February 27, 2024

A Winery’s Best Friend

I’ve easily been to over 100 tasting rooms at various wineries around the world. I’ve probably easily been to over 200. I can’t really say as I lost count a long time ago.

How many wineries I’ve been to isn’t important though, as this article isn’t about how much wine I’ve had to drink. I wanted to talk about something I think is a must have, necessary, arguably mandatory requirement for having a great winery: cool pets that give a friendly greeting and enjoyable experience to everyone that visits the winery.

Most tasting rooms, especially the ones in the well to do wine areas of the world, try to impress you with ornate decorations, manicured gardens, fancy artwork, posh furniture, hip music, and all sorts of other things that try to emphasize that their wine is the latest it thing. Most of them also charge you $25 just for the “experience” of trying their wines.

Honestly, all that stuff is just about pure crap.

The most memorable tasting rooms I’ve been to are the ones where the family pet is laying in the middle of the floor, and refuses to move because that’s his spot, always has been, always will be until the day he dies, and you’re the one getting in his way.

I recall a pair of small tasting rooms off the beaten path in the Carneros region of Napa that were great for just such an experience. One had the friendliest cat that would jump up on the tasting room bar and demand to be petted. He’d stare and meow at you until you obliged. After a few minutes of ear scratching, he’d jump from the bar and do that rubbing up against your leg while purring thing that cats do. He’d follow people around the tasting room, and I swear it even seemed he would meet you at the door when you arrived then see you out when you left.

When I’d go out for a day of exploration to new tasting rooms, I’d often stop by this tasting room just to give the cat the last nibble of my breakfast and a scratch on the ears just because it was on my route. Sadly, the last time I was in Napa, I found out that he’d disappeared one day and everyone suspected he’d been cat-napped. Everyone was sad to see him go.

Another off the beaten path winery that a friend of mine worked at had one of those tasting rooms that you didn’t know was there unless someone told you about it. They had a dog that would literally lie in the middle of the floor and not move until she wanted to. You had to step over her to cross the room. She’d lift her head slightly, wag her tail, lower her head back down, then take a deep breath and go back to enjoying a lazy day as you stepped over her. Eventually, she’d get up and stretch then go out and sit on the deck for a little bit.

The dog was very playful, too. When they would fire off the anti-bird noisemakers near harvest, the dog would run around chasing the birds that flew away.

I also remember a small family owned winery in southwestern Australia that had a tasting room dog. She’d curl up by the bench inside and anyone that sat down was greeted with her head in their lap and those sad dog eyes that just said, “Please pet me.”

The common theme with all of these wineries is that you were given a friendly experience when you visited, often by the person who owned the winery. I mention this because some of your local wineries just south of Sedona possess that one great feature – the winery pet.

So, stop by Javelina Leap Vineyard and Winery and meet Vinny the Old English Mastiff. He’s 6’5” on his hind paws, weighs about 240 pounds and will lovingly slobber all over you as you enjoy your wine tasting. Then you can go say hello to the German Shepherd tandem of Kaiser and Anna at Alcantara Vineyards and Winery who will energetically follow you everywhere when you’re there.

You’ll even get friendly treatment from the families that own the wineries when you stop by, as well as the chance to enjoy some fine wines.


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