet at the Hope- Merrill House (21253 Geyserville Avenue) at 12:30. Either tour costs $40 per person, . . . a fringe-topped surrey . . .

Five Oaks Farm, 15851 Chalk Hill Rd., Healdsburg 95448; 433-2422. Passengers on Sue Hannan's back-roads surrey tours of Alexander Valley wineries can bone up on winemaking and catch some local gossip while sturdy Percheron draft horses do the work. Thursdays through Sundays through November, 2 1/2-hour daytime tours begin at 10:30 or 2:30 at Johnson's Alexander Valley Wines (8333 State Highway 128, in Healdsburg), and stop for tastings at Sausal Winery and Alexander Valley Vineyards before returning to Johnson's for a hearty "country cuisine" picnic. An evening tour starts with wine and cheese at Johnson's, followed by an hour-long ride through the vineyards, then dinner. Cost per person is $40.

Ye Olde Shelford House, 29955 River Rd., Cloverdale 95425; 894-5956. This 1885 B & B (another original stage stop) offers tours of vineyards along the Russian River in a turn-of-the-century surrey pulled by Belgian horses. Morning tours leave Shelford House at 10, make a tasting stop at Pat Paulsen Vineyards, and end up at Italian Swiss Colony for a picnic lunch at 12:30. Afternoon tours begin with the lunch, then follow the same route in reverse. Tours cost $55 per couple, and are offered weekends through October.

. . . or a horse's back

Sonoma Cattle Co., Box 877, Glen Ellen 95422; 996-8566. The stone barn Jack London built about 75 years ago for his English Shire horses now shelters horses used for trail rides in Jack London State Park. Riders first skirt vineyards tended by the famous author's descendants, then climb a redwood-shaded ridge to sweeping vistas of the Sonoma Valley and beyond. For $40, you can combine a 2-hour ride with a personal winery tour and gourmet picnic at nearby Glen Ellen Winery. Otherwise, rides cost $15 for 1 hour, $24 for 2 hours.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sonoma County, California
Date:Oct 1, 1988
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