If you're looking for a wine country experience that combines the plush and comfortable with the rugged and adventurous, HorseTail Ranch, located just outside of Creston, is the perfect destination.
The quiet country estate, nestled in the rolling hills just south of Creston, is owned by Kena and Ben Efraim, who purchased the property in 2010 and set about creating their dream home.
They built a five-bedroom home on a hill top with a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding 150-acre ranch and nearby pond dubbed The Villa. The house has a rustic feel, but is also well-appointed with upscale furniture and decoration and all the amenities of home.
"This place was built as a labor of love," Ben Efraim said. "With the solitude and quiet, we really have created a high-end rental with very plush accommodations. It's like being out in the country but with five-star living."
The Efraims had planned to retire and live in the home, but changed their plans after the drought dashed Ben's hopes of planting on the property.
"Part of the allure was the planting of grapes and olives," he said. "But the drought and the water restrictions put a damper on those plans."
While the Efraims have decided to stay in the Los Angeles area for now, they still have a deep love for the ranch and vacation there frequently and also offer it as a vacation rental. Ben said that so far the property has been very popular with families hosting large, multigenerational family gatherings, especially since it's conveniently located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
"They really like having the solitude with large groups like that," he said. "It's not like a hotel, that's why it's comfortable. If you want to stay at somebody's house instead of a hotel, it's a fully-equipped house with a kitchen, a spa, outdoor seating and 29-foot high ceilings. There really isn't anything like it."
Amenities at The Villa include a fireplace, a 72-inch plasma TV, high-speed wireless internet, a fully-stocked kitchen, wine decanters and a wine fridge, washer and dryer, 100-percent Egyptian Cotton towels and more.
Across the valley and over a couple hills is another, even more rustic lodging option that's available to visitors, The Cabin. The corrugated metal and wood building sleeps five and is completely off the grid. The building is powered by solar panels, has no TVs or electronics and no Wi-Fi signal is available, giving guests the opportunity to slow down and enjoy a simpler life, taking in the beauty of the countryside.
Amenities at The Cabin include 100-percent Egyptian Cotton sheets and down comforter, a stocked mini-kitchen, stove, outdoor gas grill, outdoor dinning area, private patio and a barbecue.
The Villa also offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with a gorgeous and spacious patio area out back, situated in the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the pond. The patio comes complete with a gas-powered fire pit that comes on with the flick of a switch, a spa and twinkling string lights overhead.
The Villa features stunning views of a large pond at the bottom of the hill behind the house, complete with its own dock and a two-person paddleboat. The master sweet at The Villa provides a rustic, western-inspired feel, but the amenities of a luxury hot
our home on the range," Ben Efraim said. "It's western, but it's very plush."
Guests visiting the ranch will be greeted by caretakers Crystal and Brian Hallett, who live in a house near the front entrance of the property. The Efraims are horse enthusiasts and in addition to hiring the Halletts to take care of the property, they also built a 12-stall barn where Brian and Crystal operate their business Central Coast Trail Rides, offering one-hour horseback tours of the ranch to those staying on the property and the general public as well.
"The whole place has a very country vibe," Crystal Hallett said. "City folks come here when they want to get dirty."
Trail rides at HorseTail Ranch take riders "pretty much from fence line to fence line," Crystal said, giving visitors a great view of all 150 acres of the ranch, over rugged hillsides, through open meadows and along ridges featuring beautiful views in every direction.
"It's interesting terrain," Crystal Hallett said. "You're not just riding on flat land, and we always ride in a circle so you never have to backtrack."
The tours can accommodate riders of all shapes and sizes and all skill levels, and ages ranging from "8 years old to 75." The Halletts also give riders a chance to go at their own pace.
"I'm really flexible with pace," Crystal said. "If you feel comfortable and I feel like we're on the same page, we can do a little trotting, maybe a little loping."
The trail rides also provide an opportunity to see some of the wildlife in the area, as some type of animal is spotted on nearly every ride, Crystal said, from bald eagles and red-tailed hawks to foxes, deer, bobcats, coyotes and snakes.
"It's really unique," she said. "Every ride out here you see a new animal. You actually see a lot of wildlife in a one-hour ride on this property. Nobody's really on this property, so it's animal territory."
The nearby town of Creston — with a population of just 94 — is light on the services, so make sure you fill up your tank because there is not a gas station anywhere within at least 15 miles. But, surprisingly, the town boasts a world-class steak house called The Loading Chute, where the Halletts regularly refer guests for food.
The ranch is also a good jumping off point for those wanting to explore the seven wineries of the Creston Wine Trail. Guests riding with Central Coast Trail Rides get a voucher for a free tasting at August Ridge, just a few miles away from the ranch.
The five-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot Villa at HorseTail Ranch rents for $1,050 per night or $6,000 per week, and the one-bedroom cabin rents for $350 per night or $2,295 per week. Horseback tours of the ranch with Central Coast Trail Rides cost $75 for a one-hour ride, and guests staying on the property receive a $5 discount.
HorseTail Ranch is located at 7261 O'Donovan Road in Creston. For more information, visit HorseTail-Ranch.com or call 805-966-2888.