From the age of 10, Jenny Alphin has spent her life around horses. After gathering grand-champion trophies as a junior competitor, she went on to earn a degree in therapeutic recreation, combining her expert horsemanship with her talent for working with children. As head instructor at Hoofbeats Riding School, she imbues each of her one-on-one lessons with this lifetime of expertise, tailoring her directives to the student’s particular needs and interests.
To build confident, well-rounded riders, she starts youngsters out with the basics, rather than jumping right to galloping through mountain creeks in full John Wayne costume. Riders must first learn how to handle, lead, and care for their horse before getting into the saddle, which helps facilitate a healthy relationship between horse and rider. They also start off riding bareback so they can use their body language to communicate with the horse directly, without the aid of saddles, reins, or bridle-mounted walkie-talkies.
From its serene country roads to its grassy hilltops, the Sonoma Valley’s wine country is a terrain best traversed by bike. The staff at Wine Country Cyclery facilitates these two-wheeled treks by renting, selling, and servicing cycles from Giant and Cannondale. Their rides cater to different types of excursions; the Giant Roam is ideal for leisurely jaunts, while the lightweight Cannondale SuperSix Evo lends itself to fast-paced sprints down tree-lined trails or away from the dryads that guard each vineyard. When riders need help navigating the countryside, seasoned guides hop on bikes and lead them on 12- to 18-mile adventures, stopping at local sites such as Roche Winery & Vineyards along the way.
On a sunny afternoon, guests board a reproduction 1900s cable car to admire scenic Sonoma Valley while sipping fine wines. The designated driver–helmed trolley then heads to one of the area's esteemed wineries, where passengers disembark to sample more vino, view art galleries, and gossip with fellow travelers. After a few such stops, the trolley also serves as a kind of traveling lounge complete with open-air seating, an onboard gourmet kitchen, wine samples, and a knowledgeable guide.The guide is Jonnie McCormick, a former executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance and vice president of Bank of America. After leaving the corporate world, she set up Sonoma Wine Country Trolley with her husband to combine their love of the scenic landscape with their passion and expertise in wines. While he drives the rig and passes an occasional joke, she shares historical facts and describes area points of interest—such as the area's first discovered wine well, whose derrick is still visible—to private or public groups of up to 14.
As founder of Four Star Farm, Natalie Rooney Pitts instills proper horsemanship techniques in each rider, whether they’re saddling up for simple enjoyment or dreaming of one day prancing onto the Olympic podium. Natalie and her team of trainers introduce new equestrians to the sport via lessons that allow students of all ages and experience levels to take the reins without having to own their own enchanted rocking horse. Atop one of the farm’s fully trained mounts, pupils learn the techniques of English-style riding—including eventing, dressage, and show jumping—while building self-confidence and a mutual respect among man, animal, and belt buckle. The ranch also offers boarding and training services, and youngsters can take part in camps and club events offered throughout the year.
The grounds of Napa Golf Course may not be used to grow wine grapes, but they do produce their own form of refreshment. The 18-hole, par 72 layout gives golfers a breath of fresh, scenic air as they drive, chip, and putt their way through rolling hills, mature oaks and pines, and waterways. The water hazards seldom come into play?except in the event of a big miss?but the trees are a fixture on nearly every hole. The towering arbors pinch the fairways throughout the round, but the most menacing of them all stands on the 10th hole, where a giant oak is planted right in the middle of the fairway.
A driving range hosts pre-round swing rehearsals?a worthy investment, as the first and third holes are two of the course's most difficult tracks. Golfers can also practice putting, chipping, and using flagsticks for semaphore at a 10,000 square-foot practice green.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,704 yards from the tips * Course rating of 72.7 from the tips * Slope rating of 131 from the tips * Four tee options * Scorecard