Wine Tasting at Horse & Plow in Sebastopol
Gravensteins and grapes make peace and become friends at Horse & Plow’s new tasting room found in west Sonoma County in the town of Sebastopol.
Like Apples to Pinot
Those who are new to Sonoma County wine country, Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country specifically, may be surprised to learn that half a century ago this area’s most famous crop was Gravenstein apples, instead. Those locals who lament the uprooting of so many old, declining and no longer profitable apple orchards, on the other hand, may be surprised to learn that vineyards covered a lot of this same area before orchards took over.
Husband-and-wife owners of Horse & Plow, Chris Condos and Suzanne Hagins, are both career winemakers. Condos is cofounder of a successful, small wine brand called Vinum Cellars, while Hagins, who got into wine via the restaurant business in Charleston, South Carolina, worked in wineries in Burgundy and Sonoma County before starting her own label, “Lutea,” which is now folded into the couple’s “The Gardener” label.
They also consult for other wineries. Their work has taken them to many vineyards, some of them farmed organically—and all of Horse & Plow’s grapes come from organically certified vineyards. These properties tend to have a greater variety of crops, according to Hagins, including apples.
High Noon in the Garden of Grapes
Horse & Plow pours both organically grown Pinot Noir and “hard” apple cider at their rustically styled, barn-like tasting room on Gravenstein Highway in Sebastopol. Their Farmhouse Cider ($12) is made from Gravenstein and other heirloom cider apples, while the 2015 Hops & Honey Cider ($4 by the glass, $22 growler-to-go, $12 refill) riffs on the Sonoma County microbrew renaissance with its spicy Cascade hops.
The tasting room is a comfortable spot, outfitted with small tables, and a seating area that’s like a hidden garden, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of, well, scenic Gravenstein Highway, Sebastopol! Look for the sign, it’s a blink-and-miss-it spot.
For savory-seeking Rhône rangers out there, the 2013 Grenache ($28) shows hints of black olive and bay leaf, while the 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($45) tempts the nose with tantalizing aromas ranging from blueberry cobbler to more brooding, earthy side of that varietal.
From bright and spicy to inky purple, many of Horse & Plow’s wines are available, as are the ciders, on tap from a keg.
Head Out on the Highway
It’s perhaps easiest to turn in to Horse & Plow’s tasting room while heading south on Gravenstein Highway; from there, you can continue to restaurant destinations in Sebastopol like vegetarian Slice of Life, local bistro Peter Lowell’s, and my personal favorite, Hole in the Wall (truly tough to find—but the crepes and shiitake ginger soy steak salad are worth it). Picnicking? Turn north toward Andy's Produce Market to pick up cheese and other nosh. Or, if the season’s right, you may be able to strike a deal with Hagins’ and Condos’ entrepreneurial son for fresh produce at his “farm stand” on a picturesque wagon outside the tasting room!
Details: Horse & Plow is located at 1272 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol. Open Thursday–Monday, 11am–5pm. Tasting fee, $15; by the glass, $4–$10.
Find some great places to eat in Sebastopol before or after wine tasting.