California Riding Magazine • April, 2009

Wild Horse Winery
Central Coast company gives more
than a pretty label to its namesake

There is ample evidence supporting the health benefits of drinking wine, especially reds. And now there’s the good news for equine enthusiasts that drinking wine is good for wild horses, too. That is if we’re drinking wines produced by Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards.
Named for the wild mustangs that once roamed the hills east of the vineyard estate near the historic town of Templeton, the winery began supporting the Return To Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in 2007. Today, Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards is the proud sponsor of a wild stallion named Chief and his Sulphur Springs herd of five mares that reside at RTF’s 300-acre ranch in Lompoc. As the sponsor of this rare herd, Wild Horse helps pay for basic feed costs and veterinary care for these lovely and otherwise endangered animals.

Wild Horse’s commitment extends beyond Chief’s herd. The company donated approximately $20,000 to RTF in the past year, not including generous quantities of wine for various fundraising events at and/or for the Sanctuary. Throughout the year, the winery features a Return To Freedom display to introduce visiting tasters to the Sanctuary’s efforts.

July is Return to Freedom month at the winery’s Templeton tasting room. The Sanctuary’s biggest celebrity, Spirit, may pay a visit during selected days and customers who donate $250 or more can sign up for a July 25 camp-out at the ranch. Highlights of this unique opportunity will include a twilight walk among the wild horses and, of course, great wine with dinner. (Editor’s note: This reporter has taken the wild horse walk and sampled a 2006 Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are highly recommended!)

Across the country, Wild Horse Winery is working with the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg, PA to tie in with The Horse exhibit featured there through May 24. Proceeds from these promotional events will go to RTF.

Destined Match

Although the winery was founded long before Return To Freedom’s establishment in 1997, their connection seemed destined. The horses that once roamed freely through the Paso Robles area’s now vine covered hills were believed to be descendants of the Spanish explorers’ horses from the 1500s. They passed through the Central Coast as the Spanish explored what is now California, Nevada and Utah.

The wild horse itself has become increasingly symbolic of the winery’s employees, philosophy and values. The free, unbridled and adventurous spirit of the American wild horse sets the tone for the winery’s atmosphere, grape growing and winemaking experimentation, consumer education and environmental preservation.

RTF was founded in 1997 by Neda DeMayo and her family. This family owned ranch offers a refuge for over 200 horses and promotes “in-the-wild management,” a successful model of non-intrusive wild horse management that advocates rare breed preservation, habitat conservation and public education. There are 10 different geographic regions represented by the horses on the ranch, five of which are rare breeds and nearly extinct in the wild. The sanctuary requires relocated horses to remain with their natural herd groups, in 75-plus acre fields, allowing them to roam freely at will. This practice is essential to maintaining the genetic diversity of each group while preserving the rare bloodlines.

With over 200 horses, RTF has reached maximum occupancy. It is now necessary to obtain more land before RTF can continue rescuing wild horses from slaughter or abandonment. In response to this need, The Wild Horse Land Trust was developed to assure that donations given to RTF are earmarked for the much-needed land expansion as well as a permanent American Wild Horse Conservancy.

Wild Horse Winery’s core values parallel RTF’s mission in saving the American wild horse. This organization is made up of impassioned people dedicated to meeting the immediate needs of rescue and sanctuary, while preserving the heritage of these magnificent wild horses. RTF creates solutions to protect the wild horse’s freedom, diversity and habitats for generations to come. The Sanctuary serves to benefit people through direct experience with animals and the environment, thereby enriching the human spirit.

Never has there been better reason to enjoy Wild Horse’s offerings. You’ll feel good and do good for horses at the same time.

For more information on Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards, visit www.wildhorsewinery.com. For more information on Return to Freedom, visit www.returntofreedom.org.